Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

In Case You Were Wondering

IMG_8005Having twins is a treat, for the most part. It’s just as charming as can be to watch them play together and care for each other on a daily basis, and it’s fun to ponder how it would be to have a regular partner from birth through childhood—the good and the bad of it. Also, many people in the world love to see twins together, and that’s really fun. It’s overwhelmingly a positive experience.

And of course there are difficulties. I’ve been asked what the most difficult part of having twins is, and…I know what you think I’m going to say: potty training! But no. While that continues to be truly difficult for me with one of my twins, I now know that every kid and every twin set is different.

What’s the hardest thing? It’s the lack of little moments of everyday bonding. This is how that looks:

1. The second girl to get up from her nap bypasses me (waiting for her with open arms and a big smile) because her sister is already up and playing, and that looks more fun.

2. I NEED to talk to Twin A about a safety or learning issue, and Twin B will come and disrupt by physically messing with a) Twin A, b) me, or c) the half-prepared dinner I was working on, which is now all over the living room.

3. I start to ask Twin B about her day or mood, as it seems she needs some individual attention, and Twin A starts a) answering for Twin B, b) talking loudly and disruptively, or c) climbing on my head.

4. I am as much a toy as anything else when there are two of them. Here’s a game: Touch spoon with intent to drop it on the floor, watch mom move quickly to stop you, then make a funny “Eeeeaaah!” noise and laugh with sister at mom. Repeat—alternating twin perps—until mom stiffly removes spoons.

5. One girl climbs on my lap for snuggles, and the other girl MUST join her on my lap. Pushing and crying ensues all around (not excluding me).

Piles of “ruined moments.” I know: it’s all about expectations. The moment is only ruined if I was expecting it to go differently. So do I have a lot of expectations? YES!  I can’t help myself. Over and over, I have lovely nano-moments implode into frustration and disappointment (me) or explode into chaos and crying (them). Most of the time it feels as if I never get to “settle into” the present and really enjoy it. So much for pursuing a state of zen, huh?

1 Comment »

And Now It Gets Much Harder…Or Does It?

The toddler years were the most daunting to contemplate when I was told I was having twins. They still are! These are the months and years I worried about the most. The ones my mom worried about on my behalf. And they are here.

The girls have just passed their second birthday and we had some extremely difficult days leading up to it. The thing is…I know it’s only the beginning. I’ve actually said it—if only to myself—many times recently, “This is the real beginning of the toddler times.” Way long ago last summer, when one of the girls had her first public tantrum at Sea World because we wouldn’t walk in her chosen direction, I thought that was the beginning. And it was. Sort of. See, it keeps escalating…the toddlerness I mean. And I’m scared that I can’t even guess how much further we have to go on this journey of willfulness and contrariness. Hoo boy. I mean…they are just barely TWO now!

Time to be honest. Most of the time, I handle the day-to-day craziness very well. I’m happy to give myself this credit because I actually work really hard at it. But occasionally—always when I have to get something done—I can’t handle it, and I freak out a little…throw my own tantrum.

After the birthday, I spent 9 days toddler proofing the kitchen so that I could finally take the gates (mostly) down in the house. I knew that most of the acting up was because they are getting too old to be cooped up in two rooms. I looked forward to getting the project done so I could let them help me with little tasks in the kitchen, which should help them feel some more power and control, and, in theory, act up less.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, that whole week was terrible because I was trying to get projects done and they were acting up like crazy due to my being less attentive. But I pushed through anyway, knowing that at the end was the best prize they could hope for: freedom!

I opened up the kitchen Sunday night (or was it Monday?) and they have been having a blast. They can now run a circuit around the kitchen/living room wall if they like (I wish they would run some laps), draw on the chalkboard wall in the kitchen, help me with little kitchen tasks, and get into new sorts of mischief.

So the kitchen is organized and looks rather good for a mid-remodel kitchen, and I was right…the girls are acting up a little less now, because they are being allowed to exercise more control over their environment. And I have been having success with the gentle parenting method of firmly but respectfully reminding them of boundaries and giving them the choice to comply before I pluck them (Audrey) off the garbage cans…again…and again. Now that I’ve had a few good nights’ sleep.


Don’t You Just Want To Play With Them All Day?

Five-month-old girls.

When my babies were about 7 or 8 months old I guess, my mother-in-law came by for a visit, and while she was here enjoying playing with the babies on their little play mat, she said, “How do you get anything done? If I were you, I’d just want to play with babies all day!” It was an affectionate comment…with an unintended consequence. I immediately had lots of doubts: “I don’t want to play with them all day. Does that mean I am too detached? Selfish? Would a normal parent want to play with their babies all day?

Well, the answer is no. Turns out, most parents struggle with wanting to want to play with their baby (or babies) more. In other words, most of us will think some version of these thoughts, especially in the early months, “Why don’t I actually want to play with them more often?” or “Why does my mind wander so quickly when I sit down to give them some “quality” time?” or “Why does spending time with the babies feel a lot like watching paint dry?” And we don’t readily share those thoughts because we feel ashamed, like we are coming up short in the “job” of parenting. But actually ask around and you’ll find relieved-to-hear-it consensus all around you.

“One new mom admitted to feeling bored at home all day, since she was used to being surrounded by activity and other adults at her former job. Another described rushing out to the grocery store as soon as her husband got home, just to have an outing and some time to herself. Do not feel ashamed or guilty if you’ve had the same feelings.” — excerpt from Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, by Jane Nelson, Ed.D., Cheryl Erwin, M.A., and Roslyn Duffy.

I found this hardest at the pre-walking phase. I mean, they were adorable, of course, and full of fun smiles and giggles, but spending hours on the floor, just watching them or showing them how to do things was at times more difficult than I could have imagined.

In the early days, I thought it so important that I try to have more presence with them that I actually set a timer for 30 minutes at a time and did not let myself go look at my email, or refill my coffee cup. I treated it like meditation: when my mind would start to wander, I’d just gently bring my attention back to the girls. Over and over again.

I know it sounds forced and unromantic, but it worked. Now that the girls are older, they actually play together very well, and spending time with them is easier to enjoy because they are starting to talk, they love books read to them, and they are very, very affectionate! But I still don’t spend all day watching them! I want them to know that mom’s tasks can be important too. It’s part of my desire to teach them that in our family, everyone’s pursuits are to be honored.

I still make sure to spend a little more time just hanging out with them than I’m naturally inclined to, because I know these days will be gone so soon, and I always see something amazing or charming when I just sit and watch. And act as their vaulting board.