My kids haven’t seen my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew ever since the shelter-in-place started. In the beginning, I did suggest to my brother to come drop off stuff for us when the kids are awake but he feels that seeing the kids through the window is going to make the kids more upset than not. So they come whenever the kids are down for the day already or napping. My kids’ favorite person is my sister-in-law, who they call “Kau Mo”, which means their mother’s brother’s wife. Pre-pandemic, they would see her and the rest of the family at least once a week if not more often. My SIL sometimes meets up with us at the indoor gym to play with the kids. We sometimes head over to her place to play with her toys. The very last time the kids saw her was the Friday prior to shelter-in-place order. She came to Golden Gate Park with us for a walk. Kids and she were drawing pictures in the dirt, picking up leaves, playing hide-and-seek, and basically just having a grand time hanging out. In the beginning of the stay-at-home order, the kids would FaceTime with my SIL once in a while. A few weeks later, we had a Zoom meeting during Easter dinner with the rest of my SIL’s family. The kids stayed on the call with Kau Mo for a bit longer. Ever since then, Kau Mo has been on a Zoom call with the kids once a week, usually on a Saturday morning. As an experienced teacher who is very creative, she knows how to capture the kids’ attention. She prepares books, toys, drawings, drumming to keep the kids entertained for over an hour. Sometimes the sessions last for an hour and 15 minutes. During that time, I could usually do chores like folding laundry, preparing for lunch, etc. Last weekend during the Zoom call, Bob was sitting there assisting the kids, and I dusted, vacuumed, and mopped our master bedroom, bathrooms, and the kids’ room. Kau Mo is the best babysitter ever. I always joke that she should make this into a business because the kids really have a lot of fun with new activities every week with her. We are so blessed to have her as an auntie to the kids. And my brother has been a great brother too. He has come numerous times to drop off stuff for us. One time I asked where he got his toilet paper. Instead of letting me go shopping somewhere myself, he helped me order some toilet paper from Amazon Fresh (since we signed up but haven’t been allowed to shop yet). He received the toilet paper the same day and delivered it to us (by walking 15 minutes from his house) that evening. We didn’t even have to leave the house to get those toilet paper rolls. Even though we haven’t been able to really spend time with them physically, we can see and feel the love from our family in so many ways. We hope that the kids will be able to finally touch them and hug them some time soon. When they ask to go to Kau Mo’s house one day, I hope that I can tell them yes instead of saying that it is “closed”.
Parenting has been very difficult ever since sheltering in place started. Since the kids are home most of the time, the frequency and intensity of meltdowns and tantrums have increased dramatically. This is particularly true for Okra. Some days in the course of a morning, he could throw a tantrum 10 times. Some of them could last as long as 45 minutes. Sometimes a little something could set him off, but some other times he seems to just throw a tantrum out of nowhere, all by himself. He would bite, throw anything within reach, push things down the floor, hit, scratch. At times, Bunny seems scared of him and would walk really far away from him when he does any of that. Recently my mom is also a trigger. Okra somehow started not liking having my mom around and would start screaming and saying “No PoPo” when she enters the space he is in. After a couple of months of this, I started to get angry and agitated when he hurt others, especially biting his sister, hitting me, or scratching my mom. I would yell at him and then immediately regretted it. It was such a vicious cycle and I hated the person/parent that I had become. I was at such a loss and waking up in the morning brought anxiety and stress because of the tantrums and meltdowns that I anticipated. Bunny also has her moments but she is emotionally a bit more mature and can be persuaded to listen without a full blown tantrum or meltdown most of the time.
This year I met a fellow mom of two through our local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group. She has worked with this Christian parenting coach in her own parenting journey and asked this coach to host a virtual parenting session with some of her friends. I joined that particular session and found some helpful tips to use in my parenting with Okra. When this parenting coach offered a weekly parenting session in the month of May, I quickly jumped on it. The prerequisite is to listen to these audio clips prior to each session. I have attended two sessions as well as a personal phone call with the coach to discuss additional strategies to use. The following are some principles that I have learned and tried to apply:
- Consider yourself a life coach of your children
- Keep high goals in mind as a life coach: what character traits do you want your children to have when they are adults? Especially the fruit of the spirit mentioned in the bible: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Keep in mind the goal of cultivating godly behaviors, even at this age
- Do not be reactive to your children’s behaviors, i.e. do not get angry and react to your kids by being angry or yelling at them. Remain calm and speak to them with gently with a bright face
- Negative behavior is a habit. When there is a tantrum, whining, or meltdown, backtrack and find a peaceful time to re-do the scenario so the child practices calmly communicating with you
- The most important part of this is prevention: Pre-train your child such as using role play for certain situations that might be triggers for negative behaviors
These are some of the main points. There is so much more… but these principles are enough to get me started. Ever since that first session, I have not been mad at Okra (or Bunny) even once. The Holy Spirit has helped me not be reactive to the kids’ meltdowns. This is such a miracle because I was getting so angry with Okra and couldn’t control my yelling when he hurt another person in the family. The past 1.5 weeks I have been able to remain calm and pleasant with him. At times I have to hold him from behind and hold onto both of his hands so he can’t scratch me. When I sense that I can’t safely hold onto him without being hurt, I put him in his crib. Once he has calmed down, I take him out and re-do the scenario with him so he learns the non-tantrum/non-whiny response. I have also been working on pre-training. For example, sometimes when he is playing happily and peacefully with his trains, I knock down one of his trains and we work on saying “Oops, it’s okay. Let’s pick it up again”. Or prior to his nap time, we practice saying “Hi Mama” pleasantly when I open the door after his nap is over (because he sometimes whines and cries for a long time when I get him from his nap). Or we practice saying to Bunny to “Give me room” when he feels that he doesn’t have enough space. Those are all things that could trigger him and I try my best to practice these scenarios with him. Some days are better than others. There were quite a few days last week he had one tantrum after another. I didn’t even know where to begin to redo or pre-train. But I am proud to say that I still remained calm. I was extremely tired handling all of the tantrums, but I knew that my strength would be renewed once I got some rest. And I have been earnestly praying for wisdom and patience to keep the high goals for my kids in mind. And then yesterday was a delightful day. There were only a few instances of tantrums and everyone had such a peaceful time bonding. And when Bunny throws a tantrum, I am better equipped to handle her better. I know that this is not a sprint but a marathon, but I am just grateful for the support that I get from this parenting coach and my friend who introduced me to her, so that I don’t feel as lonely and lost in this phase of parenting twin toddlers.
This Mother’s Day was about celebrating with friends/family who finally became mothers after a long journey of infertility and standing by those who are still struggling. In particular, I celebrated with my friend who finally got to have her premie twins at home with her after they spent 3 months in the NICU. I wrote about her here and here. (Recap: Twins were born via gestational surrogacy at 28 weeks and my friend and her husband were many hours away from the hospital. They had to fly in right away but had to miss their kids’ birth). The NICU time was a crazy roller coaster with difficulty feeding and a host of health concerns for baby girl. My friend and her husband stayed at Ronald McDonald House and the kitchen was closed there because of COVID-19, so she bought a microwave to heat up canned soup for meals. Imagine living away from home caring for premie twins with health concerns. Now the NICU days are all behind them as they are safely home as of three weeks ago. New life with twins is definitely difficult. They didn’t have time to prepare for the twins’ birth. They had no baby shower and hadn’t had the time to clean out the tiny one bedroom apartment in the city to accommodate two new lives. But they are resilient people and make do with what they have. One year ago was when I first met her via my own reproductive endocrinologist. This friend had just lost her first baby when her GC’s betas started dropping. She lost so much of her hope and couldn’t fathom her situation turning around. When we first met and had a phone conversation for two hours, I told her what my dear friend A. always told me, “Things don’t change until they change”. She would not have imagined in her wildest dream one year ago that she’d be a mother of two babies who repeatedly puke all over her. It has been hard taking care of twins without any help amid a pandemic. But she is taking it in stride. I am just so joyful for her that she gets to celebrate her first Mother’s day snuggling her own babies. A friend of mine I met on a food tour in Hawaii has also been struggling with making a baby. Despite her being in the trenches, she always writes me a Happy Mother’s Day message. She had made some embryos prior to the pandemic shut down and I really wish that she can start transfer again as soon as possible. I also reached out to my friend who has been trying for years, and to my cousin who had three miscarriages last year and will start a Clomid cycle soon. I know how hard this day could be for people who want to be a mom, and I hope that my reaching out to them has brought some love and warmth to them on this difficult day.
My son Okra has long curly hair. My husband and I agreed to get him his first haircut when he turned two. After his second birthday, my husband had second thoughts about it and asked to extend the haircut to when Okra turned 2 years 3 months. When that time rolled around in December, he again couldn’t bring himself to saying yes to cutting Okra’s hair. Once again, we talked about cutting Okra’s hair when he turns 2 1/2. Well, little did we know that the world suddenly changed and going out for a haircut is no longer an easy thing. Okra’s hair remains long and he continues to be called a girl when we are out or even when we get on Zoom calls. People on the street (when we take our walks) or strangers on Zoom (story time put on by some mom’s group) would say “Hi girls!” to my twins. I actually do not mind people calling Okra a girl. I have stopped a little while ago to correct people about that. However, tying his hair up for a man bun is a chore every single morning. The struggle is real. This would be the biggest reason why I would want to get him a hair cut. You may ask, why don’t YOU cut his hair? I dare not touch anyone’s hair in my house. I mean, I can braid and tie a man bun or ponytail. But cutting hair? It’s way out of my league. Even Bob asked me to cut his hair as it is getting long as well, and my answer is No. Look at Okra’s hair:
This was his hair after a bath with the front part of his hair pulled back. I know curly hair is extremely hard to cut. So I am not going to tempt fate and take things into my own hands. Even when shelter in place is lifted in the future, I don’t think I’d want to take him anywhere unnecessary, haircut included. A friend of mine is fascinated with his hair. She keeps on telling me that I am never going to cut that hair because I will deprive him of becoming a teenage heartthrob one day. She said that he is going to get all the girls (or maybe boys) with those curls. Hahaha. I guess I will have to continue my battle with him (and sometimes Bunny) each morning until the world is a safe place for a haircut one day.