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Dear Miss SmartyPants,

A friend of mine from work is due to have twins soon (well, more specifically, his wife is) and a few of us co-workers who feel close to the family want to send them gift baskets of food and stuff to make life a little easier on them the first few days. I was thinking my contribution could be to bring some prepared foods, or maybe muffins from a local bakery. Or we could just make a large batch of whatever we're preparing for our own family, and bring some of that. Does this sound like a good idea to you? Is there anything else you think would be better? We already had a baby shower, so we all are looking for something to help out and make their lives a little easier at first.


Dear Unsure,

Food is the right idea, but specifically: Dinners, already made, in disposable containers, arriving hot at (roughly) dinnertime - followed by a quick exit, unless you're prepared to hold a baby or two for a while. Or bring dinner in disposable, fridge-or-freezer-ready, microwavable containers. With any baby, dinnertime is the hour of true desperation, and that goes double with twins.

A nice idea would be to talk to the Mom-to-be before the big day and ask what night of the week she'd like to have dinners arrive. This will also give you the opportunity to check on any allergies or other food issues. Then, for as many weeks as you have volunteers, deliver dinner on the same night of the week, at the same time. That way the parents know when they can count on that lovely meal (or fixate on, depending on their desperation level.) Deliverer can stay and help or just did do finishing touches as preferred by the new parents.

By the way, when you call ahead, be sure to see whether they'd like this help right after the birth, or in a few weeks when any other offers have started to dwindle. If other people are helping with food, the parents may have no room left in either the fridge or the freezer for any more food. So call ahead for sure. Your gifts of food should not be a surprise. In fact no surprises are advisable to families with newborns. Always call first. A nap or other thing can get finished if they know they don't have to prepare food that night.

If some of you don't have the time or inclination to provide prepared food, whether from a restaurant or a grocery store deli or your home, how about buying them some groceries and stocking up their fridge with some easy-to-prepare items? Of course, you will still need to check on food preferences.

Another thing that would mean a lot would be if some of you, in lieu of providing food, were to say, "What can I do to help? I have an hour that is yours." This could involve any little task, like mowing the lawn, running errands, or walking the dog. If they have older children, offer to take the kids to a park or to a museum, or bring some board games to play with them in their home - something to keep them amused for an hour or so. Just remember to greet the older children first. All the attention to the twins may make them feel left out, so be sure they know they are still special, too.

So now you have some ideas on how you can help the family, BUT ... Please know that some parents want to be alone with their newborn twins after they come home. They want to bond with their babies and get them started on a schedule. Please don't be offended if they request no visitors for a while. Respect their wishes to do what they need and want to do. As in all interactions with others, common sense and consideration should always be your guide.

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