Must must must

It’s autumn holiday in Belgium. Finally, I must add.

Even though school only started the 1st of September here, eight weeks is a long time to keep going. And not just for the children, I can also really feel it. Eight weeks of rushing every morning. Eight weeks of trying not to be late. Of  getting up on time. Of getting dressed quickly. Of eating a hastened breakfast. Eight weeks of ‘we must do this and that’ and ‘we can’t be late’. The boys were really tired and weary last week. They were emotional about everything, got upset over nothing and hardly could get out of bed. I even kept them home a day and they slept and slept and slept. 
Honestly, I could feel it too. My patience was completely gone and all I wanted to do was sleep. I’d even set an alarm in the afternoon to be sure I would not fall asleep and be too late to pick the boys up again…

The holiday is well on its way and we have taken it really easy. We sleep in. Pyjamas stay on half of the day. They boys play, have fun, laugh, run, make an incredible mess, and I play with them or let them play while I read. There is nothing that we have to do. I’ts recovery time and it’s lovely. It also made me think. Why do we do this to our children? Why do they have to do so much? Why are there so many rules? Why does school start so early in the morning? Why are schools so ridiculously strict about being late, even when you have a good excuse? I never had a boss that was as strict as the schools here are. Can you imagine your boss getting upset about you being late because of a traffic jam? Or because of a unexpected sick child? As grown-ups we understand things happen.  Life is hard enough and yes, we know we are in trouble if we can’t pay our bills, but for being late at work or an appointment sometime? That is just bad luck. But I see my children grow up with a fear of being late and with a disliking for rules. They are not even four yet and it’s incredible how many things they already must do.

A solution to this is not easily found. Yes, I could keep them home till they are 6 and going to school is compulsory. Then they don’t have to do anything for the next years, except obey some very important safety rules (traffic etc.). They’d also miss out on a lot of great activities and on making friends.They would have no idea about the school rhythm and this whole discussion will start again when they are six.

What I can do is keep them home from school sometimes, just to recover. So far this often results in a ‘bad day’ together as the boys seem so happy to not have to do anything that they forget about all the rules we have at home. 

So honestly, I think things should be a bit more relaxed in our children’s lives. School could be a little less about rules and more about play. When my boys play ‘pretend school’ together at home it’s all about telling the other one what he must do or can’t do. ‘Stand on the dot.’ ‘Stand in a line.’ ‘Don’t run.’ ‘Don’t touch that.’  ‘Eat your fruit now.’ ‘Go to the toilet.’ ‘Sit down.’ ‘You can only play with that, not with this…’ 

Rules are important, especially for important things concerning safety in the house (careful on the stairs, don’t throw or play with cutlery, etc.) or on the street (never run into the street, always cross with a grown up etc.). But I also think too many rules are simply too much too handle and they will start to do the opposite. And that’s where things can easily go wrong.

The dentist

Let me start by admitting I have a fear of going to the dentist. It’s not rational, as I have never had any issues with my teeth, not even a small cavity. But I really don’t like going there, I can never keep my mouth open during the check-up and I always come home with pain in my teeth, cheeks or jaw that I did not have before.

But being a responsible parent, means I have to take my children to the dentist for a check-up. So at some point I made an appointment for all of us. As responsible parents you show your children that a dentist is nothing to fear, right. So an appointment for all of us, meant we could show them by example.

When the date drew nearer, I could already feel the anxiety building in my body. There I was telling my boys that a dentist was nothing to fear if they brushed their teeth well, while I did not feel that way at all. I did a good job though, the boys were quite excited about doing something new.

The dentist visit went very well. The boys opened their mouths better than I ever could and were very interested in the explanation of all the instruments on the table. When they both had their turn, they said: ‘Now mommy!” and watched while I sat in the chair. As I had not been in years there was some cleaning to do, so they soon lost interest and started playing while I was being tortured. When it was finally over, I could feel my body relaxing. No cavities. So no need to put myself through this when the boys have to go again.  Not sure they’ll want to go though. The dentist told them to give up their pacifier and that was not news they were taking in well…

Moving house II

The last month was hard. The boys did not react well to all the changes. We had taken all possible precautions to make the move a smooth transition.
– The boys helped with packing (and loved it.)
– We explained what was going to happen many times (and they understood and were excited.)
– We took them to the new house several times before we moved. (they were really looking forward to it.)
– We let them help with little things in the new house (tearing of wallpaper is their favourite.)
– We moved some toys already to show them how moving worked (mom, can we keep this?)
– We read stories about moving (which they loved.)
– We showed them the empty old house after moving (and had them run around to their delight.)
– We explored the new neighbourhood together (they love all the new shops.)

And those things all worked: they absolutely love the new house. They could not be happier that we have stairs now and they love their new big bedroom, the garden and their play area.
BUT…  their behaviour was horrible most of the time. They got upset about everything, said no to anything you would suggest, started throwing their toys around a lot, screamed so much I feel I got deaf, not even to mention the spitting and crying uncontrollably when we said NO to them. It was a nightmare, we did not recognise our boys anymore.

Sadly there was no solution, all the above mentioned things did not work against the endless tantrums they threw. Even the always working solution of taking them apart and giving them love, hugs and special attention would not stop these moods.

And being twins, the tantrum of one caused the other one to get upset too, even if he was playing nicely before.So it really never ended.
The only solution was time. We suffered for weeks and weeks. Now it finally seems to get better. We are still not there but at least there are some hours in the day they are tantrum-free. Let’s hope this phase is over soon. Mommy and Daddy feel like they aged forty years in four weeks.

Sinterklaas

The boys are now old enough to really understand and enjoy my favourite Dutch holiday: Sinterklaas. For those who don’t know this, Sinterklaas is very similar to Santa Clause, but his day is celebrated on the 5th of December. On this day (or a more convenient day around that day) Sinterklaas will bring presents to families. He arrives on a steamboat a few weeks prior and from that day on it is possible to put your shoe in front of the fireplace (or radiator haha) and hope that you’ve behaved well enough for Sinterklaas to bring you a gift.

I love this holiday so of course we told our kids about Sinterklaas and about the possibility to receive presents. This was very much to their liking. They love presents! So we starting by teaching them a few Sinterklaas-songs, which they can now sing by heart.They sang the songs several times… as loud as possible and then they wanted to eat the carrot that we had put in their shoe… yes, the raw and unwashed carrot meant for Sinterklaas’ horse.

The thing I had underestimated about this whole event was the shoe part. The boys took forever to decide which shoe they would use. All their old and current shoes and slippers had to come out of the cupboard. Even their wellingtons. They kept changing the shoe that they wanted to use. When I told them that Sinterklaas would not take their shoe but rather use to shoe to put a present in, their attitude changed. Once more they had a good look at their pile of shoes. One of them decided on the biggest shoe (a boot), the other one rather showed Sinterklaas his nicest shoe. Even for two-year old boys fashion can be a thing…

 

Announcing twins

Keep calm!

We were over the moon when we realised we were expecting twins. Of course it did take a few weeks to get used to the idea of what this meant, so we first took our time together.
But honestly I was also worried about all the things that could go wrong during the pregnancy, as twin pregnancy can be more complicated. So we were quite late in announcing the news.
Our parents were the first who heard and we announced our news by visiting them and just telling them we were pregnant. They were of course very happy and emotional about it. And only when they got used to the idea we added: by the way, its twins!!
The effect of this was quite nice so we stuck to it when we told others. Every time we said it, we thought it was more hilarious. We really had no idea what we were in for, haha!

Anyway, apparently we could have been a lot more original in the way we told everyone. I found this page with 15 great pictures of how you can announce a twin pregnancy. So if you are expecting twins now, take your pick.
I am very curious though and would love to hear your stories: How did you announce your pregnancy to your family and friends?

Sleeping through the night

It still happens. Those nights that I hoped to be gone forever by now.

You fall asleep at 11 pm. Only to be awakened by one of your sons at midnight. He had a bad dream and keeps crying. By 3 am he is finally asleep. In your bed.
Meanwhile your other son has started crying. You try everything, cuddles, milk, music, stories, singing, but he is sooo upset. By 6 am he is exhausted and finally falls asleep. In your bed. Somewhere in between you managed to get your other son back in his own bed.
At 7 am the alarm goes. Another night has come and gone. Yihaa! You managed to get 2 whole hours of sleep!
Somewhere in your head you hear the voices of other parents. ‘Mine slept through the night when he was only 3 months.’ ‘Our kids never had any trouble sleeping.’ Right. Great for you. Not every child is the same, thank you.
The worst one is: ‘Just let them cry, they need to learn.’  What do they need to learn I wonder? That when they are sad, afraid or hurt, no-one comes to their aid?
Even half asleep and in my grumpiest mood I will do everything I can to make my boys feel safe.Till whatever age they need me.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. There is no specific age that children will always sleep through the night. Our boys are 2,5 years old and usually fall asleep without a problem. They can sleep for 10/11 hours but that does not mean they will not wake up in between. And with more than one child that often means that every night has something in store for you…

Dreams-2

My weird dreams did not stop once the boys were born. To be honest, they got more intense. At least 3 times a week I would dream there was a baby in our bed, when there wasn’t. I would start to hug or stroke my pillow or blanket, thinking it was a baby. Or I would suddenly think that the pile of clothes on the floor (that I had thrown there before diving in to bed) was a baby that had fallen out of the bed- turning on all the lights to save him… My husband suffered the most, he had many rude awakenings because I would suddenly pull his pillow away from under his head, screaming at him because I thought he was sleeping on top of a baby.

Obviously these dreams never occurred on all the other nights, when we did have one or two boys in bed, in need of consolation or milk. You have to sleep to be able to dream, right? 😉

© Carien Touwen 2017

Dreams

I have always been a vivid dreamer, but when I was pregnant with our twins I had even more interesting dreams. I often dreamed about how it was to give birth. And in my dream I always heard the same thing after number two was out: ‘O, O, we missed one. There is another baby!’

So when the twins were born, I checked with the doctor to be sure there were not three baby’s. I even had an extra name ready,  just in case. And honestly, a tiny part of me was a little disappointed that there were only two 😉

© Carien Touwen 2017

Mistakes- the slide accident

So our boys like slides. One day we found ourselves a play area with a big slide. I went ahead with one of the boys and he climbed on it, but when he got to the top, he did not dare sliding down. It was a bit higher than the slides he was used to. Usually I stand next to the slide, to help them come down. This time I decided to climb the stairs and help him there. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
I pushed him down gently, told him it was not scary at all. It was just a bigger slide.
Sadly, it was also much steeper. My son braked with his shoes… causing him to tumble forward and end up with his head on the edge…
Normally I would have caught him, but now I was in a completely useless position to help. It was horrible! Poor kid. His cheek was blue and yellow for a week. He did not dare going on any slide for a month. I felt so stupid and guilty.

© Carien Touwen 2017