A few weeks ago, we had all kinds of snot dripping from the noses of both kids. Mateo, however, was also running a fever. Now, me? I’m of the school that ERs are for places to be host only to those bleeding profusely or at risk of life or limb. For most everything else, I’m inclined to handle things at home with maybe – MAYBE – a phone consultation from the pediatrician’s nursing staff if things get particularly hairy, fevers get too high, sleep gets too jacked up, that kind of thing.
However, a fever suddenly sprouted after five or six days of double barreled colds, and Mateo now tugging on his ear. Despite a dose of Motrin, he was still running a fever in the next morning, and since he is prone to ear infections, to the clinic we would go.
That’s not how that Saturday was supposed to go down. No, I had asked our nanny to work for us that day so that I could spend the morning moving furniture and other things to storage while she stayed and watched the kids. But that’s life with multiples: plan for things to go as planned, but expect the unexpected.
Instead, during the kids’ morning nap, I gathered up items for the trip to the clinic: couple diapers, some wipes, a water thermos, and a take-n-toss full of baby trail mix. With contents for ONE baby, the diaper bag felt oddly…empty. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
vis⋅i⋅ble [viz-uh-buh l]
–adjective: that can be seen; perceptible to the eye; apparent; manifest; obvious
Turns out, no ear infection. Just a $30 copay, approaching lunch time, and a boy and his mama. Surprisingly, he fell asleep on the 10 minute drive to the restaurant, so I just scooped him out, he lifting his head long enough to look around, and then snuggling back into my neck. I cannot tell you how good that felt.
We walked into the restaurant and DUDE WAS STILL SLEEPING. So I straddled him on one thigh, put his head against my chest, leaned back a little, and ordered lunch: soup and salad for me; chicken tenders and broccoli for the boy. Our meals came. He was still sleeping. I ate, and then cut up his food.
After twenty minutes, he woke up. Hungry. I put him in the high chair and he was thrilled to dip his food into the ketsup, wave at the group of armed forces across from us, smile at the family next to us, and drink from his big kid cup and straw. Everyone waved bye to us as we left and when we got home, he easily went down for his afternoon nap. It was a real joy spending time with Mateo one-on-one, giving him undivided attention, he knowing he was the center of my world. Over a year into his life, and it was the first time I recall having the opportunity to observe this kind of detail during a meal at a restaurant.
It was also so…EASY.
Since I typically err on the side of brutal honesty, I have to say I do envy those whose first pregnancy/child-rearing experience is a singleton. Sometimes I get the “I had kids back to back so I know how you feel.” Um, no, no you don’t. It’s not the same thing at all. Your Italian or Irish or Catholic or whatever it’s called “twins” is not at all the same thing.
in⋅di⋅vid⋅u⋅al [in-duh-vij-oo-uh l]
–noun: a single human being, as dinstinguished from a group
–adjective: single, particular, separate
The other day, I was at lunch with some co-workers. We were sitting next to this couple who had an 8 month old girl. That’s a 2:1 ratio. Which means that an adult can eat in rotation, a completely foreign concept in our existence. They were later joined by what I presume to be the mom’s parents. That’s a 4:1 ratio. Which meant that the parents could not only enjoy their own meal, but they could do so without having to inhale it in 30 seconds. And they were also able to sit back and visit while baby made her way between grandma and grandpa. The kid looked completely ecstatic bouncing from adult to adult to adult to adult. She wasn’t competing for attention. She had their world all to herself.
From the parents’ perspective, whether that’s 2:1 or 1:1, they have the opportunity to manage the early months of the parenting world with just one kid, getting used to the idea of it all, the feedings, the night stuff, the bath time, bed time, and every other bit of time. They can watch their child and get to know every little thing about them. The can shower the one child with love and affection, and even have time to be hyper-vigilant about germs and bottle sterilization, and baby-wearing. Hell, for that matter, they can shower. Another baby may come soon after, but for the most part, they got the good practice with a singleton.
My mom was telling me how my nephew (the first child, and only child for the time being of my brother and sister-in-law) loves his night time massages, getting all lubed up with baby lotion, down to the between-the-toes, being sung to. I had to laugh and tell her that our bath time routine is more like a fast-paced manufacturing plant and they’re lucky to be fully dried off before we pull pajamas onto twisting toddlers.
I’ll forever be grateful for double-the-blessing of twins in my first pregnancy, but at the time time, I mourn the fact that neither will have been afforded the attention and affection of being a singleton. Many of my memories are all about how I am/we are managing the everything-with-two-at-once. And that makes me sad. Sad that there have not been leisurely bedtime routines, or extended cuddles, or enough undivided attention.
Instead, oftentimes it is a deliberate and conscious effort to enjoy the day-to-day rather than what often feels like I just scraped by.
in⋅di⋅vis⋅i⋅ble [in-duh-viz-uh-buh l]
–adjective: not divisible; not separable into parts
My one-on-one time with Mateo was sweet, albeit due to a fever. To be fair, later that week I actually took half a vacation day from work to take Harper to a weekday swim playdate. Jennifer was just as shocked as I was. But something about that one-on-one time made me want for more. And seriously, how do you deny this pleading look equal special time with mommy?
My days off are Saturday and Sunday. Jennifer’s are Sunday and Monday. So that leaves Sunday to have family time. Carve out nap times and now there is less than 10 hours to spend together. Carve out meals and snacks and we’re down to about 8 hours. Carve out baths and diaper changes and now it’s closer to 6 hours. And if we even try to go to church – where we sit in worship thinking about our kids that are wailing in the nursery – that brings us down to 4.5 hours. And therein lays the challenge: how to divvy up the important family time and equally important “special” time as they continue to grow.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy every day, I’m just saying that it’s a challenge, with multiples, to live in the moment, exclusively, without simultaneously thinking ahead to how to get the next chores/meal prep/etc done so as to squeeze even more quality time out of what little time we have to work with. And this is further compounded by the desire to truly individualize each child and have special time with each one, separate from the other.
So how do you do it? What are the things you do to make your multiples feel the goodness of being a first child all to themselves?