What TO Say to Multiples

1-NICU reunion family pic-001

I began drafting this post a few weeks ago after a reader politely noted concern for how we handle ourselves in public, possibly shunning people who ask questions. Yes, some parents of multiples completely avoid answering questions about their multiples. This is generally because they feel it invades their privacy and also there is harsh judgment from the public regarding infertility treatments. No one wants to feel judged. I understand and respect some families’ tendency to avoid answering questions in public. However, I hated finding that someone gleaned that impression from reading our blog. I suspect it came from comments I’ve made about wanting to be clandestine at times or encouraging people to “walk and talk”. I’ve mentioned things such as putting the babies in twin strollers or separating them somehow to avoid inquiries.

This is one of our traveling scenarios.  Honestly, even twins do not go unnoticed much of the time.

This is one of our traveling scenarios. Honestly, even twins do not go unnoticed much of the time.

The babies are still very young and we rigidly adhere to our schedule to keep things running smoothly. While we know it is inevitable, George and I go to great lengths to avoid four babies melting down in a highly populated place such as Walmart. The day it happens, I assure you that George and I will crawl out of wherever we are on hands and knees with our tails between our legs.

Even with our best efforts, people often realize we in fact have quadruplets in tow and we are asked many questions. For the most part, we have received nothing but earnest questions and genuine compliments. George and I feel that the energy you put out is often what you get in return so we try our best to kindly answer all questions from passersby. We even entertain questions that could be construed as rude or off putting the best way possible because we feel those questions are asked out of lack of knowledge regarding multiples. Sometimes, the asker is a person dealing with infertility and they are seeking reassurance or hope. Our answers are often attempts at educating people in diplomatic ways. We are fully aware that quadruplets are a novelty. Prior to expecting quadruplets, we had not seen any out in public and would probably have questions or comments if we were onlookers. In fact to date, we’ve only met three other sets of quadruplets! There are only about 300 quadruplet births in the United States annually so most people will never lay eyes on a set.

All that being said, George and I appreciate manners from people we encounter. A good rule of thumb if you see us strolling about in our Runabout or cruising with two double strollers is to consider, “Would I ask that of someone with one baby?” and “Is it okay for children to hear what I am asking?” It is not customary to ask parents of singletons exactly how they conceived their babies so it’s not polite to ask parents of multiples either. Do you want a complete stranger asking you about bedroom behavior or medical conditions???? I highly doubt it.  There are perhaps a few exceptions of things that are not offensive and apply only to multiples (e.g. How may boys? Girls? Do they share a room? Are they fraternal? Identical?).

Here are some examples of polite things that have been said to us or asked in public:

  1. How old are they?
  2. What are their names?
  3. What a blessing!
  4. They are adorable/ precious/ beautiful/ cute (any complimentary word is perfect)
  5. Wow! Amazing! Cool! Neat (again, any single word noting amazement is appreciated)
  6. Are they sleeping through the night?
  7. You are so lucky.
  8. They must bring you so much JOY!
  9. Can I put you on our prayer list?

Not everyone is impressed with multiples, and that is okay! If you don’t have something polite to say, it’s best just to keep unkind commentary to yourself. In our experience, most people have keep unsavory comments to themselves or at least had the courtesy to be discreet; we appreciate that.

In addition to asking polite questions, also be mindful of the amount of time you are commanding. George and I happily entertain a few pertinent questions, but our babies are young and we don’t have 15 or 20 minutes to chat with each person who eyes us. At times we may well be totally preoccupied handling four babies in public too and may not even notice someone trying to ask a question.  This type of courtesy is not only appreciated by families with multiples, but anyone who is different for any reason (e.g. Medical condition, disability, religious attire, ect.) I brought only Mason with me to Walmart once and let me tell you, he garnered nearly as much attention with his “helmet” as all four babies do. People love to gawk and make comments when they see something out of the ordinary. Bottom line is that sort of behavior hurts feelings. No one wants to feel like a circus freak show or exhibit. Everyone wants to fit in and enjoy a bit of leisure time.

Amber over at Texas Tales recently wrote about this very topic. Clearly it is something that is common place for both of us these days as we are increasing our family outings.

hugs!

Amber

Sometimes two twin strollers are an efficient way to travel with the four pack.

Sometimes two twin strollers are an efficient way to travel with the four pack.

58 thoughts on “What TO Say to Multiples

  1. Oy, I’ve only got twins (so I assume the comments for quads must be a billion worse than what I get) but I have gotten some crazy comments and some downright mean ones. One old man looked at my boys (who at the time were smiling happy content babies) and said “I feel so bad for you.” Like, I’m not even covered in vomit man! I have beautiful awesome kids. I can’t imagine EVER saying that to anyone. Another time someone saw me loading them from the big stroller into the car and said “I can’t believe I ever wanted twins!” It made me angry, but loading from stroller to car is NOT the hardest part lady. Come over at bottle time, or nap time, or when I’m constantly pulling them off each other, etc, etc, etc.

    Thankfully, 95% of the comments I’ve gotten have been wonderful. But something about multiples makes people turn off their “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” filter sometimes!!!

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    • Similar story here! Most people are really nice, but I got the “I feel sorry for you” comment once and I only had two babies with me. I looked deeply into George’s eyes so he knew better than to mention we only had half the crew. I don’t want pity people! Yesterday a guy said he’d jump off a cliff if he had quads because his twins were hard enough. Seriously???

      People should really think before speaking sometimes.

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      • Then there was the time that the lady in the supermarket kept asking me if I had used my eggs and my husband’s sperm to make the twins. I was actually speechless. I am NOT discussing my eggs and his sperm in the grocery store with a stranger!!!!!!! Who on earth would ever ask that!?

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      • I was surprised on a regular basis at the things people would ask me in public and the things that they would say about my quadruplets. I would not have said some of those things to my close friends much less strangers. It is a blessing raising quadruplets, but also very challenging. Great job blogging your experience to share and educate others about this experience. It will also be great for you to have to remember all the things that you forget in time.

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      • People never cease to amaze me, especially with quads in tow! I could not agree more, raising quads is no doubt the biggest challenge of my life, but also the greatest blessing I could imagine. Thank you for your support! Also, you are totally correct as using the blog as a way to remember things so easily forgotten. I feel like I am already forgetting the tiny baby days!

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      • I have triplet boys (now 12). When they were about 4 We had taken them to a wood train store that let kids play with the train sets for free as long as they wanted. My boys LOVED going there. One day a father approached me and asked if they were all mine. I said “yes they are triplets.” He said “Oh, I feel sorry for you.” without missing a beat I said “Don’t feel sorry for me, I am very blessed.” He just kinda smiled and walked away. A few minutes later he came back to me and said “You are right, you ARE very blessed. I should not have said that.” I thanked him and went about my business. It was the first time I’d “called someone out” about their comments and received a sincere apology. It felt awesome! After that I was much more confident about being blasted with comments or questions.

        I did find one phrase that really helped filter out the “Nosy Nancys from the people who were genuine. If someone asked me how I conceived them I would say: “Why do you ask?” The people who were experiencing infertility or knew someone that was I would gladly talk to about my experience. If they were just being nosy, it gave them a chance to realized that they were asking an invasive, person question to a perfect stranger.

        I admit that on occasion when I was not in the mood for nosy people and their smart ass remarks that when asked how I got my triplets I said “My husband has six testicles!” Their stunned silence gave me plenty of time to get away and move on with my day.

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      • I had almost the same comment made to me when I had just two of the babies with me. And, I replied the same way. I feel blessed, I never want pity.
        I love your suggestion about replying with, “Why do you ask.” That way, if someone really needs advice, ect I am giving them my best answers. If they are being rude or nosey, it puts them in their place.

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  2. Can we post this EVERYWHERE???? I can handle the questions, even the ridiculous ones because generally people are so dumbfounded by seeing the quaddles that they often don’t realize what they’re asking/saying, however, the rude comments need not be spoken. Period. Very well said Amber. Thank you.

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    • Please do! People need to remember their manners, seriously. I am proud of my kiddos and LOVE talking about them, but some things are better left unsaid.

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  3. Great post! I’ve noticed even just being pregnant, strangers want to get all up in your business. (I can’t tell you the number of strangers that have asked if I was going to breast feed!) We could all be more polite in the world!!

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  4. Totally understand.. Just the other day we was at target and a random lady asked me how I had kids because I was in a wheelchair…I was speechless The only thing I could get out was…How you had yours and went the other way!

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  5. Its really not just multiples. There are people who don’t think before they speak, that’s what it all boils down to. My oldest is 17 with Madison being 17 months and I’ve had questions about “why did you wait so long?” totally rude! Kudos to you for being polite, I’m a NYer we’re not that polite at all. 🙂

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    • You are exactly right. Etiquette is becoming a thing of the past apparently. It is really no one’s business when you decided to have your children or how far apart. My mom’s oldest sister and youngest brother are 17 years apart. It confuses people a lot because my uncle is closer in age to his nieces than his siblings.

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    • You are exactly right. Etiquette is becoming a thing of the past apparently. It is really no one’s business when you decided to have your children or how far apart. My mom’s oldest sister and youngest brother are 17 years apart. It confuses people a lot because my uncle is closer in age to his nieces than his siblings.

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  6. On Wednesday I had someone literally stand and stare at me as I did my exiting-the-apartment procedure. Just some random lady on the street. I mean she was nice and we ended up having a conversation (that ended in a timely manner) but still. Okay, my exit procedure is ridiculous. I will write about it one day (involves simultaneously wearing one baby on front and one baby on back while I carry a stroller down the stairs of our apartment building stoop). I still don’t like an audience. I feel like a freak show.

    I also don’t appreciate when people want to satisfy their curiosity while my babies are melting down. If I am wrangling two screaming babies – by myself! – I feel like I don’t need to humor any questions, yet people feel the need to ask and not get the hint. I’ve also gotten intrusive questioning while I am trying to do a bank transaction, and other times when I don’t want other people hovering around me. I have twins! And in this neighborhood I am one among many many many sets of twins (seriously, there are a LOT), and yet I still get a LOT of attention. Most of which I am fine with, but some people just don’t realize when they’ve overstayed their welcome, or when their staring is not polite.

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  7. Very well written. I have 2 singltons, my oldest being a 29.5 weeker. He had a lot of health issues (brain bleed/vp shunt, mild CP) and when we were out when he was younger we got lots of questions/comments and stares. He couldnt’ sit unassisted until 14 months and while at the grocery store I would push him in a stroller and pull a cart behind me. One woman said “you know there is a seat in the stroller you can just put the baby in” and I have had so many people “what is wrong with him, what happened to his head”. While I do understand peoples curiosity, its sometimes the presentation and sometimes just not a good time. He is now 4, and when we were at the beach a woman asked HIM what was “wrong” with him. I commend you and George with handling it with such grace.I can only hope that the general public becomes more aware of proper things to say to others they are curious about. Thanks again for sharing.

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    • Thank you! I work with children who have disabilities and understand how cruel people can be with their inquiries. What really upsets me is the model adults set for children when they do this. What message are we giving little ears??? I hope that as people become increasingly tolerant of differences, our children will grow up in a kinder place.

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  8. Wow! To the moms (and dads) who reply below – im so sorry …. I mean I am sorry about what people are saying to you! I remember when I was MUCH younger and I learned never to ask when she was ‘due’. Opps!
    *Question – Is it ok to ask about the ‘helmet’? If so how? (Wondering…)

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    • There probably aren’t many nice ways to ask about something like a “helmet” or disability. I might comment on how cute the helmet is painted or how cute the child is and likely the parent (or if older child) will probably open up and tell about it.

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  9. Well said Amber. As the more mature mother of triplets, I have had several inappropriate things said to me. Everything from are they natural, to which I replied no, they are actually a cool new robot toy, to several have said thank God it’s you and not me. Which I always reply, I thank God for that too. People can be unreal. But most are kind and supportive.

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    • An older man once asked me if my triplets were “real” and I said no, they are dolls and I just like pushing a big triplet stroller around….yea right. It does get better…mine are now 13. 🙂

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      • LOL! I don’t know why people like to ask if they are “real”. A lady once asked me that too and as I crinkled my nose I said, “Um yes. They are all real babies.” I think she meant “natural”, but that is perhaps even worse! I am encouraged to hear that it gets better. Since mine are all fraternal and VERY different in body shape, ect I do expect comments to fade. Then I’ll probably get nasties about how I had my kids so close together and was pregnant for four years straight.

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  10. We’ve got naturally conceived triplets and I can’t tell you how many times people asked if I was on fertility drugs. I can only imagine how hurtful that would be if we had struggled with infertility and I always wondered why people thought it was okay to ask that?
    Great post- what beautiful blessings you have!!

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  11. Wow. Very well put. I have triplets and am a single mother so the majority of the time if they are not in school they are with me. I can’t wait for the day that I can walk through the grocery store or Walmart and not get a bazillion questions. I don’t mind polite questions now and then but some things are downright rude and get old really fast. My children are also 7 years old and really don’t need to hear a lot of the questions (my advice for those wanting to know about how many multiples are conceived would be to research it on the internet in the privacy of your own home…my personal life is my business). I like to be polite to people but they do need to realize that I can’t stop and chat if I have three 7 year olds headed for a busy parking lot or making a B line for the toy section of Walmart. Best thing to do is keep it short, keep it positive and if you don’t like children try shopping after most children are home and in bed lol. We have to eat too. And no, raising triplets is not the same as raising 3 singletons for many reasons. If you don’t believe me just give it a try. 😉

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    • We’ve mastered the whole “walk and talk” thing relatively well. It is practically a must skill to have with multiples isn’t it? Yours are at the exact age where I worry about them hearing the questions and commentary because they ARE listening and they do understand. Props to you for doing that all on your own! It is a massive challenge, but also a HUGE blessing.

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  12. My favorites – ‘Did you take fertility drugs?’ and ‘Wow. I am so sorry.’ Really?! Don’t pretend that I know you and will a. tell you how we got pregnant or b. explain how my life with four kids is not a negative thing. Yes – we have issues that no parents of singletons will ever understand or comprehend. For instance, the ability to parent three 14 year olds who are so entirely different at the same time is a real challenge! And the financial challenges of four kids that will be in college at the same time. But they are never, ever a negative or a burden. Only a blessing….

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  13. Amber,
    Hi! My name is Tracy and I also have GBBG Quadruplets. They just turned 5. Those awkward and uncomfortable questions, do slowly go away with time. The only question we get now… several times a day, is “Are they 2 sets of twins?” I would always remind myself that most people have never seen Quadruplets in their lives. I try to put myself in their place, because before my kids… I had never seen Quadruplets.” I think that people are so fascinated, that they just want to ask “something.” We have something special 🙂

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    • It is good to know that some of the questions tail off because I worry about what the babies will have to endure when they are at the age of understanding. While some questions are a bit annoying, at least they aren’t rude. I can handle people who are just totally baffled. It’s the rude ones that grate on me.

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  14. Amber,
    I totally forgot to mention that my daughter, had a cranial band as well. If someone just asked me what is was… I didn’t mind telling them. But when a stranger would just stare, and ask if anything was ok with them, I’d just smile and say “yes.” It was awkward. The ironic part, was that my daughter’s first word was “hat.” When strangers would come over to admire the kids, she would point to her head and say “hat!” It was funny. Best of luck.
    -Tracy

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    • I don’t mind at all! Thank you for sharing it. I was actually considering sending it to MOST, but hadn’t gotten to it yet. I hoped to help educate people, and that can only be done by sharing.

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  15. My triplets are older now (17years); its been a while since my triplet stroller days but how I remember the “comments from the peanut gallery” when I was out and about. Reading your blog brought back memories; some wonderful comments, (they people that said may God bless you etc), some really stupid ones. What I’ve taken away over the years is that some people/cultures don’t know how to sensor and say whatever they are thinking, and some people are just idiots! Eventually I learned to walk and talk, smile and just roll with it; but when one lady was just real nasty and made this stupid comment; “if that was me I’d shoot myself comment; I simply answered, if I were you, I shoot you too”! It made me feel better, and hopefully she realized how stupid she sounded.

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    • It seems that all MoMs know this plight all too well. I think we all have a moment when the straw broke the camel’s back and we snark back and boy that can feel good sometimes. The “walk and talk” really is a critical skill to master! Congratulations on raising now 17 year old trips!

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  16. I am a mom of almost eleven yr old triplet girls. I think the stupidest comment I got was “I’ve never seen LIVE triplets” (have you seen dead ones?) And the “oh I’m so glad it is you and not me”..to which I replied I agreed with that and moved on.

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  17. Hi you super moms! You are just something special. I ONLY have identical twin boys (now 21 years) but triplets and more, maybe not more than 4 (I think) have always fascinated me to the point where I was a little jealous of not having them as well. Although I had allergic, colicky babies, I will never, ever exchanged them for singly babies.!!! I remember a couple of times that people asked me how did I manage to get them and then I would always answer them for Identical boys it is top left corner. They would then just look at me and try to work out that puzzle. Hehe… Good luck with all your babies, I am sure if you have had trips and more you can handle anything that comes in your way. Enjoy them, they grow up soooo fast!!!

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    • Your joke is too funny. What a fun sense of humor! You are so correct, these babies are growing up so fast! I can’t believe they are turning one in a little over a week.

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  18. They are so cute and you’ll are doing a fantastic job…..believe me, if I saw you out in public I would have to compliment you on how cute they were and how blessed you are! Thank you for sharing…..a friend in East Texas, Pam

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  19. I understand the frustration, especially when you are trying to run errands or keep babies from melting down. But really I think people are just curious, and lots of times don’t even think about what they are saying, you know, not trying to be rude on purpose.

    I think I am so used to being watched and scrutinized, before I adopted my twin boys, I had adopted 4 little girls and lets just say NONE of us match! Two of my daughters are African American, one is Bi-Racial AA & Hispanic and one is a pasty-white red-head! I am white with brown hair, so it is kind of obvious I am not biological mom to most of them. When they were really little well-meaning older ladies would say, “Oh they are all so cute.” which was nice, but then invariably they would ask, “Are any of them real sisters?” You know, here we all are, our cute little family, four girls who feel like they are all REAL sisters…and then someone has to ask that? And I could have gotten mad, but I always just answered, “They are all sisters.” And I left it at that. I knew what they were asking, and yes, my two AA daughters had the same mother. But my little red-head hated being left out and that question always made her feel like she was being left out. So I started dressing my girls to match, kind of like twins do sometimes. And for the most part, people stopped asking that question.

    So now with the twins, we are kind of like a circus just by sheer size and amount. When we walk into a store there are lots of stares, but we just smile and show the world how awesome our family is. Most people just say to me, “You sure have your hands full.” And I always answer, “Yes, thank the Lord!”

    I just found your blog from the link on A Beautiful Ruckus. I am looking forward to reading more!

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    • It’s so interesting how different family make ups garner attention. You have a special family indeed and they are REAL sisters for sure.

      I try to avoid dressing the babies alike so they are individuals, but I think it’s neat how you do the opposite for the purpose of connecting the girls.

      We often get the “You have your hands full” statement too. That one doesn’t offend me either, I just smile and say “oh yes, full of blessings!”

      I love Rebecca at a Beautiful Ruckus! She is a great mentor for blogging and raising quads. Happy you found us there.

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  20. My last “baby” was GGBB quads who are now almost 10 and what an amazing blessing they are. We still get asked if they are quads once in a while but more likely “are they twins”. We live in a small area but they play travel sports so larger areas are getting to know them and they certainly know us at both Sam’s Clubs that are 50 miles from us in different directions. I remember all those crazy comments and having my two older boys who were 3.5 and 8.5 years older, made me always carefully consider my comments. When one man told me he felt sorry for me I replied ” why, I have 4 beautiful healthy babies that love to play together and we adore them”. The mother and son were playing with the baby in front of the stroller and he quickly apologized. I joke that if I have a bad day, it will be posted on a billboard somewhere because its such a small area. Now I worry about one making the select soccer team and one not and things like that. Some things are easier since there are 2 girls and 2 boys. They go to a small private school and only have 13 kids in their 4th grade and thankfully, the families are considerate when it come to invites. It does get so much easier as they get older and out of the stroller but then comes the other challenges. Have fun and enjoy each stage.

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    • Thank you for sharing your experience! It’s always encouraging to hear from moms with older quads. I am always grateful for the two and two because it helps with little things like room sharing, ect.

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  21. I have 17 year old BBGG quads (plus a bio singleton, 7, and an adopted singleton, 4) and most people don’t even realize they are quads now–they are all different heights. But, even though they are fraternal, they all look a lot alike. Kids at their high school always know the four blondes walking to the car are a “set!” Our worst question was a man at a county fair asking if we had to have sex four times in one night to get quads. Then, he slapped my husband on the back, like it was his sexy manliness that caused four babies to happen. Now that we’ve adopted another child who is a different race, I am getting all of the intrusive questions all over again. It is interesting how similar the experiences are. People asking how much the adoption cost and, in front of my daughter, asking about her birth parents. I’m having to learn the best answers all over again. Yes, the walk-and-talk is good and I’m working on asking, “Why do you ask?” Also, “That is her story to tell when she is old enough.” Enjoy your sweeties–it goes by so fast! You’ll blink and be college shopping. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your story!!! I always love hearing from moms of older quads, you inspire me. It really does go by quickly!
      It’s really interesting how people are basically thoughtless when they see something atypical and begin a barrage of questions. Your experience with quads is probably helpful when dealing with adoption questions.
      Bless you!

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  22. Great post!! I’m a mother to boy/girl twins, and even at almost 20 months old, I still get negative comments. I bet I hear “you really got your hands full” and “I don’t know how you do it!” at least every time we are out. I even hear it a lot from extended family members. It makes me feel as if my twins are some kind of negative burden, not a wonderful blessing. And they can’t seem to believe I actually have it together and am not struggling. Like you, i wouldnt change this experience for anything Anyway, I just discovered your blog and love it! I can relate to so much of your life with my two toddlers. having multiples is a true bond!

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