Birthday(s) for Two

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Categories Attitude, Birth Order, Celebrations, Friendships with Other Multiples, Mommy Issues, Parenting TwinsTags , , 1 Comment

“I’m going to be 7 tomorrow,” J called out to me as she skipped to the bathroom to brush her teeth for bed last Thursday. “It’s a little magical!”

It’s more than a little magical. I could swear that it was last week that I was bringing J home from the NICU to be reunited with her sister M after 5 days apart. It was about an hour ago that the girls were teething. It can’t have been more than 5 minutes since I heard them read out loud to me for the first time.

But 7 they are. It was 7 years ago that my water broke at 33 weeks gestation. I’m afraid that if I blink, they’ll be running off to college.

Party Time

I’d better wait on that blink, because I have a 7th birthday party to plan and execute. I got an unexpected reprieve from the insanity that is the month of May. I learned that the other set of twin girls in my daughters’ classes was going to have their birthday party at exactly the same time that I was planning M and J’s. I gladly generously offered to delay our party until June, after the end of the school year. A few days later, the other twins’ mom texted me to suggest a combined birthday party. Brilliant! (Except that I’m still going to throw a separate party for J and M’s friends who aren’t in their class. They’ve been talking up their party for so long that I just can’t not invite their dance friends and neighbours, but I’m not going to explode the size of the party my friend has been anticipating for her daughters.)

I used to worry about birthdays. I’m an excellent worrier. How, I wondered during the pregnancy and throughout that first year, would I make each of my daughters feel birthday special when that celebration of uniqueness was yet another thing she has to share with Sissy? I made a point of singing Happy Birthday to each child separately. No “Happy Birthday, J and M,” for us! Each girl got her own birthday cake. I got them different, but coordinated birthday presents. This year will be different. All four birthday girls will share a cake. Each of them gets her own Number 7 candle. We’re celebrating the fact that each pair shares a birthday. That’s pretty special in its own right, and all four girls are thrilled to get to share their celebration with their friends as well as their sister.

My friend B sent me into a tailspin a few years ago. She wrote to our mothers of multiples group asking whether and how she should let her twin sons’ friends know that they were twins. She would be having separate birthday parties for each of them since they didn’t have classmates in common. She didn’t want the guests to feel awkward when they discovered there were two birthday boys. Separate birthday parties! I vowed then and there that if my girls wanted separate parties, they could throw them themselves. I’m a pretty simple girl when it comes to parties. I tend to request that guests not bring presents. “Presence, not presents,” I say. If people must bring something, we’ve asked for donations for the local good pantry. I make a bunch of food, invite a ton of people to a park or other open space, and let the party run itself.

Birth Detail

M and J have been terribly excited about this birthday as they’ve watched friend after friend turn 7 at school. J was quite literally counting down the hours on Thursday evening.

“Mommy, what time was I born?”

“6:33 am,” I told her.

“M!! We were born at 6:33 am! We’ll be 7 in 10 hours and how many minutes?”

Who-was-born-first strikes again. Couldn’t I just have said, “6:30?” Still, it was rather nice to know that both my girls consider their birth(s) to be a singular event. Clearly, they have no problem with a shared birthday. The whole multiple thing is really very special, and my daughters are old and wise enough to know it. They’re wiser than I am.

“J, you were born at 6:33. The doctor had to hand you to some nurses before he could take M out of me. She came out at 6:35, so she was technically born at 6:35.”

M, the master of precision, clarified. “So, it took one minute to give J to the nurses, 30 seconds to come back, and 30 seconds to get me?”

“Something like that.”

“So,” said the always mathematical M, “we have 10 and a half hours left to be 6. I’m so excited to be getting 7! I think I act pretty mature, like a 7-year-old.”

“Except you giggle about farts,” J responded.

And they fell into a giggling mass of almost-7-year-old.

Do you do anything to individualize the birthday experience for your multiples?

Sadia overthinks her parenting decisions in Austin, TX, where she takes a break from single mommyhood by going to her full time job in higher education information technology.

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Categories Development, Infants, Parenting TwinsTags , , , 4 Comments

“It’s just a stage.”

How many times have you heard this, or said it to another parent, as children scream, bite or hit their way through their parents’ patience and creativity? Nighttime feedings are a stage, as are teething, the terribles twos (or threes) and potty-training. So too are the transitions from crawling to walking, from babbles to speech, and learning to dress oneself.

I have three sets of mommy-friends with kids the same age as mine: (former) neighbours, parents with kids’ in our daughters’ (former)  daycare class, and (both current and former) blogger friends. Having had these friends since our children were in infancy, some even when we were simultaneously pregnant, is an amazing gift. When J and M suddenly make a 180-degree turn in behaviour, these are the folks I turn to for grounding. Just a couple of weeks ago, I sent out feelers to my buddies to find out if M and J’s sudden return to disobedience and near-tantrums, along with a sudden discovery of rudeness, was a developmental stage or a result in being uprooted from home. Apparently it was the former.

I think back over the past five years, and the years seem to fall into clear categories.

Year One was about survival and making sure the babies felt safe. We were all figuring it all out. While the babies figured out the use of their bodies, my husband and I were feeling our way through parenting and co-parenting, trying to muddle through life on four or fewer hours of sleep per night. There were moments of intense joy,  intense exhaustion, and intense emotion all around. Our basic focuses were making it through the day, and ensuring that the babies knew that they were loved.

Age One was about exploration. I was far more confident as a mother, and the girls wanted to know about everything. I started doing more with the girls. Playdates were no longer merely opportunities for cooperative diaper-changing. We went to parks, museums, pumpkin patches, but J and M were equally fascinated by the grocery store shelves.

Age Two was about testing boundaries, but respecting them once they were set.

Year Three was the year of the tantrum. I’d heard of the Terrible Twos, but we went through the Terrible Threes. My friend April has an explanation for this that I whole-heartedly believe. She argues that the “terribles” show up when a child begins to feel powerless and has unmet desires. Our generation of parents tends to listen to our children from day one. We understand what their different cries mean. We tend to believe that you cannot spoil an infant. We interact with them constantly, and talk to them even though we know full well that they are unable to respond. We let them push the boundaries enough to keep them from feeling cloistered, but come age three, they want more. The exceptions that prove the rule, to my mind, are the “old school” parents, the ones who cannot or choose not to be at the beck and call of their babies. Every parent I know of that sort has dealt with the Terrible Twos, and not the Terrible Threes. The tantrums at our house were back-arching, leg-thrashing, ear-piercing affairs. Fortunately, M and J took turns with their outbursts, but I couldn’t have been happier when Age Four arrived.

Age Four was the age of logic. The girls’ assumptions were wonky beyond belief, but everything was intensely logical. They wanted to know the “why” of everything, but they accepted any rule, any request, any argument that had a logical explanation. I could have stayed a mommy of four-year-olds for a decade without tiring of it.

Age Five feels a lot what I expected Age Fifteen to be like. M and J have begun questioning our authority, talking back, disobeying, and being rude. Until a couple of weeks ago, they seemed to be under the impression that they knew better than us. We brought back the discipline techniques of the Terrible Threes, the timeouts and the loss of privileges, and their behaviour began to get back into line. Still, they’re not as eager to help around the house as they were a year ago. They love learning, so we don’t have to nag them about homework, but everything else takes multiple reminders. I don’t yet know how I will label this age. Time will tell.

What has been your favourite and least favourite stages so far? What stage(s) are your children at now?

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