Quite the Contrary

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Categories Behavior, ToddlersTags 14 Comments

Saturday morning was probably one of the worst (non-sick) days we’ve ever had with our pair.  Specifically, it was the worst, and most persistent, bad mood and rotten behavior I have seen to date from my almost-2.5-year-old son.

Believe me, we’re no strangers to temper tantrums and general two-year-old funks in my house.  The moods shift with the winds, as toddlers do.  They get set off for no reason and proceed to wail for 15 or 20 minutes. That’s kind of the accepted day-to-day.  But they snap out of it.  We get out of the house, we go for a ride in the car, and the upset is at least broken up, if not completely forgotten.

Not this time.

Holy moly, I’ve never seen one this bad. Literally everything, every thing was wrong.  And not just wrong, but clearly going to bring about the end of days.  Or, at least, that’s what his tone and response would have you believe. He didn’t want to put on his shoes (jacket, hat, etc.). He didn’t want to eat breakfast (the one he had just demanded).  His snack cup didn’t have any raisins in it.  Oh, the horror.

We get in the car, thinking we just need an outing to snap him out of it.  NO get in the car! I don’t WANT to go on the highway (the kid usually loves highways.)  I don’t WANT to get off the highway! The killer was that he would just keep saying no, even if you gave him what he claimed to want, or vice versa.  I want some juice! NO! I don’t want any juice! That cup is wrong! I don’t want a top! I don’t want a straw! GIVE ME MY STRAW! The only word to describe him was “contrary.”  He wasn’t in favor of anything.  He was simply anti whatever was going on at that moment.

first snow 09

And while the moms of two-year-olds are nodding along in commiseration, you have to know that this went on (with intermittent hysterical crying) for no less than three hours.  He was in such a foul mood that he completely skipped lunch and I sat in a quiet room with him for 20 minutes, just to get him calm enough that I could put him in is crib for nap.  It was so off-the-charts, my husband and I literally had to laugh so that we wouldn’t cry.

So, here’s my question: what in the hell do you do when they’re like this?  For most behavioral issues, I’ve been trying to use the 123 Magic/time out approach.  But can you exactly “count” this type of behavior?  I’m sort of inclined to ignore it as best I can, but three hours?! Come on, we have to move on with our day somehow.

Thankfully, I know this time will pass, just like all the others before and to come.  But man alive, that was one hell of a day.

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A minor difference of opinion

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Categories Family, Other peopleTags , 19 Comments

A month or two ago, I was just about ready to declare that I was all done having kids. After all, as my husband would gladly point out, we went about this thing in the most excellent, efficient way possible: first pregnancy, boy/girl twins.  Boom. Done.  We’ve got our two kids, we even lucked out with one of each gender.  What else do we need?

And then… a switch flipped in my brain. We were at the playground. A mom I don’t know, but had seen here and there while she grew more enormously pregnant all summer long, was there with her newborn daughter snuggled in the Ergo while her older son played.  And even though an itty-bitty newborn is far from my favorite age, I couldn’t help myself.  I want.  WANT.

My husband does not want.

This is not a huge surprise.  Back in our pre-child days, we had always had a difference of opinion on how many kids to have.  He was firmly in the two-and-done camp, while I was on the two-as-minimum side.

Truthfully, I’m not sure whether I’d feel quite as strong a desire for a third child if I hadn’t had twins first.  But that’s the weird catch-22 of starting out your parenting life as a mom of twins.  Always a mom of two, never a second-time mom.  And… I don’t know… but there’s this really strong pull to give it another try. Not because I feel as though I did poorly the first time, but rather the appeal of trying it again with even the slightest clue of what I was doing.

My husband, of course, feels no such desire.  The idea of throwing another baby in the mix only feels like taking a few giant steps backwards.

What I find most interesting is one of his main arguments against having more kids (aside from his life-long fear of all change).  He says that he already feels as though our kids are short-changed by being twins. He feels like he can’t give enough to either of them (enough of what is somewhat vague), so he thinks adding another child is only a disservice to the ones we already have, not to mention the third yet-to-be-determined.

Knowing my husband, I understand how he feels this way.  And, yet, I fundamentally disagree.  I do not believe that we do inherent damage to our children by creating siblings.  Which is not to say I think people should have more children than they can realistically take care of (financially, emotionally, or otherwise).  But I don’t think kids are automatically worse off for having another brother or sister.

And I definitely don’t think my kids are worse off for being twins.  In fact, there is a (sick, twisted) part of me that would almost like to have twins again, because I’d be a little bit sad for the fact that a singleton child of mine would not have that automatic playmate.  I do not believe my kids feel neglected or in any way under-served because there are two of them at the same age.  Yes, sure, I could never give the constant, full-time, one-on-one attention that might have been possible with only one baby.  But I’m not convinced that’s always the single-best way to raise a kid.

Anyways, here we are. Just this teeny little difference of opinion.  One of us wants more kids, one of us doesn’t. And yes, my kids are only a bit over 2. I’m only 31. The clock isn’t ticking all that loudly, and I’ve got time to wear my husband down (kidding, honey!).  Or, maybe I won’t.  Maybe we’ll stick with the perfect pair that we’ve got. And I will be happy, either way.

But I can’t help wondering. And wanting.

So, what about you? Do you think having twins has made you more or less likely to want a larger family?  Are you and your spouse/partner on the same page?  Do you think your twins are at some kind of disadvantage by always having a same-aged sibling?

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How many ways can I split my time?

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Categories Mommy Issues, Relationships, Toddlers12 Comments

If there’s one thing all moms can agree on, it’s probably that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.  One bit that I’ve really been struggling with recently is how to fit in all of the various permutations of “quality time.”

As a full-time stay-at-home-mom, I get more time with my two kids than I sometimes know what to do with.  I’m glad I get to be with them so much, even though it’s exhausting. But we get all kinds of time together.  And the kids are together pretty much all day every day, so no worries about them getting all the time they need.  But what about the other combinations?

First, mama needs some alone time. And while naptime is a precious commodity to me, sometimes you need a bit more freedom than that.  So, sometimes on the weekend we get to knock out a little mommy-free-time while also getting dad-alone-with-both-kids time.  Check and check.

We also spend a lot of time on the weekend doing family-of-four stuff, like going out for lunch or going swimming at the YMCA.  I really do enjoy that time, being able to do things all together.  (The improved adult:child ratio is nice, too.)

Oh, wait. That guy I married. I think we used to have fun together.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have some mom-dad solo time, too?  Crap.  Childcare is expensive. Maybe when my parents come to visit? For now, we’ve implemented a weekly movie night, which is a start, but it’s hardly a romantic date.

And then, everything I read reminds me that what the kids are really missing out on is time without the other twin. While I think this is an issue in all multi-child households, it can be especially problematic with the pair who have never known life without one another.  They each need some one-on-one time with mommy.  And daddy.  And, if we’re really lucky, they can each have some time with both parents to themselves.  I know this is one of the biggest things that we are lacking, and I know the one-on-one time is really important.  The individualized attention can reap so many benefits for everyone involved, I really want to get more of it. But how?

To recap, here’s the combinations we’re trying to squeeze into time outside of the work-week (when I’m solo with the kids all day):

  • Mommy alone time
  • Dad with both kds
  • Mom and dad without kids
  • Son with mom
  • Son with dad
  • Daughter with mom
  • Daughter with dad
  • Son with mom and dad
  • Daughter with mom and dad

In my world, I know that things are more likely to happen if they are somehow scheduled or planned into the daily and weekly routine.  So, how do you do it?  How do you get solo time with the kids, solo time for yourself, adult time with your spouse?  Do you plan it into your week (or, who are we kidding, weekend)?  Do you have some kind of rotation in place to keep things as equitable as you can?

Or am I just over-thinking all of this?

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Temporary favorites

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Categories Development, ToddlersTags , , , 15 Comments

Once, when my kids were under a year old, I had a complete stranger ask me “which is the good one?” I only wish I hadn’t been so shocked by the question that I might have come up with a witty and biting response to such an inappropriate question.

Among all of the crazy-ass things that people feel compelled to say to me when they find out my kids are twins, one of the most surprising is some people’s fixation on the “good twin/evil twin” thing.  Seriously?  People, that’s just a bad soap opera plot device. It’s not real.

Or, is it?

Sometimes, it’s a teensy weensy bit real.

Because, of course, one of the things about having two kids who are exactly the same age is that they will still hit some of the developmental milestones at slightly different times.  Some of those phases are less pleasant than others, and some kids will have a rougher time than others.

out for a walk

Right now, we are in that delightful two-year-old stage of constantly needing to assert independence and control. And while they are both dealing with it, it’s hitting my son especially hard.  Today, the whining and demanding for [insert whatever item his sister is currently holding] started before we even made it out of their bedroom.  It was a rough morning, and we’ve had a lot of days like that recently.

What might be making it even harder is the contrast with his sister’s behavior. She’s no angel (friends accurately described her over the weekend as a “wild card”), but where Daniel digs in his heels and throws a tantrum, she is more likely to realize that she is about to get in trouble and back off.  And so, human nature kicks in, and I (temporarily) have a favorite child.  Which only makes me feel worse.  I struggle with simultaneously being enormously frustrated with my son, and then feeling bad that I harbor less happy feelings toward him than his sister.

Thankfully, if I’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that they will soon switch places.  While some of these characteristics are consistent and very true to their personalities, I also know that the title of “more difficult child” is passed around with great frequency.  But in the meantime, I still have some internal conflict.

What about you? Do your kids trade off on the “good/bad twin” role?  Do you find yourself temporarily favoring one twin over the other?  How do you cope with favoritism, even if it is fleeting?

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Absolving the guilt

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Categories Infants, Mommy Issues15 Comments

I attended an event for my Moms of Twins club this weekend, a brunch welcoming new members from the past year.  Obviously, that meant a lot of moms with young infants, and even some who are still pregnant.

I ended up in a conversation with three moms whose babies were under 4 months old.  Oh, I do not remember that time fondly.  The unknown, the lack of feedback (save for the inexplicable crying), the lack of sleep.  They were talking about that guilt and worry that we all felt at that age: the sense that you can never give enough to either baby.

As a new mom, you get so caught up in what this newborn thing is “supposed” to be like.  Lots of holding, wearing in a sling, close contact. Hours spent idly watching your beautiful child sleep, reading books during those few minutes when they’re awake and alert.  Et cetera, et cetera.

Of course, when you’re outnumbered, you get a huge reality check.  Sadly, two babies does not mean twice as much time quietly admiring the wonder that is your child.  It means twice as much time nursing, pumping, feeding, burping, cleaning bottles, cleaning diapers, cleaning pump parts.  And, oh crap, it’s time for them to eat again. I remember remarking to my friend at the time, “I spend so much time managing them, I never get to enjoy them!”

And it’s more than that. In addition to the lack of enjoyment, we worry so much that we are doing our kids irreparable harm.  That they are suffering from the fact that we can only hold one of them at a time, and there seems to be a constant rotation in and out of the swing.  The moms I talked to on Saturday were so genuinely worried. Are we not bonding enough? Will we have attachment issues?

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I can see the other side of that.  That I could assure them that there is, dare I say it, an enormous benefit from those guilt-ridden first months.  And it is this: self-sufficiency.  I simply couldn’t entertain both kids, all day, every day. I couldn’t attend to their every movement, every squawk, every immediate need.  So, to a large extent, they learned to entertain themselves and each other.

Gymnastics

Which is not to say, of course, that my kids don’t go through clingier, needier phases. And there’s plenty of contributing personality factors.  But the upside to the fact that you simply cannot attend to your little babies in the manner you thought you would, is that you will find them much more capable of playing on their own than many of their singleton age-mates.

Gymnastics

So don’t overwhelm yourselves with guilt, new twin mamas.  It’s hard, and you try your best. But your kids are not being harmed. This is their life, they know no different. They will still love you, and bond, and otherwise grow to be awesome kids. A few extra minutes in the swing won’t hurt ’em.

Gymnastics

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That "playmate for life" thing

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Categories Development, ToddlersTags , , 12 Comments

We’ve all heard it. It’s right up there with “are they identical?” and “you’ve got your hands full.”  People simply love to see a set of twins and say, “ah, they’ve got a playmate for life!”  Of course, depending on the day I’ve had, sometimes I simply want to respond, “yeah, or a live-in punching bag!”

And yet… there might be something to all of that.

Believe me, my kids fight as much as the next set of twins, or really any brother-sister pair. They steal things from each other, they scream, they steal, they bite, they freak out at each other over almost nothing.  But having the constant company of someone roughly the same size and exactly the same age as you has got to have its perks. And one of those perks, for sure, is social development.

Siblings

I remember when we had the Early Intervention folks came to evaluate my son (on a very random issue that turned out to be nothing) at 19 months. They were asking me about his interactions with other children, and I was already noticing that he was playing with his sister a fair amount, not just parallel to her as they say kids that age do. With barely a word, they would start rollicking games of chase with each other and make each other laugh before falling asleep.

Siblings

Now, at two, they seem to make up even more games with their other twin-friends. They help each other climb up the slide (the wrong way, of course), they push each other on the swings. They bring each other toys, sometimes even without prompting (“here [you] go, Daniel!”), and generally entertain each other to no end. And yet, if a same-aged singleton friend is also there to play, he or she just doesn’t seem to join in as much, doesn’t seem to understand whatever game they’re trying to play.  That reaction, of course, is normal and age-appropriate! But noticeably different from the kids who have always had a 24/7 playmate.

So, for all the times that we worry about being behind the curve, whether physical development woes for preemies or the more-common-in-twins language delays… know that there’s at least one aspect of development where that twin thing really works in your favor.  Your kids will know how to play together, share, and take turns before just about any same-aged singleton!

In what way have your kids amazed you with their play?

Summer in the Midwest

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Exponential

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Categories Infants, Other people14 Comments

“You know, I think that having twins is, like, exponentially harder than having one. Not just twice as hard. Exponentially harder.”

That was a quote from my sister-in-law, beloved auntie to my twosome.  Though she does not yet have kids of her own, she has spent a lot of time with mine and has seen first-hand a lot of the first two years with twins.

Her comment was in regard to a dear friend of mine, who arrives at my house with her husband and her baby tomorrow afternoon.  This friend has been visiting family for the last few weeks, driving all over the Eastern seaboard with her now-one-month-old.

I can’t tell you how insane I thought that plan was. Bonkers. Ridiculous.  And yet, as things seem to do for these friends, it seems to have worked out alright.  And I realized, yet again, how very different my “newborn” experience was from most of the general population.

Because most of my mom-friends are people I’ve met through my local twin club, I am surrounded by people with similar experiences to my own. Preemies, perhaps? Some NICU time? Juggling the needs of two newborns, struggling with breastfeeding and bottle-feeding and sleep.  Though I just put my head down and barreled through at the time (and thanks to formula and a night-owl husband, was better rested than many), I hardly realize how incredibly difficult it was.

And so, while I made it a point to get out of the house with my new babies, the prospect of being away from home for more than an hour or so at a time was positively ludicrous.  The feeding schedule, the pumping, the weekly weight-checks at the pediatrician’s office.

Oh. Wait. That’s not exactly the norm.  And while first-time singleton moms might have preemies or struggle with breastfeeding and the like, it would seem that life is so much more flexible with one single baby.  So you go for a drive, they fall asleep in the car. Need to stop and nurse? No biggie. No need for a huge pillow so you can expose yourself while tandem-feeding.  No concerns about feeding one and waking up the other.  Just do what you need to do for that one child.

And while I still think my friends are a little crazy (in a very loving way) for this trip they’re on, I can only imagine how very different it must be.  How different to just have one. I suppose I’ll never know.

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Hold the condolences

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Categories ToddlersTags , , 13 Comments

Today, my kids turn 2. Two. TWO!  Are you kidding? Didn’t we just start solid foods or stop swaddling them for naps?  No, apparently not.

Of course, the first response you get from people when you mention that your twins are turning two years old is some variation on a groan.  Either they’ll make some mention of the “terrible twos,” or they’ll sadistically grin and say that two is absolutely nothing compared to three.  Um, thanks?

And I get it, I do. These past few months have been but a small preview of what’s to come. Inexplicable tantrums, stealing toys, pushing and hitting and occasional biting.  Insisting on doing things “all by self” and then getting super frustrated if it doesn’t work out. There are times when, if I believed in physical punishment, I think I’d smack the taste right out of their mouths.  And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

danieltwo

But you know what? They’re also so much more fun. They tell me stories, they sing songs. They occasionally take turns without any intervention from me. They remember people and places from weeks and months ago. They are sweet and smart and silly. They are always looking out for each other.

Daniel never, ever stops talking. Becca sings the ABC song to herself when she’s playing. Daniel looks at something new and cool and says “wow” in a stage whisper.  Becca carries a bucket of water all over the backyard saying, “here go Winnie!”, trying to get our dog to take a drink.

beccatwo

Yes, it’s hard and some parts are getting even harder. Yes, they make me bonkers on a very regular basis.  But the good parts get so much better as they get older, I wouldn’t step backwards for a minute.

And, hey, we’re one year closer to preschool, right?

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Way Overdue

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Categories Childcare, ToddlersTags , 14 Comments

For all my talk about getting out with (and without) the kids, this weekend provided a way-overdue first in my house: leaving the kids with a real babysitter for a real date.

I briefly had a regular babysitter when my kids were about six months old, a college student who came a few afternoons a week.  And on the rare occasion that my parents or in-laws are in town, they might stay at home after we put the kids to bed and let us go out for dinner.

But, somehow, this was different.  A person quite unrelated to us.  A person we paid (a silly quantity of money) to come stay at our house on a Saturday night.  As we have no family in the area and are relatively new in our town, we don’t have a long list of high school students at our beck and call. But M’s coworker’s fiancée is looking for sitting hours?  Well, that’s all the motivation we needed.

I will admit to some anxiety on the timing. We had tickets to an 8:00 movie, and figured we should get there at 7:30 to get seats. That’s when we’re usually walking out of the kids’ room after stories.  We hemmed and hawed and my husband thought we should put them to bed early so we’d be done before we needed to leave.  I was the one who made the executive decision that the sitter (whom they had never met before) would put the kids to bed.

Gasp! Is such a thing even possible?

Well, duh, of course it is.  They’re nearly two. They have a very well-established bedtime routine. They are, really, quite easy. But we were stuck in that infant mindset of “oh, we couldn’t possibly ask someone else to put them to bed, it’s just too hard!”  Pshaw. The sitter came at 7 and played with them for a little bit. We all went upstairs and I got the kids into the tub.  Pulled out some pajamas, told the sitter where the books were and whose bed was whose, and we left.  Some minor whining as we said goodbye, but by the time we got downstairs, all was quiet.

I will admit that we both sat in that movie theater with our phones in our hands, just in case we didn’t hear it ring or feel it vibrate. We briefly considered calling to ask how bedtime went.  (We did not, in fact, call.)

Being out at the movie was a delight, and we came home to a perfectly quiet house.  If the kids were perhaps a touch clingy in the morning, it was nothing outside the normal range of toddler clinginess.

Was it a lot of money to have someone basically watch TV? You bet.  But the feeling of not being chained to our house after the kids go to bed? Priceless.

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Cop-out

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Categories Celebrations, ToddlersTags , 17 Comments

I wasn’t expecting a personal revelation on the Fourth of July.

It was a low-key but lovely day. The rain finally stopped, the sun was shining, the kids played outside. We went to a nice barbeque chez Mommy Esq.. Quiet. Reasonably peaceful. Enjoyable. A very nice summer day.

The 5th of July

So why was I so cranky much of the day and near tears at night?

Life with two toddlers, with our fairly strict adherence to routine and schedule (especially where naps are concerned) can start to feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day. In and out, each day remarkably similar to the day before. There are variations, of course, but a lot of the daily grind and general thought processes are the same. thing. every. day.

On the one hand, this is a good thing. Routine and schedule make for better naps, happier kids, et cetera, et cetera. On the other hand, it can be restrictive. Sometimes it seems my overriding parenting mantra is respect the nap. It pays off, sure, but it also means you won’t see me doing a darn thing in the early afternoon any day of the week. Sometimes this gets me out of doing things I’d rather not do. And sometimes it’s an enabling excuse to do nothing.

Add to that my kids’ age: nearly two. For the last two years, I’ve opted not to do a number of things because the kids are “too young to realize it.” We haven’t made a huge deal out of holidays and other celebrations because, whatever, the kids don’t know the difference. And really, I can only work so much around their nap schedule and I don’t want to keep them up too late past bedtime and when are they going to eat dinner and what about snacks and blah blah blah

The 5th of July

And that is how Fourth of July 2009 became a day of revelation. I was cranky because it didn’t feel remotely like a holiday to me. None of the games, races, parades, bike-decorating, face-painting, or fireworks of my youth. I didn’t look into what kinds of festivities my town might have planned. I certainly didn’t plan on going to a fireworks show (OK, that one I still feel good about… 2-3 hours past the kids’ bedtime and lots of loud noises? No thanks.). We really did nothing particularly out of the ordinary. There was nothing special about the day at all. And it bugged me.

This is compounded, of course, by the fact that we live far away from my home town and the large extended family that I grew up with. We don’t know much about the town we live in, and are not particularly invested in it. It brought on an acute bout of holiday homesickness.

But that aside, it comes down to the fact that I am not doing anything to create holiday traditions and memories for my family. And without the structure of a familiar hometown or lots of family to rely upon, it’s up to me. And I need to stop being lazy about it.

I’m not saying I need to go nuts. I am not going all-out on holiday-themed decor and matching outfits. There are plenty of activities that my kids remain legitimately too young to do. But the whole “they’re too young” thing as an excuse for not celebrating holidays is officially expired. Halloween, look out. We’re coming for you this year.

And lest you think I wallowed in homesick self-pity all weekend, I am proud to say that Sunday provided a much-appreciated antidote to my bemoaned lack of spontaneity.

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