I love this video. Poor though may be the quality, embarrassing though may be the condition of my house, cringe-inducing though may be my sarcasm directed over the heads of my girls, this is what life with twin toddlers (in this case 18 months) looks like.
Why play with toys or your own shoes when Mommy’s are there? Toddlers are fascinated by everything their parents do. Sure, you can spend a bundle on the latest techy toys, but chances are that your kids will be happy for longer with some empty food containers or a little purse. They’re learning to be human by imitation, so it’s no surprise that they want to do exactly what they see from their parents, preferably with their parents’ things.
Toddlers have strong opinions, about shoes and everything else too. They know where they want to be, what they want to be doing and what they want everyone else to be doing. When you have multiple toddlers with varying opinions, there is bound to be conflict. You can try to help them work it, but sometimes you just need to let the fussing be.
Kids this age often, but not always, are doing their darnedest to communicate with whatever limited tools they have at their disposal. What words they have, they will overgeneralize, like “shoe” to mean anything that is worn on the foot, including socks. They can use physical communication, like M lifting her leg and pointing to help me understand her words.
Toddlers can understand pretty much everything you say to them. They’re so used to being misunderstood, however, that they jump to the conclusion that you don’t understand them. M clearly understands it when I say, “Let’s go in the nursery.” She doesn’t understand that “Okay” implies that I’m willing to take her socks off. Just assume your kids don’t understand your assumptions, and communication will go much more smoothly. “Sit down so you can get your socks off” was clear enough. No implication-reading was needed, so the crying could come to an end.
As I said earlier, your kids want to copy everything you do. If you want them to use good manners, then use good manners with them. Say (and sign) “Please” and “Thank you” to your babies at appropriate times starting at birth, and they’ll pick it up. Reminders are helpful, of course, but they’ll never really learn how to good manners unless they see them.
I know, I’ve said it before, but Baby Sign helped us so much with overcoming communication barriers! Obviously, my girlies still used it and I relied on it, well after they were capable of speech.
Crying and Tantrums
Infant tears don’t faze me. I have no trouble seeing babies’ cries as their language. Toddlers crying, however, gets under my skin. Despite their ability to understand language and their limited ability to use it, toddlers resort immediately to tears on any feeling of frustration. Worse, they quit listening once their tears have started to flow.
Then there’s the foot stomping. To me, full body involvement is where a mere crying spell moves over to the realm of a tantrum. I confess that toddler tantrums are probably the most difficult child behaviour for me to cope with. I can completely see the temptation to just give in to the child instead of fighting the battle to maintain discipline. However, I truly believe that my and the girls’ pre-school teachers’ willingness to hold our ground against tantrums contributed towards my 7-year-old’s current academic, social and psychological success.
Toddlers are at the very beginning of understanding that they are individuals. With this sense of self comes a sense of possession. Those of us with multiples have both the challenge and opportunity to start teaching about sharing, day in and day out. Unlike singleton parents, we don’t have to wait until our child is in a social situation to teach how to share. Out toddlers’ entire lives are one big social situation!
In the video, you can see M take ownership, saying, “Mine shoe.” She’s already learned the power of redirection, trying to keep the shoe she wants by offering up an alternative to her sister.
The kids also have to share their parents’ attention. You can see me splitting my attention between my two daughters and Daddy throughout the video. This is just the reality of raising multiples.
You can see a few moments of co-parenting in the video. It’s so important to function as a team. We divide and conquer, me taking point on communication and entertainment, my now-ex being response for a dose of Tylenol for teething pain.
We talk to each other throughout. This accomplishes two things: making sure that we agree on the right approach to our kids and ensuring that we’re both informed of what’s going on. I certainly wouldn’t want one of our kids to get a dose of Tylenol without both parents being aware, because we’d run the risk of overdose.
A big challenge for me, was not immediately correcting Daddy. He asked M whether she was in pain. I know that an 18-month-old will answer in the affirmative, just for the attention it gets her. However, I didn’t question his approach in front of the kids. I went with it at the time. Once the kids were in bed, I gently suggested an alternative way to phrase the question to get a more accurate answer: “What’s making you sad?” or just handing our toddler a chew toy to see if she made a move to soothe her gums.
Toddlerhood is a little more about exploring the world and less about survival than infancy. Still, it’s still wise to choose your battles. You already know I’m a huge fan of consistency. The only way I know to be both consistent and sane is to choose where to hold your ground and where to let go.
In the video, I decide that J can have the heels. She either didn’t understand or chose to ignore my objection. M’s licking her tissue will gross me out but not kill her. No pants? Whatever. There are bigger battles to be fought.
Toddlers still require a great deal of basic care. Diapers are still part of the picture. I found diaper duty to be 100 times easier than potty training.
In the video, M is dealing with a (probably allergy-related) runny nose. You can see a humidifier running on the floor to help give her some relief. We used saline drops to help her blow her nose and gave her a choice between blowing her nose herself or my using a bulb syringe to suction her clear.
Teething pain can be dealt with with Tylenol, although my preference was the clean wet washcloths I stored in the fridge for chewing.
Sarcasm was my own survival strategy. To each their own, right? Of all the ways I could express my frustrations with these small people, I figured sarcasm was the least damaging.
Need another twin toddler video fix? You’re welcome.
Any of this look familiar? Do you use sarcasm to survive life with twin (or more) toddlers?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.