Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Roller Coaster Effect

Like everything else in life parenting twins is filled with ups and downs. Sometimes many in one day and other times you get a stretch of up and a stretch of down... I like to call this the roller coaster effect. One of the most exciting and also the most challenging things about having twins is not being able to predict how things will go. I have tried since the day they were born to predict who will do what first, who will like what, who will not like what, how they will react to certain situations. Oh, and if you think you have figured them out rest assured, they will change roles and you will be struggling to predict once again!

I am sure that many parents of children who are not twins will say, yeah, it's the same for us too. My response, absolutely! I remember with our older child thinking I knew what she would do in a situation an having her do the exact opposite. It's part of parenting. The difference with twins is that they are exactly (within a few minutes) the same age. They go through every developmental milestone together. The power struggles that a parent of multiple children (not twins) might have with sharing or social situations with young children are twice as challenging because while they are able to reason with the older child and then deal with the struggle of the toddler, you have no one to reason with... You cannot enlist your older twin to help you with the younger twin because well... they are the same age!!

The important thing to remember in while in the midst of twin rearing is that it is a special and unique experience for you as the parent. I find that often times when we are barely keeping our heads above water it is hard to notice the little things. The chattering they do together before they can really talk, the sucking each others thumbs as infants, the snuggling together while sleeping, the playing together before kids really play together... these things are so easily missed when we are so focused on making it to the finish line.

I guess the important thing to remember is that we parents of twins are given the simple task of juggling while riding the roller coater and taking snapshots of the truly awesomeness of the twin experience along the way!

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Survival Mode"

I am sure that many people who will read this are parents, and as a parent you can certainly look back to the first month of your child's life and think about the sleeplessness and wondering if you would ever sleep again. The constant diaper changes that made you think "where does it all come from" and then you realized it was the constant feedings. When you have one baby at a time you do go into survival mode for about 2-6 weeks. It is normal, you are functioning somehow with no sleep after birthing this amazing new person and you do not want to screw it up! Well, with twins survival mode lasts, well, forever as far as I can tell.

Actually, I think it can end, but they key is that when people tell you that it is all about survival the first year, it is, but you have to do more than just survive. There has to be some sort of balance and we did not master this balance. As a result, we are still working it out three years later. When the babies are little it seems like there is a lot of help. For us, my parents practically lived at our house for the first two months and then my mother-in-law would take Isabelle a few days a week so that we could figure things out with just the babies. What I have started to wonder is if all of this early survival really was more like panic mode and now we are working on getting things back down to survival mode, and eventually back into "normal".

When the boys were tiny, life was hard. It was hard for everyone, the babies, Isabelle, Jason & I were functioning, but I have no idea how. Having two new baby brothers all of a sudden is something for which no parent can prepare their child. It is also something you can never prepare for as an adult. Interestingly enough with the rate of twins and higher order multiples on the rise there are very few books for children (actually I did not find any) to help them get ready to be a big brother or sister to twins... It really is different than being a big sister to one baby at a time.

Life is still a struggle for us daily. Not always a bad struggle, but a struggle. It is a constant balancing act for which I am always feeling poised ready to fall. The hard part for us now is that when you go from panic mode to survival mode your energy stores are pretty low. I feel that so much of me and who I was before the boys is gone. Unfortunately, many of the things I have lost are things that I really felt good about in myself... like endless amounts of patience, being calm under stress, being positive. I think when you are tired and weary and notice that these traits are missing the more that you try getting them back the more unattainable they become... so the road to normal seems like it is going to be a long one... hoping I make it with happy and healthy children who have not been too much worse for wear.

It's like living on an Island

Sometimes, actually most times, having twins is like living on an island. Not like Fiji or Hawaii or some exotic or heavily populated island, but like one of those islands on a lake... You know, people visit now & then, there is no power, but there are all sorts of cozy cottages around the lake with their glimmering lights and music playing... Meanwhile, the people on the island are rubbing stones together trying to cook a meal from whatever they may have harvested or caught. This is it in a nutshell.

Twins are like a side show at the fair. You want to look, but you don't want to stare directly at them. People, no matter how well meaning, just do not get that when you are out with two babies it is not for fun. I remember going out for fun, just to get out of the house, when Isabelle was a baby. When you go out with two babies and a preschooler in tow it is out of necessity. There is nothing fun about getting three kids into car seats, packing a suitcase sized diaper bag and a giant stroller in your car. Only to have to unload it all at your destination to have people stop in the middle of store aisles and stare. Literally, stare. Often these gawkers had nothing to say and when they did it was not helpful. I mean, when you see someone pushing a huge stroller with two infants and a third small child should you not at least hold the door?

However, the isolation does not stop there, particularly when you have tiny babies in the winter. I mean going out means exposure to the cold and to germs that are likely to be fewer if you simply stay home. Then there is the part where when the boys were first born we did not have a car big enough for all three kids and us to fit into at the same time... Which meant either taking two cars or people coming to us. Unfortunately, people coming to us was a concept lost on many. Everyone wants you to visit them in their space for some reason, and it continues through toddler hood, where visiting in their space can actually be dangerous since it is not child proof most likely.

Then there are the empty promises of help. The please let me know if you need anything comments that when you do actually need something is met with some lame excuse. I will say that the reality of having twins has definitely caused me to refine my thinking those who are there for me and whom can be counted on when needed. This is not to say that I expect anyone to help, but it is sure nice when someone offers to come for a couple of hours so that you can get out of the house and go to the doctor or to the store without the sideshow. It has also made me aware of my own promises to help. Rest assured, if I offer you help, I mean it! When I say please let me know what I can do to help feel free to say you know things have been crazy and I have not had a chance to clean my bathroom, would you mind? Nope, not in the least!

On a brighter note, help comes from the most unexpected sources. Just when you think that you are going to starve on that island some stranger or family member that you never see stops in and lifts a little piece of your burden. It is those little lifts that keep you moving forward and able to function even if it is simply in body!