You know that boozy college friend(s) that everyone has? The one that always starts their story with “We were so drunk…”?
I am that friend. But, since I’m a mom, my stories start like, “I was so tired…” and, since I’m a mom of twins, my stories actually go more like, “I hadn’t slept in thirteen days…”
It sounds like an exaggeration, but I can assure you it’s not. Exactly. I can joke about it, but I truly realized how much of my motherhood has been colored by sleep deprivation when my brother-in-law, who is expecting his first child, came to visit. Always the baby-crazy one, I was happy to share whatever memories he was interested in hearing, and I noticed that I prefaced each story with a disclaimer: “at that point, I was so sleep deprived…”
To give you some context: my twins did not sleep through the night until they were just over two years old. They are now two and a half, and I can hardly believe the sleep trials we went through. I first realized how bad it was when I read an article about REM sleep, and how you normally don’t start dreaming until you’ve been asleep for about 70-90 minutes. I’d had the most intense dreams during my naps of 20-30 minutes, because my body would just crash. (For more on the interesting link between sleep-deprivation and vivid dreams, read this article).
For those of you who are still fighting the good fight, know that you are not alone! (But don’t expect me to go back there just to keep you company, because that’s just not gonna happen.) I remember hearing people casually mention that their precious angels slept through the night at six weeks AS IF THAT WAS PERFECTLY NORMAL, and I remember feeling very strongly that we could not be friends.
I refused to believe that such a thing as “STTN” actually existed. I grew resentful because I felt like I had paid my dues–I breastfed on demand, I tried to honor each twin’s individual timing, and I didn’t have unreasonable expectations for sleep (as did the moms of obviously fictitious sleep-through-the-nighters).
But two years?!?
Finally, it happened. It wasn’t an overnight miracle, but a slow process–for the twins, it was sleeping, but for me, it was actually about awakening.
Now that I can reliably get 6 or more hours of sleep each night, I feel like I am actually living again. I feel like life now should have the hashtag #nofilter, as opposed to all those #nosleep memories during infancy. The best thing, for me, about toddlerhood is–unequivocally and necessarily–sleep.
Once I read another twin mom describe the first couple of years as being ‘underwater’ and I do like that metaphor. Not that having your head above water is easy! With two and a half year olds, it now feels like I am treading water. All day long. And I don’t know about you, but treading water makes me tired–very tired!
I wrote this post when my twin daughters, J and M, were 19 months old.
In some ways, having twins is easier than raising an only child.
When one twin develops an obsession with an article of clothing, they can easily wear it every day, since you already have two from all their matchy-matchy baby gifts.
When you say “naptime”, they hear “time to play with Sissy without Mama around to bother us” and run to the nursery.
You realize that most of the cool new things they’re learning are not a typical phase in child development at all, but an embodiment of their individuality. You don’t worry about averages or typical ages to reach developmental milestones, because kids are just all different. Even identical twins. Or perhaps their being monozygotic makes the differences that much more noticeable.
You can say, “Sissy picked up the toys she was playing with, so clearly you’re old enough to put yours away.” This does not in fact cause them to pick up their toys, but you feel no guilt in being thoroughly disgruntled.
Strangers’ constant comments about how precious they are almost inspire them to keep bows in their hair. Almost.
They understand firsthand that being kicked hurts. However, they continue to kick things… and people.
They know how silly they look when they throw tantrums. They throw ’em anyway.
It’s easier to cook for three than for two. Most dishes I cook with a pound of meat and a couple of vegetables get consumed before they go bad.
You essentially do the same amount of work (one bath, one bedtime story, one set of meals) for twice the kisses and hugs.
They understand, and live by, the meaning of “Share”.
Some amount of competition is good for them. “She’s walking? Maybe I should try it.” “She said ‘please’. That worked pretty well. I think I’ll give it a shot.”
In what ways are twins easier than singletons in your family?
As a parent you will do anything to make sure your kids are safe and happy. With the first baby especially, you stress and worry and panic and wonder if you are ever going to do anything right. My oldest was an early talker, a very early talker and a late walker. I had always heard that you either talk or walk – that babies focused on one area of development at a time. She talked early and walked at 17 months. Perfectly reasonable and within “normal” ranges, so it is fine.
Fast forward to twins.
Again, I stressed, I worried and I wondered if I would ever get anything right. Don’t get me started on sleep. The twins are now 2 ¾ and we still have sleeping issues…. The boy girl twins, like my older daughter, were early talkers. And late walkers. Sidney walked at 17 months just like big sister. But Spencer did not. He did talk early but at 17 months was not walking. It is ok, he will get there. And at about 18 months he took 5 steps into my arms. And I cried and screamed and attacked him with kisses.
He did not walk again.
He did not even cruise.
At 19 months I emailed the pediatrician and said, “I know you are going to tell me not to worry but at 19 months Spencer is not walking yet”. Her reply was like a dart into my heart. “Maybe we need to get him evaluated.”
I called Birth-to-Three and after a scheduling nightmare I gave up and called the pediatric rehab center on my own. My mother-in-law came with me. Her job was to listen to everything I missed and hold my hand. She did great. Spencer did great. I did not. In my defense, I did not mesh well with the therapist. I am 100% positive she is very qualified and good at her job, but I constantly felt blamed. “If you don’t pick him up he will walk.” That comment had me in tears. And had Spencer in tears. I will never forget his baby arms reaching up for me and his baby screams while this (evil) woman tells me that he is not walking only because I pick him up.
The therapist would hold toys just out of his reach and try to force him to reach for them to build up him muscles. Spencer would give up and move to a different toy. And I don’t blame him. But she did recommend that he wear braces on his ankles. So I consulted with the pediatrician before making that appointment. She laid Spencer on the exam table and moved/manipulated/rotated his legs. She called them “spaghetti legs”. She could move them in any direction. His muscle tone was low, but she did not think that was a huge cause of worry, he could build up the muscles.
But she saw something else in his legs. “Beth, I want him to see a pediatric neurologist, I think he may have Cerebral Palsy”. And that was all I heard. She did talk me down (ish). She reminded me that if he did have it, it was not the end of the world, it was not a brain tumor (ok, an extreme example but she had a point).
First step, ankle braces. So we made the appointment and Spencer was fitted with baby ankle braces. Everyone told me that these braces were a miracle and that the minute they were on, their baby walked. Spencer did not. (In his defense they measures the braces wrong and needed to redo them so he wore the wrong ones for a week or so…) Slowly, slowly, he started taking baby steps. But he still preferred crawling or being carried.
And then, one day, with my heart in my throat, I watched my baby boy walk. Those tiny little dinosaur printed ankle braces changed our world. At 21 months, Spencer walked barefoot. He had full control, turned, pushed toys, carried toys. He was there. I tear up now remembering that day.
With my mother-in-law in tow, we took Spencer to the neurologist.
You know when you have those days where every detail sticks perfectly in your brain? That day was one of them. The neurologist pronounced my son (he actually evaluated both kids and pronounced them both) as “perfect”. He said Spencer did have low muscle tone but that he did not even need physical therapy or the braces. I kept him in the braces for a few more months anyway because I bought a new wider pair of shoes to accommodate them. When he sized up in shoes, he left the braces behind.
My gorgeous, amazing, funny, cuddly, little man is perfect. He runs (not well and not fast, but he gets places faster than walking). He might not be a soccer player or football player but that will mean less concussions, so I am good with it. And one day, while waiting for big sister’s school bus, he jumped up in the air. Both feet off the group, jumped into the air. My baby boy. I have never been so proud.
Really, when he plays with his friends you would never know what we went through in the spring of 2014. We still have some work to do though. He does not like stairs and prefers to be carried, especially when he is tired. When we hold hands on the stairs, he turns his foot inward and we want to work on that. When he moves to preschool, he will need to be able to walk down a long staircase to the playground and that staircase does worry me. But we will take it all day by day, step by step and now jump by jump.
As a mom you would do anything for your kids, and if Spencer did have Cerebral Palsy, we would have researched and become the experts at CP. It was only a few months. And in the grand scheme of things, it was nothing. But it was also everything.
I would check on him at night and put my hand on his back and watch him breathe and stroke his cheek and wonder if he would be able to walk without braces, if his peers would be cruel, how a disability might affect him and our family. We are so blessed that we don’t have to worry about these things. But if I ever do, I know that my support system is strong and I want to publicly tell everyone how fabulous the “how do you do it” group is. Because they got me through the beginning. They were a huge help in getting me from the emotional stage to the logical, research nerd stage. You need the emotional part. You need to cry when you get news like this, but you need to hit that research stage hard as well.
Our lives are “normal” now (or as normal as life with toddler twins can be). When I take the twins down the stairs, I hold hands and lead them down one by one and that is our normal. I help Spencer turn his foot on the stairs and that is normal for us. But when he does not want to come inside, I chase after him and now that is normal too. And even while I am chasing after him, I know how blessed I am to have a baby boy who can run away from me, as long as he never ever runs into the street!
I’ve posted before about photography sessions in general with young children here, but this one will be specifically about photography outdoors.
Since the twins have been born, it seems we’ve actually begun taking more professional photographs. We used to take one annual family portrait around Thanksgiving for our Christmas cards, but it’s gotten to be too difficult for me alone to capture all the kids in the same frame, much less looking in the same direction. And having only the most rudimentary knowledge of photography, I don’t know enough about how to get the right look I want (or get the shot in time to catch the right moment, or to avoid the blur of kids running around, etc etc). Now we do another photo shoot sometime in the spring/summer too.
So it was about time for our semi-annual photography session, and I decided to finally try an outdoor session in natural light. Many friends much prefer this type of photography, and I love the natural light too, but I’ve always been too terrified of my three kids running loose out in an open space. The great thing about studio photos has always been the controlled environment: the contained area, the comfortable room temperature, the choice of backdrops and props.
However, an acquaintance does freelance photography, was charging an affordable price, and had some time available during my spring break. I went for it. It did not end up being the experience I had dreaded; in fact, it was quite nice. Below are some contributing factors:
Logistics are important.
We chose a location very familiar to the kids. We are members at a local arboretum because the kids love it so much; we go almost once a week. It’s only about 15 minutes away. We like to go let the kids stretch their legs, be with nature, and see some peacocks. Turns out all the giant trees and gardens also makes for a great backdrop for photographs!
We made sure to chose a good time for them too, steering clear of their nap. Mornings usually work well for us, so after breakfast and getting ready, we got there at 9am. It was an hour session, so we were done and home well before naps at 11. The hour was nice too, because it gave the kids time to warm up to the photographer and get comfortable with the situation. (This is usually missing in studio shoots that I’ve taken. Those are more in the 30 minute range.)
Preparation is also crucial.
I planned their coordinatingoutfits weeks in advance. Matching three children is not an easy task, and I always work hard not to spend too much money or pick pieces that could only be worn once. I made the skirts and hair clips this time too, so that required getting the proper materials and time learning on my sewing machine. I also had the kids try everything on and make adjustments to ensure all the outfits work together and everything fit.
I was prepared with snacks and juice for the kids. We usually do snacks around 10:30, but I thought I’d bring stuff just in case they needed a break from the camera. They did, and it worked. We bounced back from our 5 minutes of crackers and captured some more great images afterward.
Luckily, some things just worked out for us.
We had some great cooperative weather. It was a slightly cloudy, brisk morning. Most of our photos were taken in some really beautiful, soft ambient light. The kids were not hot and sweaty running around. Towards the end of the session, the sun was just breaking through.
I gave the kids freedom to go where they wanted. I didn’t want to force them to be unnatural, but I was also worried that without my husband we’d have trouble keeping the kids together. It wasn’t a problem though, because we were able to focus their attention on things along the way. There were some sculptures that they played with, some fountains they all looked at together, and benches that were able to hold their attention for a bit. It took a little coaxing at times, but they did not scatter in three different directions as I feared.
I learned to step back and let the photographer do his thing. He had a very laid back quality about him, never forced any poses on the kids, let them go where they wanted, and was very patient. I did not intervene except to fluff the skirts when they got ruffled and reposition a cap when it got out of place. As a result, no one was stressed (I am usually extremely stressed during photography sessions), and everyone was pretty relaxed and happy.
lunchldyd is mom to 2.5yo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She loves taking and looking through photographs of her kids.
I originally wrote this when my twin girls were three, as a review on our local MoMs’ group blog. My girls are now six, and my love for this little gadget is still as strong as ever.
Since our girls started sleeping through the night, until they were about 18 months old, I could usually count on them waking up around 6:45 in the morning. And then, when they dropped to one nap during the day, they began sleeping until about 7:30. Those were the days!
When we began potty training, around 27 months, though, we experienced a drastic change in the girls’ morning routines. I appreciated that they woke to use the potty…but there were some painfully early starts to our days for quite some time.
I then discovered a wonderful gadget that has made a huge difference in our morning routines, the “OK to Wake!” clock. [There are several iterations of these in clocks and stuffed toys…just search “OK to wake”.]
I set the clock to 6:30, at which time it glows green. (As much as I’d like them to sleep until 9am on the weekends, I wanted to set a “realistic” goal.) I tell the girls, if you wake up and the clock isn’t green, you can roll over and go back to sleep.
There are times when I hear them stirring shortly after 6:00, but they don’t usually call for me until 6:30…on the dot…and then I hear, “Mommy! The clock is green! I slept well!”
There are times that they wake up early, sometimes needing to sit on the potty. After they use the bathroom, it’s been great to have an “impartial party” — the clock — to cite. “The clock isn’t green. It’s still sleep time,” I’ll tell the girls. They almost always accept that they need to go back to bed.
I was worried that the clock would somehow wake them up in the mornings. Its glow isn’t so bright that it disturbs them, though, and a handful of times they’ve slept an extra 15 or 20 minutes. The green glow lasts for 30 minutes, so they still get to call out to me when they wake up (which they get a big kick out of).
I would love to one day get back to our blessed 7:30 rise and shine…but for now, I’m so thankful to at least have a consistent wake-up time.
(This is not a sponsored post. I am in no way affiliated with the companies that make or sell these awesome gadgets. It’s just been a lifesaver to us…for close to four years now!…and I wanted to share.)
MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.
We have all been anxiously awaiting spring and taking every possible chance we get to go outside. That being said there are days, even in the warmer weather, where you can’t or don’t have the energy to tackle the great outdoors, particularly with two or more toddlers as your sidekicks. Here is a list of 10 indoor games and activities (most of which we’ve tried successfully) to enjoy with your toddlers:
Under the table picnic We eat most of our meals at our kitchen table, but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up. Why not make lunch or dinner a little unusual by enjoying some traditional picnic fare (think finger foods) under the table?
Drive-In Movie Park your toy cars in front of a family friendly movie. Kids can sit in/on their toy cars for the “real” drive in experience.
Take Play Dough to the next level and try making some Cloud Dough for everyone to play with. I found this recipe for cloud dough online
Play Dress-up and host a tea party in all your favourite old Halloween costumes and silly hats.
Get Cooking or Baking and make something delicious all together! Toddlers can pour, measure, stir and taste as you go along.
Host an Indoor Car Wash or Animal Hospital to mend and clean toys who have been well-loved This is something that I wrote about a while ago on my personal blog and my kids love this spring cleaning type activity.
Build a fort together using pillows and blankets.
Favourite story marathon. Have everyone pick out two or three of their favourites and get reading.
Explore a local green house They are often free to visit (or with nominal donations) and the bright colours will get everyone in a better mood or spend the day planting your own window box.
Get artistic and let them use some of your best art and most cherished craft supplies….even the sparkle stickers, it’ll be worth it!
I was not a person who had a lot of experience with babies before having my own. I actually am fairly certain that the first diaper I ever changed was one of my own babies’ in the hospital. I didn’t know the distinction between newborns and infants, googled the difference between infants and toddlers, and I’m sure someday I’ll be confused by what makes a “tween.”
Our twins are now nearly 21 months old and we still refer to them as “the babies.” A quick Wikipedia search tells me that a child becomes a toddler when they’re between the ages of one and three. Our experience of crossing over into Toddlerville has been a sensory one. Let’s focus on three of those senses today.
I’d love for someone to keep tabs on how many times in one week my husband or I say, “I can’t hear you.” This is stated while one or the other is talking and is inevitably interrupted by one of our kids shouting, grunting or whining to communicate what it is they want. They do have a few words in their arsenal (I use the collective “their,” because they seem to say words for the first time at the same time!) but they seem to first try shouting at us or each other.
Ironically, one of the things we made a point of, pre-children, was making the effort in our house to walk to where the other person was to talk, rather than shouting room to room when we were going about our business in our house. It’s like our kids knew this courtesy that we had for each other, and squashed it in those cute, chubby hands on purpose. Their caveman communication seemed to evolve over time, but in retrospect, is markedly different than the distinctly infant coos.
Sight can be broken down into two categories. First, what our kids can now observe. Back in those hazy infant days, I could eat a rice krispie treat while my kids ate dinner, with them none the wiser. Nowadays, if they see me do that, the aforementioned shouting/whining begins until each has a rice krispie treat in hand. (My husband makes the BEST treats, and they’re around regularly!) Hence, we’ve noticed modeling appropriate behavior (like, not eating dessert first??) has become more important.
Secondly, what I see in my kids’ behavior. One example coming to mind: getting the bath ready, changing poopy diaper of boy toddler, while I watch my daughter take my kindle, run into the bathroom, and chuck it into the filling bathtub. I could give countless examples of seeing the mischief these two are already getting into. But, it’s also seeing their faces light up as they discover new things, like the birds using the birdhouse on our porch, now that spring is finally returning.
I looked at a photo the other day from the infant days and noticed I had big picture frames on a low shelf in our house. Doesn’t that sound luxuriously decorative? These toddlers want to touch everything! In fact, I would say that the times I feel most frantic as a mom of twin toddlers is when they’re both into EVERYTHING at the same time-one might be emptying out the contents of the nightstand next to our bed, while the other is pulling toilet paper off the roll. One time I was attempting to put laundry away in the same room as them and my son ran into the room and jumped in front of me, with a tampon in one hand and scissors in the other, so proud of his discoveries. Mind you, drawers that contain these things have child locks on them, which brings us back to sight, and them watching how to undo the locks.
Not quite as simple as Wikipedia’s definition, but a bit more fun to reflect on.
Katie is a working mother of 20-month-old b/g twins, eating too many rice krispie treats and loving introducing them to her kids, even when that bites her in the bum.
I’ve been on Spring Break this week, but my husband is swamped at work and couldn’t take time off to be with us. Last year for Spring Break, we took a family vacation to Legoland and LOVED it, so I hoped to be able to do something as exciting with them by myself just around town this year.
We went to the zoo, the park, ballet class, indoor playgrounds, and some museums. Even though most of these places are a short driving distance away, and we could easily stick to our schedule, there was one place about an hour away. It’s called Pretend City, and I’ve only been there once, back when Big Sis was really too young to enjoy it much. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, but the logistics with napping babies just wasn’t working out. Until this week. I decided we would just have to take a shortened nap in the car on the way there, and get a catnap driving back. It actually worked out perfectly.
As any parent of multiples knows, a tightly run ship is necessary for the successful functioning of a household with many kids. And as I prioritize sleep for my kids above all else, our bedtime routines have always been pretty rigid. Except for very special days such as those once or twice a year on vacation, our schedule rarely shifts beyond a half hour.
What I realized this week, though, is that once a routine is set, it is something that my kids will stick to even if we take it off course. Let me start by describing what our normal bedtime routine looks like:
It actually starts with dinner. Dinnertime at our house is 5:30pm. Every Sunday we eat at 5 because we’re with the grandparents (because we need to account for the time to drive home), and on ballet class days we eat about 15 mins later, but usually we eat at 5:30. At 6 or so, kids are done and baths begin. Twins get their baths first while Big Sis plays by herself or does something on her iPad, but I do baths pretty quickly so she will often stay in the bathroom to talk with us. After the little ones get lotioned, teeth brushed, and diapered/dressed, they go off to their room for stories with Mama while Big Sis soaps herself up. I sit with the twins to read one or two books (sometimes of my choosing, sometimes at their request) before putting them in their cribs and turning on their humidifier and night light. Then they get a last sip of water, tucked in, and lights off around 6:45. Big Sis gets help washing her hair, and she is out of the bathroom lotioned, teeth brushed, and hair dried by around 7. She puts on pajamas and joins me in the living room for stories or some other quiet activity (like Legos or puzzles or paper folding) with Mama. Her bedtime is usually 8pm, unless I know she’s had no nap or an especially long nap that day, then I will adjust it by a half hour either way. She doesn’t require tucking in anymore, so when time’s up she just grabs her blanket and goes to bed on her own.
I have to say that this structure pays off. From the time they were babies, my kids knew that bath time comes after dinner, and bedtime comes after bath time. It doesn’t matter that on weekends Daddy does some of the routine, because they’re always done the same way, in the same order. They know exactly what to expect, and will often ask for the next step in the routine at the end of the previous one. For example, when Baby Boy is finished eating, he will ask to get his bath. And after they get dressed, Baby Girl will run to choose a book for reading. They don’t always like going to bed, but they know when it’s coming, and lights-out means lie down.
Smooth as bedtime usually is, this doesn’t give us much leeway for any evening activities. Rarely do we commit to events that take place after 5pm. Every so often Big Sis gets to stay out later because her bedtime is later and her schedule less rigid now, but the vast majority of our evenings are spent with our comfortable routine.
This is why, when I decided to take the kids to Pretend City this week, I sort of had to force myself to accept any crazy meltdowns that may occur. Factoring the traffic coming home, I debated whether to leave at 3pm and be home for dinner, or have dinner there and stay later. Since we didn’t arrive until noon, I decided to stay late and have dinner with my brother who lives in the area before driving home. We stuck to the kids’ dinnertime and ate at 5:30pm. But it was 6:30 before we got on the road, and 7:30 before we got home, well past their usual bath time. However, I knew that with the half-nap they got on the car ride there, they would sleep some more on the way home (my kids all love to sleep in the car).
Which they did. When we got home, I immediately started the baths and gave them all back-to-back-to-back. Each kid sat in the bathroom half dressed while waiting for the others. I even read Goodnight Moon (nice and short!) with all 3 together. There were no meltdowns, and everyone promptly fell asleep when they got in bed at 8:10pm.
I don’t plan to do this often, but it’s nice to know that I could if required for something special. And it’s all thanks to such a well-defined bedtime routine.
lunchldyd is mom to 2.5yo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She is also a part-time teacher.
When I set out with the intention of breastfeeding my twins, I didn’t take their teeth into account. It didn’t even cross my mind, really, even though I knew that my own mother had given up breastfeeding my younger sister after several months of teething and biting.
I’d read Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling, in which she describes exclusively breastfeeding her sons—as in, nothing but breastmilk for one year—and they’d already sprouted several teeth by the time they had their first ‘real food,’ bypassing purées entirely. And as a fledgling attachment parent, I learned that nursing itself was the panacea for any sort of discomfort, physical or otherwise.
What this didn’t address, however, was discomfort for the mother, specifically biting issues.
A friend of mine with a baby similar in age began to have biting issues related to teething when her daughter was only a few months old. She went ‘septic’ and was put on antibiotics. Scary, but amazingly, she went on to breastfeed for over a year.
I had my own share of breastfeeding difficulties, and in the early days, I used a nipple shield to alleviate some of the pain from constant nursing. But thankfully, teething itself was not really a problem for us. My twins didn’t get their first teeth until they were about a year old.
But after their first birthday, we experienced several other challenges. First, I got mastitis. Then, we went on a short vacation and I got food poisoning–not pleasant to be in a tiny hotel room with three other people, two of whom are literally wanting to suck the waning life force out of you. Lastly, my daughter did start biting me.
The good part about nursing toddlers with teeth who bite you is that I believe it is easier to remedy than just teething pain. There is usually an underlying reason for the bites. I had to cut nursing sessions shorter, and by this time I also reduced the number of feeds a day, which helped with biting out of boredom. Up to that point, I had used breastfeeding as the cure-all I’d come to know—now we were following more of a mother-led schedule. I also had to focus my attention more on my nursling to anticipate the bites.
I breastfed my twins until they were just over two years old, with plenty of teeth between them. I know everyone’s journey will be different but I’m glad ours turned out the way it did.
Don’t hate me, but I love toddlers. Yes, there are tantrums and days full of “I do it!”, but there are also hugs around your knees and the adorable language I call “toddlereese”. I was an early childhood education major in college and spent many years teaching young children before I became a mom. These experiences helped me immensely when my other three children were toddlers, so much so, that this stage has always been my favorite. Then I had twins. They are 19 months old and I am tired. Just for fun I used my Iphone to record our morning. I won’t bore you with the video or the entire morning, but here’s a transcription of part of it:
It’s 8:00 and Oliver, my 4 year old, is due at school at 9:30. I still have to get myself, Oliver, and my 19 month old twins dressed. I’m already feeling frazzled and I’ve only been awake 30 minutes. So far I’ve fed all five kids and have kissed my older two boys goodbye as they left for school with their dad. I meant to wake up earlier so I could get myself ready in peace, but Rhodes slept with us last night and kicked and squirmed so much I didn’t sleep well. When my alarm went off I opted for 30 more minutes of sleep.
8:05 I’m standing at my sink brushing my teeth while Oliver is taking a shower. Laurel has toddled into the bedroom and is rummaging through my night stand. Rhodes is standing at my feet whining to be picked up.
8:07 Oliver has gotten soap in this eyes and is screaming. Rhodes is still whining and Laurel comes back from the bedroom covered in cuticle oil.
8:08 I grab Laurel and put her into the shower with Oliver. I’m rinsing Oliver’s face and hair when Rhodes’ whining escalates into crying. I glance at him to find he’s hit himself in the mouth with my hairbrush and has a bloody lip.
8:09 After a quick cuddle I put Rhodes in the shower too and cross my fingers that it will clean off the blood and keep him entertained long enough that I can get dressed. It’s at this point I’ve realized the extra 30 minutes of sleep weren’t worth it.
8:10 I’m in my closet trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that I swear fit last week (Darn Easter candy). I make them work and throw on a blousy shirt in hopes of hiding the muffin top my now too tight jeans have caused. I do some lunges on my way out of the closet. Yay! Multitasking! I’m exercising and stretching my jeans!
8:11 All three kids are playing so I take the opportunity to throw on my makeup. I realize that Rhodes has chewed on all my makeup brushes and they are wet and gross. I use my fingers to apply eye makeup and blush.
8:13 My hair is too dirty to pull back but there is no time to wash it. I briefly toy with the idea of using one of Laurel’s head bands to hide my roots and greasy part. I decide I’m too old for that and use a bobby pin to pull just my bangs back.
8:14 The water has gotten cold so all three kids are fussing to get out.
8:15 While I’m getting Laurel out and dried off Oliver escapes and runs thru the house soaking wet.
8:17 Both twins are dry and as I’m walking them to their room to get them dressed I slip in a puddle of water. My bottom hurts and the twins are crying because I yelped when I fell.
8:18 We make it to the twins room and Oliver joins us. He’s still naked and is fussing because he wants to play on his older brother’s Itouch. I try to ignore him while I’m picking out clothes.
8:20 Rhodes and Oliver are now dressed but Laurel is nowhere to be found.
8:21 I find Laurel in the utility room eating dog food.
8:22 Laurel is throwing a fit because I’ve disturbed her second breakfast and Oliver is still whining. Rhodes is pushing cars around the playroom.
8:24 I’ve given in to Oliver and allowed him to play with the iPod Touch. Laurel is dressed but now Rhodes is crying about another bloody lip. He was crawling too fast, fell on his face, and bumped his lip on the car he was pushing.
8:26 Rhodes is calm. Oliver is calm. Laurel has once again disappeared.
8:27 I find Laurel in the bathroom where she is happily shredding toilet paper. I decide the mess is worth the peace and go looking for our shoes.
8:30 Victory! Everyone but Oliver has on shoes. He is pouting because I can’t find his Buzz Light Year socks.
8:33 Negotiations are complete. I’ve convinced Oliver to wear plain socks in exchange for allowing him to play with the Itouch in the car on the way to school.
8:34 The twins are gone. The house is quiet. This. Is. Bad.
8:35 I find them both outside. They have crawled through the pet door and are splashing in the bird bath.
8:40 I have wrestled the twins into new clothes. I’m sweating and grouchy. If I hurry I can make a cup of coffee to take with me.
8:42 I put all three kids in front of Curious George and head to the pantry.
8:43 Oliver is screaming because the Itouch’s battery is dead. Rhodes is screaming because Oliver is screaming. Laurel is in the pantry looking for cookies.
8:44 I’m charging the Itouch and holding Rhodes. Laurel has decided a cereal bar will work since we have no cookies. She has squished it while bringing it to me so when I open the package the bar crumbles to the floor.
8:45 Laurel is on the floor rolling around in cereal bar crumbs crying for cookies. I decide to not change her out of the sticky, crumb covered clothes.
8:47 I’m now holding Laurel and Rhodes and trying to put a coffee pod into my Kureig using my teeth. The twins explode into giggles.
8:50 Coffee’s made and we are on the way to the car. Everyone is happy!
8:51 I drop my bag and as I bend over to get it I spill coffee all over my shirt. I briefly contemplate sucking it out of the fabric.
8:53 Oliver is buckled into his seat. The twins have decided it’s time to ride bikes and are fighting over a ride on toy. Rhodes pushes Laurel and she is MAD. I scoop her up just as she’s lunging to bite him.
8:56 The twins are buckled into their seats but are not happy about it. Laurel is screaming for cookies and Rhodes is screaming because he can.
8:58 Silence. Everyone is watching the video and we are finally on our way.
I’m sure many of you a shaking your heads and smiling because you have been there. You know how it feels to run from one problem to the next all while trying to keep the day moving and actually be productive.
There are several universal truths to parenting toddlers. These apply whether you have one or five. All parents of children this age can relate to these things:
There is a constant battle between independence and needing/wanting to be cared for. It’s hard for them to decide what stance they want to take in any given situation and it’s even harder for parents to read what their child wants. What’s ok one day just might not be the next.
You will witness wonderful creativity. I’m always amazed how toddlers can turn anything into a toy or game. I watched Rhodes play this afternoon with a cup, bowl of water, and a rock for over 30 minutes. Never underestimate their ability to entertain themselves without toys or technology.
Toddlers crave and respond to routine. The need for a schedule doesn’t stop at the end of infancy. Knowing what to expect and what’s coming next is reassuring to children of this age. I find when I stick to our routine that tantrums are greatly diminished.
Parenting toddler multiples is very different. I was naïve and really celebrated when my twins turned one. I remember telling a friend “They are sleeping through the night, nursing is done, and they are learning to walk and talk. Things are bound to get easier now.” So far that hasn’t happened.
Here are the ways I find parenting toddler multiples different than singletons: Whether you admit it or not you are always comparing them. When I was parenting my singleton toddlers comparisons usually happened at playgroups or in online forums. The anxiety of “Why aren’t they____?” was usually confined to that situation or to the few moments I’d spend replaying my day. Now I find myself not only constantly comparing them, but also trying to compensate for imaginary weaknesses. For example Laurel’s language is very advanced. Her adjusted age is only 17 months and she’s already stringing together words to make sentences. Rhodes isn’t doing this. He knows several words, but isn’t close to speaking in sentences. His speech is exactly where it should be for his adjusted age, but I find myself grabbing a book and pulling him into my lap more often than I do Laurel. I’m constantly repeating his gibberish back to him correctly and engaging him in songs. None of this is done intentionally and I know I’m intuitively trying to encourage his language development because his sister’s is so advanced. If he was a singleton the poor kid wouldn’t be subjected to my constant singing and chattering.
Everything is more. The noise, the mess, the laundry, the… you get the point. Laurel is a screecher and Rhodes is a yeller. Happy, sad, mad, all require screeching and yelling. My house regularly sounds like a pet store. Double the toddlers means the playroom regularly looks like tornado hit it. Unfortunately both twins are “dumpers”. They love nothing more than to walk up to a basket of toys and dump it out. They don’t do this to look for a specific item. They just enjoy pouring all the toys. When you have one child that screeches or pours toys it’s annoying. When you have two a bad day can bring you to your knees.
Outings require pickiness. I have a friend whom I love dearly but I will not bring the twins to her house. She has an elderly grouchy dog, a very tall slide, and a sunken living room. With one toddler I could manage all these variables by keeping the child in my line of sight. With two toddlers who are inevitably drawn to different areas I just can’t do it. I’ve also run into this when choosing parks and restaurants with out door seating (is it fenced?). Any place I’m going to have to follow them around in order for them to be safe is out.
Confinement is necessary. My morning adventures would have been much easier if I could have gotten us ready to go out from our playroom. We have put a lot of time and effort into making it a room that is comfortable for adults as well as fun and safe for the twins. There is really nothing they can do to hurt themselves while playing in it. The furniture is bolted to the walls, all outlets are covered, the floor is soft, and most importantly they can’t go in separate directions. It’s so nice to have a place where we can spend time and the twins will be safe without me needing to be in two places at once.
You can’t mess with naps. When my singletons were toddlers there were times when I’d force them to make do with a nap in the car or go without one altogether. I’d pack lots of snacks and expect to have to keep them really busy. Most of the time this would work and we’d get to enjoy whatever event was happening during their nap time. Unless it’s a once in a lifetime event or an emergency I won’t do this with the twins. Not much is worth the risk of potentially having two tantruming toddlers.
Toddler relationships Children of this age generally don’t play together. They usually engage in parallel play (side by side) or spectator play (observing and mimicking). Very rarely will two toddlers actually interact during the same activity. Laurel and Rhodes play together. They will roll balls or cars together or look at the same book and chatter to one another about it. It’s amazing and adorable. I have to say that this is my favorite part of this stage. I love watching them interact.
This season of my life is challenging to say the least. It’s full of rushing, managing, planning, and adjusting. Despite these difficulties I can’t remember a time I’ve been happier. Rhodes and Laurel are amazing and I’m so blessed to call them mine.
What differences have you seen raising singleton toddlers vs. multiple toddlers?