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Calling "twins!"

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of teaching through hands-on experience. I believe that the best way for kids to learn how to behave in public is by taking them out in public. Kids learn best by getting down and dirty-- using a fork (very messy), going down stairs (very slow), getting dressed (so hard not to just pull their arm through the ever-elusive arm hole), or "helping" you (C now needs a towel to help me wipe down the high chairs after meals). And I've had many people comment on the amount of bookcases in every room of my house that my kids-- seemingly-- leave alone: baby-proofing through repetition ("do not touch the books... do not touch the books... do not touch the books...").

As every well-meaning, opinionated stranger will tell you, your kids have to learn. I remember this lady at Target eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with D, telling him that we can't buy some hundred-million-small-parts-toy because his brothers could choke on the pieces. Her great advice? "Tell them they can't play with certain toys. They need to learn what's theirs and what isn't." It was such great advice that I should have brought her back to my house to enforce that practice... instead, I smiled and thanked her, moving my hoard to a more private end of the aisle. Honestly, allow my (then) three-year old to play with a choking hazard and expect my mobile twins to not swallow the small parts??

But how do I teach them what they can and can't do while maintaining my sanity? Case in point: unloading the dishwasher. As you may have seen on my Facebook page, my kitchen is not baby-proof. We have an open floor plan and cannot gate off our kitchen. Earlier this week (unloading the dishwasher has become more than a chore-- it is now an event), I unloaded the dishwasher when the toddlers were not contained, not in highchairs or napping. As soon as the "click" of the dishwasher let out its siren call (I can just imagine the sound resonating down the hallway to their little ears), the toddlers swarmed. C tried to climb on the dishwasher door ("No, no, no!" Do I always sound like a Ferbie?) while O attempted to eat the top rack. I pushed them back, only for C to climb under the dishwasher door-- angrily, because it is not an easy route.

I quickly took everything out of the dishwasher and stacked the clean dishes on the counter. I slammed shut the dishwasher and sighed. How to teach two toddlers to leave such a fascinating appliance alone? When I tell C "no, no" and move him away, O is making his move and grabbing the silverware (and then I need to wash the silverware again). While I'm putting O in the sunroom, away from the dishwasher, C is attempting to throw all of my dishes across the room (broken dishes = huge hazard). And loading the dishwasher is even worse. Granted, I do not want to be re-washing all my dishes or replacing broken dishware; however, I do not want my precious one-year olds running their hands on dirty, germy dishes then immediately shoving their hands in their mouths-- yuck! So what are my options?

Right now I discreetly put dishes and flatware in the dishwasher whenever there is a "break." The boys are out pushing trucks in the sunroom? Time to put load up some dirty dishes. Most often, I load or unload during mealtimes and do the bulk of my dishes while my husband puts the kids to bed. I feel like a crazy person, waiting for an opportunity to do my "dirty work." I sneak into the garage to clean the catbox. I sort laundry as I'm shoving clothing pieces into the washer, straight from the hamper (hmmm... how did a red sock end up in the white load?). Folded laundry is kept in the basket, easy to move away from curious one-year olds and I have seriously debated getting a laundry hamper for each room just so I can easily shove the folded piles into the closet when company comes over. (I do hear that some people put away their laundry, like, in those large pieces of furniture standing around in your bedroom? I'm not sure how that works, but I am all ears!)

And naptime. I insisted that business as usual proceed with my oldest. I vacuumed and unloaded the dishwasher, putting away all the dishes, when he slept. With two 15 and a half month olds... I do things very different. I have a bright blue sign for my front door, "NAPPING TWINS" that hopefully scares the UPS man away from the doorbell. I actually caught myself telling my oldest to wait on flushing the toilet until after his brothers were up from nap. Realizing how ridiculous that sounded, I used the California-water-shortage excuse (yes, we live in North Carolina). And, while I do dishes, we do not do "loud" dishes while they sleep. General loading or unloading, fine. Stacking dishes, no. Putting away pots and pans, no. Showering during naptime is usually fine. Blow drying my hair during naptime is never fine (and maybe I like the frizzy, beach head look, okay?).

As Jane Roper says in Double Time: How I Survived-- and Mostly Thrived-- the First Three Years with Twins about pacifier usage with her twin girls, "And let me interject here just to say that pacifiers were one of those things--along with cloth diapers and no TV before two years old-- that we might have attempted with one baby but we totally cried 'twins!' on." You could say that I have called "twins!" on a lot of things around here lately: pool trips, trips to playgrounds (two toddlers up high on a playground? Can you say "trip to the ER"?), grocery shopping, going out in the afternoon, remembering what day of the week it is, arriving on time... I mean, I can add more and more to the list. Time slips away from me. I plan on calling a friend to meet up early in the week, but we have a really bad Monday, Tuesday is a little better so I get Monday's things done, but I have an appointment for one of the boys on Wednesday which involves dropping the other two off at childcare, and suddenly it's Thursday and I still haven't called my friend. Or, my husband's favorite, he comes home and I am still in pajamas. I defend myself, "We really did get stuff done today." Husband, "I believe you! So, what's for dinner?" Me, "Can I just say now that you should never ask me what's for dinner or else you will be cooking it?"

I still don't know how I can enforce all the lessons I enforced with my oldest. At the playdate today, O was having "Mommy issues" and wanted me to hold him. While I'm holding him, C is dominating the play area, stealing toys and being generally wild. How do I tell a toddler with no words that I need to go take care of another wild toddler? When I set O down, he buried his face in anger and screamed. I then refocused my other toddler, who was angry I was refocusing him. His body language plainly said, "I am content stealing everyone's toys and throwing them. Let me be." So then I have two angry toddlers. Hmmm.

Or the other day when my four-year old was riding bikes with my husband. C and O were fascinated by the bikes. I sat on the curb with them and told them, "Sit on the curb. No going in the street." O sat on the curb. He kicked his legs and smiled at me. C dedicated all of his energy into climbing off the curb into the street. Round and round we went. By the end of it, I doubt he even really wanted to be in the street, he just wanted to win. I repeated over and over again, "Sit... no, sir... sit... no, sir..." Oh, he was mad. Finally having had enough, I decided going inside was the best option. O, who sat like a gentleman the entire time, did not want to go inside. His body language said, "Why am I being punished because my brother can't sit?" Not able to leave either of them unattended while I carried the other in the house (by the road, a four-year old on a bike, etc), I scooped up C and tried to convince O to walk. O crumpled in an angry toddler puddle. C, realizing that we were leaving his beloved street, writhed in my arms until I had to set him down to also crumple in an angry toddler puddle. Hmmm. If my oldest had behaved that way at the same age, I would have stood by and said, "I know you are mad. It's okay to be mad." I would have picked him up and brought him inside, reaffirming his feelings yet guiding him to a better way to handle his feelings. With two angry 15 and a half month olds dragging their angry selves towards a street while my four-year old is riding around on a bike, the best-- and safest-- plan for me was to bring them in the house, "I know you are mad. It is time to go inside. I am sorry you are so upset." I gave them "quiet time" in separate areas of the house, C playing in the sunroom with a toy, O playing in the family room with a toy. They calmed down and we moved on.

I'm calling "twins!" on the toddler years.

"Whatever gets you through the night, it's allright, it's allright.
Do it wrong or do it right, it's allright, it's allright..."
-John Lennon


Korinthia Klein said…
What a great post. My brothers are twins, and my mom's descriptions of what it was like chasing after both of them at once as toddlers made me very glad that all my kids came one at a time.
Kimber said…
Haha-- it has been an adventure! :)
Mel said…
I have to admit this post made me laugh because I totally know what you mean! I'm going to have to remember "calling twins!" I can relate to your nap time ritual - my mother always fusses that my twins need to get "used" to noise during nap time, but to me it is my only break during the day so I'm surely not going to do anything to wake them up! I tell her she can come deal with them if the noise wakes them up, haha! Found your blog through Multiples and More and look forward to more posts :)
Kimber said…
I'm so glad you stopped by! Yes... somethings just aren't the same when you are dealing with TWO toddlers. :P

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