Back Two the Future: “Which one is the evil twin?”

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They're both superheroes to me.Have you been asked this?

I’m sure we’ve all gotten variations of the question. “Who is more outgoing?” “Is one good and one bad?” “What are their personalities like?”

Once someone asked me which one was my favorite.

I don’t mind the questions, especially the “rude” ones, because usually I can joke about it and I’m so excited for adult interaction. But the sincere questions from friends and distant family, asking us to name the differences between the twins, are hard for me because I don’t know the answer.

The truth is, they feel different to me. I sense them differently. Their presence in a room, their weight, their faces, their hands in mine feel different. They smell different. They are my babies and I know them, but it isn’t something I can explain to another person so he or she can see it.

When they were infants I had a sense that G was angry, and P was sad. As they got older, G was more adventuresome and P was more timid. G would wander off to play on a structure across the park, and P would cling to my hand. At swimming lessons G participated, and tried to coax P into the water. P laid on the deck at my feet and cried until it was time to go home.

But they switch. Now it is P who will venture off to something new, and G who clings to us. They take turns leading each other.

Do you struggle to explain your multiples’ personalities when asked these sorts of questions? Or have your kids had consistently different personality types since birth?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twins + 2. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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brotherly love

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Categories Behavior, Development, Feeding Older Children, Preschoolers, Relationships, SleepTags , , 13 Comments
P and G, September 2004
P and G, September 2004

When I was pregnant with my twins, I remember reading something that warned parents of multiples against thinking their babies needed them any less because of having been born a multiple. I was bummed when I read that.

We did our best to parent our twins as we had our oldest. I nursed them, they were fed on demand, we co-slept, we tried to hold them when they cried. 

Their first few words were Mama, Dada, ball, and baby. The twin who woke first from a nap tried to rouse his brother, calling, “Bebeh! Bebeh!” They summoned each other this way to examine new toys or things they shouldn’t get into. When G had croup and I took him to the ER, he saw his reflection in a window and thought it was his brother. He got excited and started calling out to him — “BEBEH!!!” They started calling each other by name when their little sister was born.

Sometimes when one gets in trouble, he’ll sit in time out crying for his brother. The other day, I scolded G for being too rough with our kitten. He ran to P, who then came to confront me for “being so mean to Diffin.”

P and G, January 2010
P and G, January 2010

They fight and hurt each other’s feelings sometimes, but the bond between them is more than I ever dreamed it would be. And while there is no substitute for a parent’s love… I’m not always sure my boys would agree. 


P: Diffin, what are you gonna be when you grow up?
G: I am gonna work in your restaurant with you!
P: But you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.
G: I will, so then I won’t have to be away from you.

– Overheard 02/01/10 

When Jen isn’t creepily photographing her children in their sleep, she blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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My boys say goodbye to their comfort objects

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Just before Christmas, my boys had their dentist appointment. Their teeth looked great (despite our lackluster brushing schedule), but the dentist had one concern.

“How’s it going getting rid of the pacifiers?” he asked P.

A look of panic flashed across P’s face, and he turned away from the dentist.

He tried again. “Are you guys gonna give them to Santa this year?”

I seized the opportunity and asked follow-up questions about Santa’s policy on pacifier surrender. The boys were unimpressed, and hid their faces in my coat. As I gathered our mounds of paperwork and prepared to leave, P motioned me down to his level.

“I think I do want to give my babas to Santa,” he said. Then his giant blue eyes filled with tears and he wept silently as we paid and walked to the car.

In the minivan, G tearfully said that he, too, would give up his babas at Christmas, in return for an extra present from Santa. Then he burst into tears, accompanied by loud heart-wrenching sobs that continued about 20 minutes.

My boys are 5. You can find a full apology for their continued baba use here, but the shortened version is this:

“I don’t believe it will hurt his teeth, really. But even more than that, I know there are looming in his not-so-distant future so many goodbyes he won’t be able to put off. He sleeps tonight as he did before birth, curled against his brother, the two of them partners in a relationship beyond my understanding. There is no sparing him heartache, as these two will have to part eventually for their future lives to begin.”

August 07 017

In the weeks before Christmas, G wavered in his resolve but P stood firm. On the 23rd G tried to organize a coup but P was having none of it.

On Christmas Eve, with little fanfare, we tied the boys’ babas with twine and they hung them alongside their stockings. A few tears were shed at bedtime, but Jason and I held their hands and cuddled them, and they drifted off to sleep. In return for their trouble, Santa brought them shields sent by Captain America himself.

The next few nights were more difficult, but overall the transition was very easy. Once they volunteered to surrender their beloved pacifiers, I knew they were ready despite the tears and misgivings. And so far, neither has started sucking his thumb (as their sister did when we took away her pacifier at age 3).

This past weekend we took an overnight trip to an indoor water park; a thank you/congratulations gift from us to the boys, in recognition of a major milestone. Not just that they’re finished with pacifiers, but that they gave them up willingly, on their own timetable, even though it was painful and scary. I’m so proud of them.

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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Separation anxiety taken to a whole new level

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The boys were cleaning their room, as I had asked. I was clearing the dinner dishes. I should have recognized the relative calm as the freakishly low tide just before a tsunami surges in.

I heard G, my firstborn twin, making his awkward way down the stairs, touching both feet on each step before descending. “Mom!” he shouted. “Mom! Phe is yeavin’! He is wunnin’ away!”

Sure enough, there was P on the steps with a bag of play food — two pretend pizzas and a foam orange. His feet were bare. He said he was leaving because I am always so mean. Apparently he’d resented the clean-up more than I’d realized.

I was calm. I told him I hoped he wouldn’t go, and I asked that he at least wait until tomorrow, since it was cold out. I opened the front door for him, and he stuck out his chubby hand. Feeling the northern Ohio chill, he decided he’d wait until tomorrow morning. I congratulated myself on having handled the situation so splendidly, and began hustling the kids up to bed.

Abruptly, P changed his mind. He grabbed his bag of play food and announced he was leaving, and that from now on he could be reached around the corner at his friend Timmy’s house. The other children commenced yelling and wailing. The chaos got the better of me, and I called his bluff.

“Fine. If you’re leaving tonight, it’s time to go,” I said. “Otherwise, you need to get upstairs and put on your jammies.”

“I’m yeavin’ tonight,” he said.

“All right. We’ll miss you,” I said, as I swung open the door.

As we stood on the threshold, 30 degree air flooding into the house, I felt a twinge of regret. I knew he wouldn’t leave, or if he did he wouldn’t go any further in his bare feet than the frigid sandstone sidewalk, but I shouldn’t have painted him into a corner.

“Won’t you please wait until tomorrow, at least?” I asked.

Grateful for an out, he agreed he would, and we headed upstairs where I found G huddled against the wall, wedged between the bed and the nightstand, sobbing. He was inconsolable. He truly believed P was going to leave. His grief was so fierce that I began to feel I might be sick.

While I tried to console G, P sat on his bed quietly wiping tears from his eyes. No babyish sobs or sniffles, just his hand across the bridge of his nose, banishing tears with a swipe of his thumb and forefinger. I whispered in G’s ear that I’d never really let P leave, and even if he left I’d go get him, but G didn’t respond except to continue howling. After a while he sobbed to his brother, “What will you eat? Where will you live?”

And P replied that he now planned to go live with his aunt, and she would take care of him. He wanted to live with her because she is never mean. He said he’d leave in the morning and run to her house.

Again seeing an opportunity to bring this to a close, I suggested that he wait until that weekend and make the four-hour car ride to her house with us. He was agreeable. G sobbed harder. “And den we will YEAVE him dere?”

“No, no,” I whispered in his ear. “No, I would never leave him.”

I started to sense that the twin factor rendered useless all of the preschool runaway strategies employed by my parents.

After a while P backed down and said he wouldn’t really stay at his aunt’s. I showered him with kisses and love, borne of my relief that this ordeal was at an end. I told G the good news, and patted the bed for him to come over and be tucked in.

“No, I’m sleepin’ on the floor because my heart is broken,” he said.

“But he’s going to stay with us,” I cried, desperate for this hour-long standoff to end.

“Half of my heart is healed, but the other half is still broken so I don’t want to sleep in bed with P,” he explained.

P began to cry anew, and once again threatened to leave. G started crying again. “Will you at least stay until I can make us ‘Best Buddies Forever’ goodie bags?” he begged. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces.

I cried through most of this exchange, myself. In G’s begging and in P’s quiet, determined sadness, I felt not only the heartache of today, but the separation they will one day endure, and the heartbreaks that will come when they are too big for me to hold them.

I convinced G to come lay in bed with me and P. I held them both, their heads leaned against each other like when they used to doze off nursing. P put his arm around G, and G rested his head on P’s chest and shoulder. “Are you still gonna yeave?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” P answered.

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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Back 2 the Future: Child-proofing

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Griff Thena Phe recliner3 121605
“Child-proofing” is a term that gives me a good hearty chuckle, like “potty trained.” We child-proofed the heck out of our house when we were expecting the twins. Magnetic locks on all the cabinets, with the magnet stored up high. Gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Locks on all the door handles, outlet covers out the wazoo, chemicals stored up high (except personal lubricant)… The kids had the run of the living room, kitchen, dining room and hallway, but couldn’t get anywhere else.

That was perfect, until the twins learned to walk.

From: me
Date: 12/20/05 21:09:12
Subject: [Freecycle] ISO baby gates PLEASE!!!

Please, for the love of all that is sacred, if you have a spare baby gate, would you consider giving or loaning it to me?

I have 16-month-old twins and I just cleaned the kitchen trash off the floor for the 9th time today. This is AFTER I taped the lid shut. They just used their twin powers for evil and lifted the lid right off.

We have two gates but they are on the top and bottom of the stairs. I never would have dreamed we’d need to gate them out of every part of the house. Silly me.

So please, I am nearly in tears because they think they are hilarious but I can’t take this anymore! If you have a gate you aren’t using I PROMISE I will return it to you if you can loan it to me. Or maybe I can trade you for something. We just don’t have any $ for gates until at least the new year, and even then… Gates are crazy-expensive.

Thank you in advance!

[Note: The twins thinking they are hilarious frequently coincides with me nearly being in tears. That hasn’t changed in the last four years.]

This post resulted in an intimidating fencing system cobbled together from various semi-broken baby gates. On the plus side, the boys were finally confined to the living room and hallway and were no longer free to roam and plunder the garbage. Sadly, my 3-year-old had to be able to predict her need to urinate in enough time to press the release button – which only sometimes worked – on the hall gate blocking the babies from the kitchen/dining room/bathroom. And my blog is named “Diagnosis: Urine,” so we all know how that worked out for me.

Any good “child-proofing” stories in your past?

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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Social Shorthand

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They’ll speak their own language. They’ll feel each other’s pain. They’ll always have a special bond. They’ll always have a best friend.

Ask any twin parent, and they’ll testify; as soon as a multiples pregnancy is announced, those legendary lifelong predictions are made. The fascination with children that arrive in pairs is undeniable (seen any news on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt lately?); subsequently, as a byproduct of all the associated assignations, parents expect, and often, project.

Last week, we spent the afternoon at The Playroom, a destination requested close-to-daily by our duo (and one conceived of and owned by a fellow twin-blessed family). As I strategically sat on the perimeter of the play area, I could observe a la Jane Goodall how my little monkeys behave in the wild. When one falls off the bounce house platform, does the other wince in pain across the room? Do they gravitate to the same structures and sensations? Are they a mini-herd unto themselves? After close to two hours of scrutiny, here are the results of my research:

They will pursue their individual interests…

(If they don’t offer a “zookeeper” option on future career days, I’m unsure what Darren will do…)

(Surrounded by bouncy castles and playhouses, God love her, Sarah still gravitates to the art supplies.)

They will dip toes into the gen pop pool and explore different opportunities with other members of the group…

(Or in Sarah’s case, at least share the art supplies with others…)

They’ll re-venture out for some solo time…

But at the end of the day, their lack of twin-language and synchronously experienced pain aside, they do share a special bond. They are each other’s best friend.

Cross-posted from Twinfatuation

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Stood up. Brokenhearted. Again.

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Forgiveness is typically my forte.

High-school boyfriends’ dalliances? Forgiven.
My beloved great-grandmother’s racism based in ignorance? Forgiven.
My father’s secret life? Forgiven.

But today…today’s transpiration is testing the depth of my ability to readily rationalize. Since I can’t speak it aloud (twin little pitchers have big ears), blog about it I shall.

On the next to the last day of school, Sarah and a classmate were to have a first-time playgroup. Perhaps it’s because she and her brother have had so few — much less individually — she talked about it all night the night before. She talked about it excitedly all morning over breakfast. Her brother and I planned our Mommy-Son activities for after school while Sarah and Boy X were to have their special time.

Well, as it turns out, the next to the last day of school included a year-end presentation program…with parents invited, for song, dance, poetry and general merriment. Upon the production’s conclusion, we looked everywhere for Boy X and/or his parent(s). No sign. We went home and left a message on Boy X’s family’s machine. Nothing. We waited and waited. Finally, our nuclear family went for a somewhat delayed after-program ice cream. The whole way there, while we were there, and the whole way back, Sarah (not unlike her mother’s M.O.) was creating rationalizing scenarios by which the lack of communication and the break-down of the plan could be excused.

On the last day of school, after we returned home, we got a phone call from Boy X. Luckily, Sarah answered and she lit up like a summer firefly with twice the bounce. The phones were passed to the moms, and Mrs. X explained the confusion (which surely I agreed with, with the chaos characterizing the last days of school), and we made a plan to have the kids reconvene today…as they were going to be out of town early this week.

Rerun the preceding week’s build-up and enthusiasm, this time regaling the whole family with her “dream” from the night before Playdate-Eve, wherein she and Boy X and his Mom X all played superheroes together. Re-don the beloved pink dress. Pinch on those new clip-on earrings (“They’re S’s, Mom! For Sarah!) from the Dollar Store. Make the early morning base touch at 9:15. Uh oh. The machine again. (Adult cynicism already had me concerned.) 11:00am: Sarah insists they may not have gotten the message, and wants to call again. With the warning not to leave a message if the recording comes on, I allow it. Again at 11:30. 12. 12:30. You get the pathetic and heartwrenching picture.

Finally, at 3:30, feeling almost sinful for keeping my children housebound and TV watching on a stunningly gorgeous day, I left a second, upbeat sounding message (oh I can be an actress when the occasion merits…) saying we were going to head to the park, but to please — please — leave us a message.

Thought Sarah would burst into tears when she saw the big flashing “0” on our machine upon our return. Thought I might, too.

She and her brother plopped on the couches to watch “Shrek 3” on-demand, and I just went went to put a Hershey’s kiss in her mouth. (Please don’t condemn me for doing the “chocolate makes it all better” attempt.) What did she do? She pointed to Darren for me to give him one, too. Amidst her day’s disappointment, at play, at the park’s nature center, all day long, her brother’s been by her side…intuitively “getting it.” Maybe there’s something to this twin telepathy thing after all….

Cross-posted from Twinfatuation, June 18th

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Gastronomy 2.0 : Eating with Twins on the Grow

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For that first few weeks — even months — with newborn twins, it felt as though we were forever going to the pediatrician’s office for near-daily weight checks. My second guessing and self-flagellation about my children’s intake began on Day One. Literally, Day One. Check-in nurses would ask, “How much do they take at each feeding?” I had no idea. My breasts might have had a stretchmark or two, but calibrations, they didn’t. Both babies still had their shar-pei unfilled-with-baby-fat loose skin; was I making a bad decision by attempting to breastfeed? What about those recommended first week formula supplements? Were they inferior somehow? The first time I drank juice post-partum, following that nursing both babes screamed for an hour. On more than one occasion I was convinced that my daughter spit up not only her whole “meal,” but the one preceding it as well. In retrospect, all that coupled consumption-focused chaos did serve a purpose. Even with how little I knew and how ill-equipped I felt, my babies survived…and so did I. Word of “learned the hard way” wisdom: If your pediatrician is not alarmed about your twosome’s positions on the infamous percentile “curves,” you should not be either. Now kindergarteners, our he-child is in the 97% for height. Our she-child? Well, at her 6 year appointment she at long last departed the 3% weight curve.

Suppose our experience illustrates pretty effectively, that despite their dual arrival, twins are different children. Identical or fraternal, they’ll grow differently, they’ll eat differently…and trust me, if you don’t mind your P’s and Q’s, you’ll find yourself feeding them differently….or different meals at the very least. As the kids grow, and can — and will — voice their pleasure or lack thereof with a meal presented, try to keep your food-related parental frustration in check. Right along with how and when they sleep, how and when they “output,” what they actually eat is largely in your twins’ control. The good news is, what you offer them, or don’t, is in yours.

Here are some meal-based mantras and mama of multiples discoveries that have made eating with our growing sweeties more palatable:

If it ain’t broke…
An affection for a wide variety of vittles is an adult phenomena. Don’t project what you perceive is a menu “rut” onto your twins. If your dual diners are satisfied with a predictable plate that seems to never change — but is fairly balanced nutritionally — learn to love it, not lament it. It will pass.

Make Appetizing via Accessorizing

Oyster forks. Frilly toothpicks. ZooPals plastic flatware. Hinged kiddie chopsticks, or more fun yet, paper-sleeved real ones from a restaurant. If you are apprehensive about introducing a new food item, or if you are seeking to invigorate dining enthusiasm, a little bit of playtime with the process can be very effective. Nurture their nature to your mutual benefit. Serving mini-portions of berries, raisins, nuts, edamame in a variety of Ikea egg cups has worked wonders in our house. Think outside the divided melamine plate; have fun on the high chair trays.



Pressure Cooker
Admittedly, last Christmas morning, when I opened the present tagged “To: The Family/From: Daddy” and discovered a pressure cooker – a pressure cooker – I was a bit baffled. It’s big. It’s heavy. It doesn’t look like you can wash the lid in the dishwasher (and you can’t). My unspoken question: I know you love us, and try to make things easy for us, but why a pressure cooker? Oh, the wisdom that is twin-daddy. Pasta. Piles and piles of pasta. Cooked expeditiously with a softly moist “whistle” when done. No watching the clock. No setting the oven timer (which happens to be the same timer I use for time-outs, so another surprising added plus). Rotini, spaghetti, macaroni…no matter the shape, no matter the density, perfectly done, everytime. Apparently, you can do veggies in it as well with equally satisfying “non-mush” results. Embarrassingly, I’ve yet to try that yet…the triumph of consistently al dente noodles has yet to lose its novelty.

Parental Example
True Mommy Confessions: this is where I tend to fall short. Yes, I’ve eaten pre-fab frosting from the container and swilled sugar-free RedBull clandestinely in the kitchen while extolling my twins to eat their carrots and bananas. But that said, do make a point to sit down with them not only at mealtimes but at snacks as well, and role-model healthy intake and the manners you’d like them to mimic. Napkins in lap, case in point. Do it with a flourish, and they might just do the same. Don’t bemoan a food item before they’ve even tried it – or even worse, don’t “not offer” a food because you don’t care for it. [Asparagus never passed my lips until I was in college for that very reason. However, I dare not cast too many aspersions; my kids have had a generous portion of some highly unhealthy items that I am overly fond of…it works both ways!]

Ease Access to the Desired Diet
Cookie Monster sings so eloquently (with a musically appropriate undercurrent of the blues), “A cookie is a sometime food.” So conversely, fruits and veggies are for the most part “anytime foods.” By that, for those “I’m hungry” declarations between sanctioned meals and designated snack times, Ho-Ho’s and Twinkies aren’t an option. If they’re genuinely hungry, they will eat the offered options.

Presentation, Presentation, Presentation
Meals in monochrome. Faces constructed from foodstuffs. Structures from saltines (for the rotovirus recuperating). You needn’t make every meal a masterpiece, but occasionally, delight your diners with a little bit of creativity. (It’s fun for you, too!)





Suffice it to say, this all looks impressive looking at it written…but let me assure you, our “real-life” implementation occasionally – even often — strays from the ideal. And now, at long last, I think I’m okay with that. As my pediatrician (also a twin mama) has reassured me for nearly seven years now, they will not starve. No they won’t.

At a recent church chili and wings cook-off, our twosome demonstrated how when offered the same assortment of foods, they’ll each invariably eat according to their own developing tastes. Darren had two enormous bowls of chili (of different types) and four wings (each from a different “contestant”). Sarah wanted no chili. She did eat two wings (both the same kind, the only kind available that had breading) and five – count ‘em, five — stalks of celery.

Gotta run…off to pack two lunchboxes (with differing items) and get breakfast for two (same meal, but admittedly, some sugared cereal will be involved) on the table for our twins.

Wishing you all a sweet smorgasbord of dining fun with your twins!
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