Toddler Truth, Times Two

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Categories Development, Family, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags , , , 9 Comments

How anxiously I awaited the onset of actual conversation with my twosome…

So many months were spent gazing into their wee eyes…just hoping  for (and often, projecting) a returned gaze of love.   With the advent of their oral dexterity, surely all the affection so generously lavished upon them would be reciprocally expressed to my eager, and maternally misty, delight.

Alas, as our twins’ language skills developed rapidly and fluently, it became glaringly clear that emotional declarations were not their top priority.

Instead, keen powers of observation and remarkably detailed memories provided them with the motivation for their earliest commentary.

Honesty.  Pure. Unadulterated. Unvarnished. Horrifyingly unedited.

Imagine poor Mommy’s dual-injected reality check…courtesy of my beloved twins, verbally unleashed.  So begins the re-assessment of my self-image, through their empirically-accurate perspective…..

On my housekeeping skills:
….or perhaps more correctly phrased, my lack thereof.
Yes, I have exploited my own children.  Having young twins has provided me with the seemingly perfect alibi for my far-from-immaculate household. When I unearthed the spritzer of Windex to clean our glass-topped coffee table, my son declared, “That’s Grandma’s!” If possession is truly 9/10ths of the law, she’s certainly had it in her hands more than I.  He’s right; it’s hers.

On my musical abilities:
…or perhaps more correctly phrased, my lack thereof. 
For the first 23 months of our twins’ lives I sang along cheerfully with Raffi, the Sesame Street Gang (Oscar and I are blessed with the same vocal range), They Might Be Giants, Cedarmont Kids… all the Billboard chart-toppers.  At 24 months, our daughter began to yell “No!” from the backseat of the car.  Assuming the song mid-play was not a favorite, I’d advance to the next track. By 25 months, she was able to elaborate with greater clarity, “No! Mommy can’t sing!”  So
ended my aspirations of Karaoke stardom on Children’s Song Night.

On my post-twin delivery figure:
Many (okay, most) days, I waited to shower until my twosome was down for their afternoon nap.  On the day of this disheartening revelation, my son’s wailing could clearly be heard over the shower flow.  Concerned about the possibility of his extremities hopelessly wedged betwixt crib slats; or worse yet, his sister pulling aforementioned body-parts against the crib slats like twigs for the snapping, I sprinted to the nursery.

My soggy-faced son, shocked silent by the visage of his naked, dripping Mom, whispered (with perceptible horror in his voice), “Mommy, please put some clothes on.”  Suppose I should be proud.  At least he tried to be polite.

On my grammar :
My daughter sat in her high chair forcefully fork-spearing her banana slices as if they needed to be subdued prior to consumption. Watching the poor slices being mutilated beyond fork-friendly, I suggested, “Honey, you need to do that gentle! Look how mushy the bananas are getting.” Without so much as a glance in my direction, she responded, “Sarah will do it gently.”   Well, at least I don’t refer to myself in the third person.

On my time management & twin juggling skills:
…or perhaps more correctly phrased, my lack thereof.
Before my twosome could inform me that I was mistaken, I took substantial pride in single-handledly taking them on daily out-of-the-house adventures. One particluar day, my daughter, with her shoes on and jacket zipped, was jumping up and
down by the front door chanting, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” In an effort to explain (important note: “explaining” to toddlers is
rarely a useful practice) why we couldn’t leave immediately, I reminded her that she had a brother, also needed shoes and a jacket prior to our departure. In her effort to explain the delay, she declared, “We’ll go in the car as soon as Mommy gets her act together.”

On my personal hygiene:
[Warning: This story is not for the squeamish.]

While in the process of potty training, my husband and I made a frequent practice of allowing/encouraging our twins to “watch” Mommy and Daddy “go potty.” On this particular day, while pulling down my pants for the Potty Parade, I noticed my period was starting a day early. A small spot of darkish flow was in the crotch of my panties. My son, ever empathetic, pointed to the brownish area and sympathized, “That’s okay, Mommy.  You had an accident.” In keeping with my earlier-stated theory on the lunacy of offering explanations to toddlers, I replied simply, “You’re right.  Thanks for making me feel better.”   Wish he could do something for cramps.

On my appearance:
As I was changing my daughter’s diaper, she was reading P.D. Eastman’s classic, The Alphabet Book.  Suddenly, she began kissing a page and cooing, “Ooooh, Mommy!” My mind reeled as I tried to guess which of the illustrations had caused her to think of me so affectionately.  Was I the regal “Queen with a Quarter?”  Perhaps I was the gleeful, fast-moving “Rabbit on Rollerskates.”   No such luck.  When I asked to see the picture of Mommy, lo and behold, apparently I resemble “Walrus with a Wig.”

In an earlier episode, when she informed me that the Veggie Tales’ Archie Asparagus “Looks like Mommy”, I must confess that out of sheer desperation, I took solace in the fact that he was “bookish and lean.”

Now for those of you twin mommies whose twins have yet to share their “truth”, try not to panic.  Not all of their observations are so dramatically ego-bruising.

One Friday night, not long after the walrus incident, as my twosome came down to say “Good Night” to me and my Book Club galpals, my daughter picked up a framed movie still of a young Audrey Hepburn and pronounced with pride, “That looks like Mommy!”  As if that didn’t have me beaming enough, she subsequently picked up the companionate photo of a young Paul Newman and chirped, “And that looks like Daddy!”

Suffice it to say, I think I have decided which truths I’ll believe.

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I'm Still Here, You Know

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Categories Behavior, Family, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, Singletons, ToddlersTags , , , 3 Comments

After recovering from the initial shock of hearing I was having two babies instead of one, my next thoughts were of my older child. She was our princess, our angel. For 22 months we had essentially been at her beck and call. Spoiled? No. But definitely used to a certain amount of attention. How would she cope with the colossal change in her little world?

Things started to change for her when I was put on bed rest. It is hard for a 2-year old to comprehend why suddenly Mommy won’t get up anymore. But, she was a trooper during most of that time. And a little really went a long way towards reassuring her. The best investment we ever made was in two breakfast trays from Bed Bath & Beyond. We would enjoy meals together (albeit in the living room or in my bedroom),  color or play with play-do. We also did a lot of reading together, although now she had to sit next to me as my lap had all but vanished!

Finally the babies were born and we were all home together as a family. Unfortunately, most of the time Mommy’s two hands were occupied by … two babies. And, even though the babies ate at the same time, their nap schedules didn’t always jive. So, usually there was one baby awake needing … something. That didn’t leave a lot of time for one-on-one time with the Big Sister.

So, what’s a MoM to do? Obviously I’m meeting all of their physical needs, but am I doing enough emotionally for each? How do I make sure everyone is getting enough “Mommy Time”? And how do I keep myself from being consumed with guilt when my Big Kid seems to feel left out? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

First, accept that you can’t be everywhere at once. It is physically impossible to meet the demands of three (or more) crying or whining children at the same time. The sooner you accept this, the better. In our house we take a triage approach. It’s not necessarily who is crying the loudest that we tend to first, it’s who has a greater need. For example, a poopy diaper wins over “I need a snack NOW”. And getting a potty-training toddler onto the toilet wins out over a baby who just happens to be done in the exersaucer NOW.

Second, stick to routine. We kept our daughter in daycare throughout my bed rest and for the first six weeks after the boys were born. That way, she knew what a good portion of her days would entail. Now routines help us to manage her expectations of we can do for/with her in the course of the day. For example, the boys’ bedtime routine ends about an hour before her bedtime. So, while she may lack the attention she desires in the evening while we bathe/dress/feed them, she knows the end result is undivided attention from Mommy and Daddy before she goes to bed.

Third, recognize the cries for attention and try to make up for it where you can at a later time. A toddler or preschooler may not have the words to say “I really need you to pay attention to me because I miss you.” But even the best-behaved children will try to relay this information through their actions. Here are some things we’ve seen in our house:

  • Potty regression (if I have an accident, they’ll have to stop what they’re doing and deal with me)
  • Refusal to eat meals when served (Dinner is important to Mommy. If I say I don’t want it, she’ll put her attention into getting me to eat)
  • Tantrums (self-explanatory!)
  • Bedtime troubles (they want me to sleep and will do all in their power to get me to do so)

While we try our hardest not to give in while a tantrum is taking place, we do try to give her a little extra one-on-one time in the following days because we know the behavior was her way of trying to tell us something.

Fourth, invest in a baby carrier. As previously stated here, a carrier is a must for any MoM. So, get one baby down for a nap, strap the other one on and then use your TWO free hands to play with your big kid(s). It is amazing how much more you can do if you have one of these!

Fifth, communicate with your child. Saying things like “I can’t right now” may actually sound like “I don’t want to” to a 2 or 3 year old. Try being more specific, like “I’d love to read that book to you. Let me just finish changing this dirty diaper and settle your brother down. We’ll both enjoy the book more if he’s quiet.”

Sure, there are days when you’re going to feel pulled in a million different directions trying to be there for all of your children (oh yeah, and your husband may want some attention too!) But if you really try to accept that you’re doing the best you can with the time you have, you’ll feel a lot better.

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