Parenting to Your Twins’ Unique Strengths with Chris Wejr – Podcast 140

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - October 22, 2020

Parenting to Your Twins' Unique Strengths with Chris Wejr

Episode 140 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes

We continue our father of twins interview series with Chris Wejr, father of twin girls.

Listen as we explore his twin journey, including:

  • When twins run in your family history and then YOU have twins
  • When a smooth twin pregnancy ends in induction
  • Challenges of having the twins always getting out of sync on schedule
  • Sharing twin care responsibilities during the night
  • When Mom can’t take time off after the twins are born
  • Finding the right person to care for the twins
  • Typical work day for the twins’ caregiver
  • Milestones that made things easier with twins
  • Advantages of having twins (for the twins)
  • Traveling with 3 year old twins
  • Separating the twins in school
  • Identifying your twins strengths and adapting your parenting to match
  • The one question you can ask to positively frame the day for your children
  • Helping your twins identify the good things they experience
  • Seeing the different interests and strengths in your twins
  • Challenges when one twin is better than the other
  • Breaking the twins’ bad habit of fighting each other
  • The new reality after your twins no longer nap

Chris’ TEDx Talk
@ChrisWejr on Twitter
Chris’ website

Transcript

Joe: Hi there, and welcome to the 140th episode of The Dad’s Guide to Twins podcast. This is Joe Rawlinson. As always, you can find me on the web at twindadpodcast.com where you’ll find the show notes and transcript for this episode and all previous podcast episodes.

Today’s show is brought to you by my second book for fathers of twins. It’s called ‘Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins.’ You can learn more about that book and get your copy at raisingtwinsbook.com.

Today we’re continuing our Father of Twins interview series with a fellow father of twins, Chris Wejr, today joining us from British Columbia, father of twin girls. Welcome to the show Chris.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Chris: Thanks for having me. Good to be here.

Joe: Chris, tell us how old are your girls right now and what’s the most exciting thing about this age right now?

Chris: Oh man, so they’re six, which is probably like the peak of creativity and curiosity and learning. They are just so fun to be around and love to go on their little adventures and build things and they ask some really good questions. So it’s such a fun time because they can hang out on their own, with us being around, but we can sort of be participants or spectators and just watch those little sparks fly in their minds as they build off each other’s ideas.

(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)

Joe: Yeah, that is a fun age when they’re kind of self-sufficient and watching their creativity bloom is an exciting season of their lives.

Let’s rewind back to when you found out that you were having twins. What was your family situation like and what was that experience like for you finding out?

Chris: It was, well they’re our only kids and so we didn’t know any different. We didn’t know what it was like to have a single child and so, we were kind of like, “Oh, okay. This is gonna change things.” And but it was a bit of a joke in our family because there’s twins on both sides so there was a running joke on my wife’s side that we were gonna have twins. And then so, when we found out, we were like, “Ah man. This is gonna be crazy.”

And we started to read more about it and we felt like we were pretty prepared, but yeah, I don’t know if you can truly be prepared for twins. I can’t even imagine having other children at the same, you know when you have other children older, at the same time. We were pretty lucky to just have the two so we could just focus on the two of them. But the first four months are a bit of a blur.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Joe: Yes, as they are with every twin parent. That’s right.

Chris: Yes.

Joe: So twins ran in the family? Are your girls identical or fraternal?

Chris: Well we thought they’re fraternal and then we went to one of our pediatricians, and he said, “You know, they have all the same genetic features. You might want to get that checked.” Because he talked about the psychological difference of being a fraternal twin and being identical twins. We haven’t done the testing yet on that, but they seem very different. But like he said, they were also very different in the womb. One took a lot more food than the other one and took up a lot more space. So they were born very different sizes, different weights. And so, yeah, I think they’re fraternal but we’re supposed to get that checked out.

(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)

Joe: Yeah, our girls acted very different in utero as well. Those personalities that we could see on the ultrasounds, and what my wife had described feeling them, they’ve kind of played out after birth as well. Did you have any complications or challenges through the pregnancy with the girls?

Chris: Not so much, but in the very end, my wife was not going in labor so they tried to induce and that seemed to make things worse and so one of our daughter’s heart rates dropped significantly. And so all the doctors and nurses came rushing in and then they had to do an emergency delivery so it a little scary at that point, but everything else seemed to go fairly well.

Joe: How far along in the pregnancy was that?

Twin Gender Predictor Calculator

Chris: That was at just over 38 weeks.

Joe: Oh that’s good. That’s really good for twins to go that far.

Chris: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: So did your girls have to spend any time in the hospital or did they come home with mom after delivery?

Chris: We were in there for about four days and because it was our first ones, we were surprised, like, you’re just gonna leave these two with us? Like that’s it? And yeah, it was about four days. Our youngest by two minutes, she had a few complications afterwards because she was low birth weight. And she was term so her developmentally was there, but she was kind of crammed into part of my wife’s womb and not getting enough nutrition at that time, so they just wanted to monitor her for a couple days. And then we had them for a couple more days. So yeah, we were there for about four days before we went home. Not too bad though.

(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)

Joe: That’s not bad at all, yes. How did you handle time off of work for you or if your wife was working?

Chris: My wife runs her own business and so she runs a dance studio. So that was a challenge for her trying to … Because you can’t really take time off of your own business. She was able to not teach dance, so she got coverage for that, but still running the business was a bit of a challenge. So I tried to help her with that and then I took a month off through my work and just because we couldn’t … That wasn’t the plan but we couldn’t get them on the same schedule and so we were pretty much up throughout the night and most the day and so I had a bit of a commute so it wasn’t healthy for me. So I was able to take about a month off. And then we had some help. We hired someone to come in and help through the days once I went back to work. And then my wife went back teaching after about three months.

Joe: Tell us a little bit about those challenges you said with scheduling and getting the babies in sync.

Chris: Yeah, for some reason, we would get them on schedule, then all of a sudden, they would need to be fed at different times. And we also realized that they weren’t getting enough food, so once we started to use the bottle to feed, we realized how much more they were eating and then they started to sleep more, and then we were able to get them on the same schedule. We thought they were eating the same amounts but I think one was eating way more than the other and so we’re trying to get … Try to schedule and it just seemed like every 30 minutes, 15 minutes, we were having to feed one of them. You’d sleep for 15 minutes and all of a sudden, boom, one’s coming up again.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

So the first few months were really, really hard in that way. I remember our mirror was covered with times as we’re trying to figure who fed at what time and how long and all those sort of things. And yeah, it just, like I said, it was a bit of a blur. I don’t remember a lot from the first few months. I’m sure my wife remembers less because she was dealing with it 24 hours a day. I went to work and I didn’t have to so much worry about that like she did.

Joe: After you went back to work, how did you divide up the schedule with her, for example, during night time care and things like that?

Chris: So we had our girls stayed in the room with us. So we had bassinets beside each side of the bed and we would rotate which daughter was with us so … And then I would deal with when they were off the schedule. I would make sure that one was okay and my wife would make sure the other one was okay. But for feeding obviously I couldn’t help much at that. So, but if there was any sort of movements or being upset or helping them to go down to sleep, we would each take one during the night.

But as we progressed, we were able to do that much better so that once they started to feed every few hours, then we were able to each take one child. But in the first few months, we were both helping each other and I’m trying to get her some food as she’s up in the middle of the night, my wife I’m talking about, helping them to feed. I’m trying to help her eat and make sure she’s getting enough nutrition too.

So thinking back, it was a real partnership. I think that I’m so thankful that I was able to take some time off and also thankful that my school was very understanding of me having to leave right after school sometimes or even showing up a little bit late some days.

Joe: Yeah, that’s great to have a work that’s accommodating to the needs that you have as a family. You mentioned that you hired someone to come and help with the twins. How did you go about finding the right person for that role?

Chris: Well we’re pretty lucky because I’m in education and then my wife runs a dance studio, so we have a lot of either dance teachers that work part time, or former dancers that are going to school or maybe taking a year or two off before they go to school. And so we knew some real caring, responsible kids. I mean kids, they’re 19 years old. So we were able to … We’ve hired through the years. I think we’ve hired three or four of them as they’ve taken a year or two off before they went back to school. So we were lucky because we’ve known them. So we haven’t actually had to put out anything, “Hey, we’re looking to hire anybody.” We knew who we were getting. We knew we trusted them. And so we were really lucky that way.

Joe: Yeah, that is great. What was the typical work day like for the person who was watching over your twins?

Chris: So they would be there from about eight o’clock until about … so a lot of times they were dance teachers as well, so they would be there probably eight til two and then I would try to get home around five. And so there was some space where Tanya, Tanya’s my wife, where she was by herself with the girls and we don’t have the … My mom and dad live close by but not … They also are snowbirds so they fly down south for the winter and get to the warmth. And her family doesn’t live near us so we don’t have a lot of family around all the time. And so we had to rely on that person to come in on weekdays, from about yeah, about eight til two.

Joe: Now that your girls are six, at what point or what milestones did they reach where things seemed to get easier for you as a parent?

Twin Gender Predictor Calculator

Chris: Well we kept thinking, okay, well once they start to walk, that’ll be easier. It kept bringing up new challenges, once they can start to grab things, once they can start to talk. But it just brings on new challenges and I think once they started to hit about four or five, then they started to play more together without fighting so much or without needing help without … They became more independent and so instead of being there with them all the time, now after about five, you start to see the benefit of … I’ve always seen the benefit of having twins, having a best friend right there and like that, but from a parent perspective, to be able to be doing some work in the house and know that they’re playing together. They’re okay. They always have a friend to play with and we started to really notice that about age four.

Joe: Yeah, by then they’ve mastered the eating and the sleeping and going to the restroom and now it’s just, they’re just little kids. And they’re learning about life and exploring. That’s great.

Have you been able to travel with your twins and how has that gone?

Chris: We went down to California when they were three. And they went really well. They flew. Their ears bugged them a little bit but can’t complain. Flying, it was in Palm Springs so you can imagine. I don’t know if you’ve been to Palm Springs, but flying in and out of there is not the easiest. So I think my wife had more problems with it than the kids did.

But yeah, it’s not the relaxing trip that we once knew but it’s all again, full of adventure with these little creatures that love to do everything. And it doesn’t matter what time they go to bed, they get up at six-thirty. We cannot figure out how to get them to sleep in. And they get up excited to see each other so they wake each other up.

So yeah, and we’ve done smaller trips but that was the only real big trip. We haven’t done … We do camping trips in the summer and stuff and the kids love that but we haven’t done any big trips other than that one.

Joe: Well I’m glad to hear I’m not the only whose kids wake each other up in the morning, earlier than you’d want.

Chris: And they’re so excited. They’re now sharing a room because we’re expecting another child in September and they’re actually sleeping in more, sharing a room, which I never thought of. But when they’re apart for the entire night, and they get up and they just want to see each other and they want to play and they’re so excited to start the day and yeah, we’re not so excited to have them to start the day. But I think having them in the same room has actually helped them to sleep in. I’m not saying sleep in, I’m saying sleep in til seven, but I think it’s helped it a little bit.

Joe: Are they in any kind of pre-school or school right now?

Chris: Yeah, so they’re in kindergarten and we did a couple years of pre-school. And yeah, now they’re in kindergarten. We decided to put them in the same class. We requested that and the school was able to make that happen. And yeah, they had a bit of a hard time. They still struggle being away from each other. If one is sick, the other one has a really, really hard time. And so we usually just have them both home. Long term we’ve gotta figure out what we’re gonna do about that because that’s not a good plan, but right now they’re not very independent of each other. So that’s a concern for us, as we move forward into grade one and things like that.

Joe: Was it standard policy for the school to separate twins?

Chris: No, the schools I’ve worked at, as well as my colleagues that I talk to, it’s usually parent request. Some parents do request separate classes and some parents request same classrooms. Some parents don’t care. They say whatever you think is best. I see benefits of both, both as a parent and as an educator. It’s great to have someone there to help you through those first few years, but I also think you need to make your own friends. You need to find out who you are and not rely on that person that’s always beside you.

Joe: Yeah, we weighed the pros and cons as well. We actually home-schooled our kids up until last year. And so we put them all in the public school and we had that same dilemma. Do we keep our girls together, or do we separate them? And they expressed desire to be separate. And so it’s been interesting to see how that’s played out because one of them has done very well, and one of them’s struggled and misses her sister more. But I don’t know if we would go back and do it differently or just roll with it because of those experiences they get independently of each other. That helps build them up.

Chris you gave a great TEDx talk about identifying strengths in children, but how have you been able to use that principle or those principles in parenting your twins?

Chris: Well I think, it’s so easy to be hard on ourselves, first of all. You’re constantly told what percentile your kids are at and there’s that comparative thing, all the milestones that you have to reach and when your kids are not at the milestones, you feel like you’ve done something wrong. And so it’s a mindset shift of the lens we look through, both at ourselves, and whether it’s students or our own kids, to see the strengths in them. Kids at a young age see the strengths in themselves. And we teach that out of them.

And so the big thing with twins though, is you raise them identically and yet they could be so different. And it’s a need as an educator to see that, because you think about, I got 300 kids in my school so they’re all being raised so differently. And so you can imagine the different strengths and experiences they have. And so to look for those first with anything and to encourage that. And not just talking about strengths about you’re good at, whether it’s dance or art or anything like that. But I’m also talking about character strengths, whether it’s that care, that curiosity, leadership, things like that where we want to tap into that and really embrace that in our kids because it is really hard to, especially when you’re having a hard time and you’re struggling with some behaviors of your kids. It’s hard to sometimes remember to see all the good things that happen.

As parents, we look back and we ask our kids each time for dinner, well what went well? What was your favorite part of today? And because we’re trying to help them to see the positives, because as they get older it’s gonna become more difficult. So we want to talk about what went well each day and we do that in our school too, the triple W, what went well. And I think that’s a good thing to ask our kids and I know kids used to be into Dora quite a bit. And so, at the end of Dora, they always say, “What was your favorite part?” And so we used that for a while too to describe their days, to change that lens. So if we can help the kids to do that, I think that’s gonna help us as well.

Joe: Yeah, I love that lens, asking on the positive note, what went well as opposed to how was your day. Because when you ask, how did things go, usually their first comments are something negative, something bad that happened, when in fact, their day had lots of good things in it. They just have to seek out and identify those sometimes.

Chris: Yeah, and you find what you’re looking for, right? So if we’re looking for the negatives, you can find them all over the place. But I’ve learned a lot from having young kids, is that every day seems like it’s, “Oh, it’s the best day ever today.” And you go, “What was so good about that?” And they’ll tell you the smallest little thing that you didn’t even see but they noticed. And so it’s … Having kids has been such an awesome experience for that to help me see those little moments.

You know, to stop and see a puddle, and the fascination with a puddle. And but when you actually stop and look at it and from a kid’s perspective, oh my goodness. The stuff that’s in there, there’s little critters in this little puddle. You can splash in it. You know all these sort of things that we forget. There’s that quote dancing in the rain. Well kids, they do that. And they love rain and we end up hating it as we get older, especially in British Columbia. We get so much of it. But there’s so many things that kids have helped me to see the positives and see those moments more clearly.

Joe: What are some strengths that you’ve identified in your girls, where they’re opposite of each other or have very different strengths?

Chris: If you look at the arts, because my wife is a dance teacher, they both love dance. They like different aspects of dance, sort of what they do. But even within the arts, one is much more into the visual arts. One is much more into learning to read and write. But they challenge each other in that when they see the other person doing it. They’re like, “Oh, I want to do that too.” So they build off each other’s strengths a little bit there.

But the big thing that I noticed for one of them is leadership. One of them is way more willing to step up and lead a group and other one will more stand back and wait for someone else to do that. And that’s okay. I have to talk to the one about being a little bossy sometimes but I want to build on that strength rather than trying to take it away from her.

But they both have that curiosity is huge in most kids that age, right? So trying to tap into that and not to shut down them asking and questioning things because kids ask a million questions at this age and that curiosity seems to fade as they get older, which I think is natural as they start to see the answers. It’s not so many new things in their lives. But yeah, the curiosity I think they both have. That creativity they both have. But it comes out in different ways with them and it’s really kind of neat to see.

And they like different things. Sometimes one’s into trains. Sometimes one’s into ponies. And then they’ll change it up. Sometimes they’re both into building things and working with wood and stacking things. One loves creating contraptions. The other one loves using those contraptions. She’ll wait for them to be built. So yeah, it’s kind of neat to see them develop but be so different.

Joe: Yeah, that is a fun part of being a father of twins, is the chance to look at both of your girls and see how different they are, even though they may be wrapped in a very similar package, physically. They are completely different individuals and have, like you said, different interests and hobbies and mannerisms and speech. Everything is unique. It’s fun to see and study those differences and then encourage their own unique individuality.

Chris: The challenge that we are seeing is when one is better at one thing than the other and it’s obvious. They can see it. And so the other one will try to maybe step back and be like, “Oh, I don’t want to really do that.” So trying to encourage them that with effort, you can do that. The only reason they’re better is because they’ve been practicing at that. So trying to really let them know it’s okay if one’s better than the other one in certain things and to continue to work at it. You don’t just give up because the other one seems to be better than you.

Joe: What is working right now, as you parent your twins? Maybe there’s some challenges at this age and what are some things that are working to help you with those?

Chris: The fighting is a challenge because you always have someone around you and you could see how … 90 percent of that time is amazing. Like I said, you’re having your best friend. You’re growing up with your best friend right there. They love each other so much. But 10-20 percent of that time is, you don’t want to be around that person. So we have to make sure that we have quiet time during the day where they just go to a separate room and they’ll spend a half hour, 45 minutes. It’s usually in the afternoons when they get home from school or in the summer time when they’re not in school that they would do that in the early afternoon. And it’s just sort of a … It’s not a nap time but it’s quiet reading or writing, no technology, just sort of … Sometimes it’s a craft. But it’s just time where you don’t have to deal with someone else in your space and you can rejuvenate, rebuild some energy going forward.

I think that has been a huge thing that my wife implemented, the quiet time. And now that sharing a room, we have to put them in separate rooms for that because they do. They still want to be … They can be fighting yet they don’t want to be apart from each other. When they sit on the couch, they’ll sit right next to each other. So they have that attachment to each other that you don’t want to take away but also, there are times when we just need quiet space. And we need it as adults and we can do that but for them, we have to encourage that quiet space. So maybe one’ll be in our room and one’ll be in the bedroom. One’ll be in the living room, whatever will be. But we play with technology with that and we found the technology actually made it worse so we’ve just stuck to the old school crafts and writing and reading, which works for them.

Joe: Yeah, love that system. That’s a great setup. Hopefully it give you as parents a brief reprieve as well.

Chris: Yeah, we like that. The nap, when we lost the last nap, it was like holy. We’re not gonna get any time to ourselves. Because it is a partnership. It’s hard to just say, “All right. I’m going to do something.” And knowing that that, especially when they’re younger, that it’s gonna be a challenge to leave two young kids with one person. You still have to do that. But yeah, losing that nap was, okay, I don’t have my quiet time, so this also builds quiet time for us as well.

Joe: Well Chris, as we wrap up today, if listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Chris: Yeah, I think just through my website, there’s a contact page there. It’s chriswejr.com or on Twitter it’s just my name @chriswejr, W-E-J-R. Yeah, I’d be more than happy to talk. The great thing we did, we had a few connections when we started out on our twin journey, and they were very helpful with us, about just even sleep and feeding. And it’s really hard because as you know, people who do not have multiples, it’s hard to understand. People say, “Well I had my kids that were 13 months apart so I know what you’re going through.” I think it is different and so having someone there to help you through that I think is very beneficial, just having that network.

So if anybody has any questions, by all means, they can reach out.

Joe: Excellent. I’ll link up to those as well as that TEDx talk I mentioned earlier and you’re in the show notes at twindadpodcast.com.

Chris, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. We really appreciate it.

Chris: I appreciate all you share too Joe. And I’ll continue to follow you and learn from you as well.

Joe: I hope you enjoyed that chat with Chris about his journey so far with his twin girls. And particularly how we can identify some of the strengths in each of our kids and use those to help them improve themselves and to improve how we interact with them and how we encourage them in our parenting. Again, I’ll link up to his TEDx talk, and his website and contact information at twindadpodcast.com.

As I mentioned at the top of the show, today is brought to you by my second book for fathers of twins. It’s called ‘Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins.’ This book is perfect for you if you’re going through those first challenging couple years with twins and guide you through the challenges of eating, sleeping, toddlers, and more. Check it out at raisingtwinsbook.com.

Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.

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Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

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