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Keep calm and carry on

Awhile ago I was at the park and a woman approached me, "Twins?" When I said yes, she continued, "I have twins too. They are in school now. People always used to tell me, 'It gets easier,' when they were small and I wish someone had just told me the truth. It doesn't get easier. It gets harder. So. Much. Harder. I didn't even know, but now I do." Even more disconcerting, she had a haggard, worn expression on her face as she said this. Her khaki cargo capris were wrinkled and her heather pink scooped neck t-shirt looked stretched from too many wears. I listened to her explain all the challenges of having older children-- specifically twins-- and then she quoted a well-known Mommy expression, "Little people, little problems. Big people, big problems."

I've said these very things. I say, "Little people, little problems. Big people, big problems." I went through the first two years with my oldest who was a colicky breath holder thinking, "Okay, it will get easier." I went through the first year with our twins thinking, "Okay, one day I will feel like I have this under control." And then-- BAM-- three-years old hit with my oldest and I felt like I had no clue what I was doing. And then-- BAM-- two-years old hit with our twins and I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing.

That lady at the park was a little bit of a Debbie Downer. Man, she really let me know how she felt about things. I can tell you, standing there listening to her with a four-year old singing "I Believe I Can Fly" at the top of his lungs while climbing up a slide and two two-year olds throwing sand in the sandbox, I felt like, "Well, crap."

I think often times, we as mommies hang on and hope for the next stage. I think this hope that the next stage will be easier keeps us going on hard days. I think we like to classify bad or hard to manage behaviors as "phases." For instance, I told one of my girlfriends the other day that my oldest is going through a "Silly Phase" because I caught him lapping water out of the dog bowl. In reality, not sure if that is a phase or just a four-year old being a four-year old. I don't think that is a bad way of looking at things because these are different phases for them. Our two-year olds will eventually learn to sleep in a bed, just as our oldest did. One day-- in the far off future-- our toddlers will potty train, just as our oldest did. Some of these phases are harder to deal with than others and some are easy breezy. I just think that sometimes this "phase mentality" has a way of being a huge letdown when the next phase is worse than the previous or when you realize that each one of these phases has brought with it a new set of challenges, some more difficult than the last. When does it get easier?

I wrote a blog post about this awhile ago called, "It gets easier." I have had more and more challenges the older the boys get. D is our first and so each new age is breaking new ground with us. Every age he turns is new territory. We never had a newborn before him. We never had a toddler before him. We never had a preschooler before him. With the twins, we feel like we know what to expect in each age since their older brother has been that age. We know how hard it is through the first and second year as they teeter on the brink of developmental milestones-- almost crawling, almost walking, almost talking. We know how frustrating it is for the little guys and how that frustration affects their moods. We feel like we know what is coming. But once it comes we have to balance it with taking care of their older sibling-- who is at a different developmental stage than them-- and some of these stages have been uniquely challenging with two children reaching them at the same time.

The first three months for us were a bit crazy with twins. It was a big adjustment figuring out how to balance two babies at the same time, from the feeding schedule and the sleep schedule to the constant diaper changes and getting out of the house for the many pediatric appointments. Once I got that down then I had the challenge of balancing the two different age groups. It was a lot of busy work moving around two babies, but they were both interested in bouncy seats and swings and both comforted easily with a diaper change, feed, or nap. It was harder with their older brother who wanted to "help," often times waking sleeping twins or accidentally being too rough (yes, I have caught him trying to put his newborn brothers in the swings!). And, as I'm sure most older siblings are at some point or another, he would be jealous that we were spending so much time with the babies. I remember the walking phase as being the hardest for him. We would help the babies learn to walk, applauding their efforts, and D would put on this jiggly leg walk and coo as he toddled towards us, often times knocking his brothers over and getting in trouble for it. There were times we felt like a three-ring circus, juggling all the needs of all three of children while trying to keep a household running and my husband's grades up in college.

I still think having twins is an advantage in so many respects. Dealing with different age groups is really hard. I can't take all three boys to the places in the children's museum that my four-year old is interested in; those places aren't age appropriate for two-year olds. I can take the toddlers without our oldest to the children's museum just fine; they play together in the two-year olds area happily. As the toddlers have gotten older, they have steered more and more away from just epic toy battles to having a buddy to play with. They may be tearing apart my house, but they are happy to do it together. There are many afternoons when the toddlers are napping that D sighs and asks when his brothers are going to wake up; it makes the thought pop in my head that he wouldn't be so bored during his brothers' afternoon nap if he had a twin.

I guess all of this is a build up to the fact that our twins are two-years old and it is a crazy phase that I have not been enjoying for the past week. Not enjoying at all. I feel grouchy. I feel like I wish my mom lived closer. I feel like I want to drive over to my girlfriend's house and spend the afternoon sitting on her kitchen barstool while she whips up something nummy to eat. I feel like I want to spend the entire day reading and drinking coffee.

Here is how our day has gone so far:

The toddlers screamed at the kitchen counter for bananas while I told them they needed a diaper change first. One of the toddlers reached up and pulled the fruit basket down on top of his head, making him scream with pain and anger. The other toddler quickly grabbed a banana and tried to hide from me.

Both toddlers screamed through breakfast: yogurt spilled in his lap, yogurt spilled on the table, a drop of yogurt fell from his spoon onto the carpet and he won't eat until I clean it up, neither wanted their face or hands cleaned before getting down from the table.

I wrestled through getting them out of pajamas and into clothes. They tried to eat Play Doh. They threw a fit when I wouldn't let them eat Play Doh. They threw Play Doh containers at me. They got in trouble. They screamed. I wondered how they even got the Play Doh containers and were running around the house with them {insert guilty older brother}.

I got ready in 10 minutes and forgot to brush my hair. The toddlers emptied all the toy bins in that 10 minutes. And somehow got the Play Doh again, but this time it wasn't older brother's fault.

They didn't want to put on shoes to leave the house. One found size 4 sandals when they wear a size 8 and was furious I didn't let him wear them. One would only put on his shoes if sitting in a certain chair yet when I put him in that chair to put on shoes he wouldn't give me his feet. They didn't want to walk down the front steps. They didn't want me to help them down the front steps. They didn't want to walk down the front walk. They didn't want to climb in the van. They didn't want me to help them in the van. They didn't want to sit in their carseats or have their carseats buckled. They didn't want their window down in the van. They didn't want the toys their older brother was offering them to get them to stop crying. They cried when he put the toys down, but when he picked them back up again they threw the toys.

They didn't want to sit in their stroller. They didn't want to hold the toys I gave them to sit in the stroller (toys from the van). They were mad when I put the toys back in the van. They screamed when I pushed the stroller. They screamed through the store. They screamed at the check out. They screamed when I put them back in the van.

They screamed when we walked into Chick-Fil-A. Then they saw the playground and squealed with delight. They sat obediently and took off their shoes. They played happily on the playground. They sat down in high chairs and ate like gentleman. One of the toddlers ate his nuggets and his fries; the other toddler at all his nuggets and all D's nuggets. Then they went and played. I thought, "Sweet. Finally, a break in the clouds." No. They started running in and out of the play area and getting dangerously close to smashing their fingers in the door. This became the game-- running in and out of the play area-- so we left. They screamed when we put on shoes. They threw themselves on the ground and screamed. I struggled to get them out of Chick-Fil-A. I got them to the van and they ran into the bushes outside Chick-Fil-A. I pulled them out of the bushes as they screamed. They screamed as I buckled them into carseats. They screamed all the way home before falling asleep as we turned into our neighborhood.

And now they are not napping in their room because we just had to switch to toddler beds because they kept climbing out of their cribs, despite our best efforts to keep them in their cribs. I am exhausted. And it is barely 2 pm.

Little people, little problems.

A couple months ago while I had my miscarriage and molar pregnancy, my middle sister was moving across country with a one-year old, both of us calling my mom saying, "I need you." Before that, my mom had four teenagers, homeschooling me for my senior year of high school and my middle sister for about three years of high school. Now, my siblings and I live all over the United States and she works a full-time job, finally finishing her degree when my youngest sister was in high school-- making three college students living under one roof, myself, my middle sister, and my mother. When things go wrong for me, I call my mom. How will I feel when I get the phone call, "Mom, we lost the baby," or, "Mom, my husband is underway and the baby has a 105.3 fever"? I can't imagine how my mom felt when she watched her grown daughter rushed off in an ambulance from an asthma attack. I can't imagine how my mom felt when I went into pre-term labor at 5 months with my oldest, which they thankfully stopped. And those are just my problems; I have three other siblings who have their own lives.

Big people, big problems.

I don't want to be that haggard mom at the park. I don't want to be beaten down by motherhood or feel like I've lost myself. The phases come and go. No, it doesn't get easier. But it gets better. I love my relationship with my mother now. She is still my mother, but she is also my friend. I can talk to her about things as adult. (Even better, she's been through what I'm going through and has wonderful advice!) I need her in my life. I love seeing that she's calling me to chat and I love when I'm visiting and we go out to lunch together. I just love being around her.

And now I'm building a relationship with my own children. It isn't always easy or fun. But, oh, how rewarding it is. How my heart fills up when one of our toddlers says a new word. How we laugh when they do something silly. How I burst with pride when our preschooler tells me about something he's learned or tells me a story. How loved I feel when each of our boys comes to give me a kiss before bed. How content I feel when I peek in their rooms before I go to bed and see them peacefully sleeping.

Today I felt in over my head. People were looking at me with horror (maybe I misinterpreted their expressions-- haha!). How do you discipline two two-year olds appropriately in a crowded fast food joint? Forget that, how do I get them all to the van as quickly as possible? How am I going to get them to nap at home in toddler beds? How am I going to let our four-year old know that I understand it is hard on him right now, but he's doing a great job?

Who knows if I did right today. Who knows if my four-year old really understands how proud of him I am for how he behaved today or if my two-year olds really understand how much I love them. I'm trying and my heart overflows for these boys. In the end, I think they are worth it. Whether or not it will ever get easier, it will only get better and better.


Your day with the toddlers sounds an awful lot like a day with my oldest...except I only have one at that stage right now!

Reading all of this reminded me of something I have saved on my phone:

"Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own. To teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing (even when you dont know what the right thing is), and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong".
Kimber said…
I love that quote! I am definitely writing that down in my journal!!

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