Young Twins Who Hit and Bite: Are We To Blaim?

A few weeks ago, I was watching an Internet video where a set of twins sitting in high chairs were interacting with each other. Mom (I assume) was behind the camera, obviously amused by one of her twins (Twin A) playfully slapping his brother in the face and on the head. The camera keeps rolling as he slaps, slaps, slaps. The cotwin (Twin B) doesn’t seem happy but sits passively as his brother continues to smack him. But after a few minutes, he clearly has enough, and leans over and slaps his brother back. “Twin A” is stunned by the retaliation, and doesn’t like it one bit. The situation then escalates as each tries to out-slap the other.

You could see that this is not going to end well.

Sure enough, “Twin B” outmaneuvers his cotwin, grabs a hold of his hand and bites down. Hard. You can hear mom gasp at the sight of the sudden turn of events as “Twin A” begins to wail in pain.

It’s at this point that the video abruptly ends.

This type of behavior is pretty common between twins. Hitting, kicking, biting…I get many emails from frustrated parents on how to stop it. But this video made it pretty clear—we, the parents, can be part of the problem. We think some playful slaps are “cute,” and like this mom, we grab the camera to document it for posterity rather than trying to redirect the misbehavior or put a stop to it. But unfortunately, when we laugh at our kids antics, the bad behavior is only reinforced. (“Hey, mom grabbed the camera! She likes this! I think I’ll do it again for her approval.”)

But before you think that I’m judging too harshly, I’m not. You see, I was that mother.

African American twin girlsWhen my twins were about six months old, they would sit at my dining room table in their tot-locks (those portable highchairs that clip to the lip of a table) directly across from one another. One day, while happily sucking on their morning sippy cups (color-coded, of course), they decided to trade by tossing their cups overhand across the table for the other to catch. I thought this was adorable! Ingenious! They were sharing! It was a total “twin-thing!” It never occurred to me, however, that this conduct could be dangerous, that someone could get hurt. Or, that my boys would internalize this practice and come to think that throwing objects at each other—inside, no less—was perfectly normal and acceptable.

Then a new friend and her newborn came over to visit during this morning exchange. As she sat there with her infant sleeping in her arms, my boys began their morning ritual of sharing sippy cups. Toss, sip, toss, sip, toss, sip. “Isn’t that cute?” I asked. But she didn’t respond. I could tell she felt uncomfortable. It slowly dawned on me why she was speechless but by then it was too late. Suddenly, her baby woke up and began to cry.

Yup. You guessed it. One of the sippy cups whacked her baby right on the head! I apologized profusely, realizing that I had inadvertently helped create this inappropriate behavior. But it was too late. Not only did I never see this woman again, but I had a heck of a time breaking my boys of this habit.

Lesson learned.

What Having Twins Has Taught Me

They say hindsight is 20/20. This is especially obvious to me, a mom of multiples. As my twins are rapidly approaching their twentieth birthday—almost full-grown men—I look back at their lives with a sense of awe and admiration. But I also reflect on my time as their mother (at times, a bit too critically) and see a few things crystal clear that weren’t back then. If only I could turn the clock back. Here is what having twins has taught me.

I’ll never get my pre-pregnancy body back.

Sorry but it’s true. I’ve gotten close—within five pounds close—but all my body parts have shifted south. And all that talk I heard about stomach crunches sculpting my abdomen? Lies. (At least for me.) You see, I gained a respectable 60 pounds during my twin pregnancy (at the time, that was more than 50 percent of my pre-pregnancy body weight), and something just had to give. For me, that meant the look of my stomach which was stretched beyond humanly possible. Obviously, the pay off was worth it—my boys made it to term and tipped the scales at 6′ 8″ and 6′ 12″ respectively, and spent no time in NICU. Yet, my body paid the price. My stomach still resembles a deflated balloon. Not that I’m complaining. Well, at least not a lot. Even after 20 years, I still on occasion stand in front of the mirror and pull that extra “twin skin” taut just to remind myself of what I used to look like, or fantasize about what it would be like getting that expensive tummy-tuck.

But it’s all good. (Really, you ask?) Yes, really. Clothes can hide a lot of body flaws especially with today’s shapewear as it smooths everything out. If you saw me fully dressed, you’d hardly know that my stomach is a bit scary to look at. Besides, a 50-something-year-old woman really has no business wearing a bikini to the beach anyway (unless, of course, she’s Christie Brinkley).

It takes a village (and a really good double stroller) to raise twins.

I remember once when I was about 20 weeks pregnant with my twins, I went shopping for nursery supplies. The sales women were very friendly and helpful, especially when they found out I was expecting twins. “Will you have help?” they asked cheerfully. I can honestly say that it had never occurred to me until that exact moment that I would need help. I don’t know what I was thinking my life with twins would be like. Perhaps I was caught in a prenatal fantasy, imagining two sweet cherubs napping peacefully rather than crying endlessly or refusing to nap. Fortunately, I woke up just in time. I immediately went home and began thinking about who I could recruit to help me out during those first few months—my mother-in-law, my girlfriends, the pre-teen next door. Thankfully I put a plan into action that saved my sanity.

No, you can’t do it all alone. Or, at least, you shouldn’t. Although it is possible to nurse or feed both babies at the same time, or even put them both down for a nap at the same time, there is a learning curve to this mothering multiples thing. I’d say about a two-month learning curve. And until that golden moment arrives when you can honestly say, “No worries, I got this,” get yourself some help.

Hand with marker writing, What have you learned?It’s my own fault for buying a white couch.

No matter how well-mannered I thought my toddler twins were, it was just a matter of time before they put a few good muddy shoe prints on that pristine palate I called a sofa. It’s not their fault—it’s what kids do. Instead, it was my fault. What was I thinking? Fortunately, I learned my lesson. The next couch I bought was leather. Best. Decision. Ever. Leather can take a beating and still look great. Choose black or brown leather, and look for an overstuffed sofa with no tufting (the buttons eventually pop out making the sofa look ratty before it’s time).

And forget about that high-end screen door with the super sheer netting. It did its job so well, that my twin boys could barely see that it was there, and sadly ran right through it more times than I’d care to admit. In less than a year, it was worthless.

I bought those $40 Stride Rite toddler sneakers and $30 Levi jeans just once. Nine times out of ten, my boys would outgrow clothes even before they put them on for the first time. Instead, I should have cherished the hand-me-downs more, and opened a Target credit card sooner (you get five percent back with every purchase).

So what’s the take-away lesson here? Dark colors, rugged fabrics, and save the really nice stuff until your twins hit the age of ten. If not older!

I should have saved more for my twins’ college tuition.

Double duty tuition bites. Trust me as I’m in the thick of it right now. And, no, financial aid won’t bail you out as everyone else is vying for a piece of that pie. (Learned that the hard way, too.) While it’s true that the more kids you have in college at the same time, the more financial aid you will qualify for, schools don’t necessarily have to give it to you. In other words, qualifying for financial aid is no guarantee that you’ll get it from a school.

Instead be smart and open two 529 college savings accounts the minute those babies burst onto the scene. Some 529 plans let you add as little as $25 a month if your sign up for automatic deposits. Add birthday money and holiday checks from Grandma and Grandpa into the mix, increase the amount of your automatic deposit every year (some plans let you automate that as well), and by the time your twins reach 18, you should have a decent sum. (Even if your twins decide not to go to college, you can roll the money over to younger siblings without penalty.)

Furthermore, make school and grades a priority. Yes, your twins may be awesome soccer, tennis, track or [fill in the blank] athletes, but the chances that they’ll be recruited by a university are very, very slim (less than two percent of high-school seniors win NCAA scholarships). Instead, when they are little focus on language acquisition and then reading. If you have a pair of voracious readers, it will pay off hugely not only in good grades but in higher SAT/ACT scores, and ultimately in academic scholarships directly from the universities that your twins are interested in attending.

So, I’m curious….what has having twins taught you about parenting or about life in general? Please comment below!

Document Your Twins’ Lives One Second at a Time

Happy 2016 everyone! I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions as I always seem to break the same tired promises—take better care of myself (more vegetables, less bacon), save more money (retirement, hello?), and practice patience (yeh, right). But this morning, an article in the New York Times caught my eye. In Why I Recorded a One-Second Video (Almost) Every Day in 2015, journalist Daniel Victor explains why he decided to chronicle his life by taking short, one-second video clips every day, and stringing them together into one continuous movie using the app, 1 Second Everyday. I watched his roughly six-minute video and I was intrigued. So much so that I downloaded the app and started a project of my own today. And I thought, “This would be great for parents of twins.” (Well, any parent really but since this blog is geared towards moms and dads of multiples….)

For me, the appeal is simple. I’m getting older and forgetting more! Every day seems to blend into the next. I simply want to remember my life as it feels so fleeting the older I get. Furthermore, my twins are grown and in college; my youngest just finished his last college application today and will be heading out the door come fall. I’m afraid of the “Empty Nest Syndrome,” since it was not an easy adjustment 18 months ago when my twins left for school. For the past 20 years, it’s been all about the kids, and I want to rediscover myself now before the last kid leaves the nest.

boy-girl twins on white rugBy committing to documenting my life every day for a year, it’s my hope that I’ll take more chances with my life. I’ll force myself to go out and visit museums, parks, theaters, parties, wherever! It’s my hope that I’ll get more involved in the world around me since a year from now, I’ll hardly want to watch a movie of myself just sitting on the couch or driving to work. The app, 1 Second Everyday, is fun and easy to use. And after my first day on the project, I believe what Victor says is true, there is a beginning, middle, and end to a one-second video clip. It’s amazing.

And what about you, tired parents to twins? Why did I think of you? Because when I was a new parent with young twins, days seemed long and often isolating (I was a stay-at-home mom for more than 10 years). Documenting my twins lives’ through video and photography, however, gave me a sense of purpose and helped me through many a lonely day. I thought, “If I can’t control the chaos, at the very least I can document it!” Plus, it’s always such fun to look back at those “good ‘ole days,” and laugh at the craziness and mess of early parenthood. (My favorite was when I would sit with each child and video tape a one-on-one interview. I would ask questions such as: What’s your favorite color? What do you want for Christmas? Who’s your best friend? Stuff like that.)

Not into taking a video a day? (Even though you have your phone on you all the time anyway?) Then how about another project to document your children’s lives? For the past five years, every week I’ve taken a photograph of my youngest, singleton son in the same spot, posing in the same position. It took just a second to click off a photo, and once a week wasn’t a big commitment. But the results are fascinating—stringing them together (again, using a photo app), I can see how he’s grown and changed over the years. He loves looking at it too (although he won’t admit that) as it was just a project between us, no twin brothers involved.

Yes, I know we are a Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, look-what-I’m-eating-for-dinner, self-obsessed culture, but there is something sweet and meaningful about documenting the every-day life of your family, about searching for the special in the ordinary. After all, time passes much too quickly even life with twins.

My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week: The Ultimate Planner for Moms Expecting Twins

When I was pregnant with twins w-a-a-a-a-y back when, few books on the subject existed. But from the handful of books that were available I quickly learned that my twin pregnancy was very different from a singleton pregnancy, and that I needed to take extra special care of myself. For instance, I had to make sure I was getting enough calories and protein each day as proper weight gain was paramount to the health of my babies. Keeping the numerous doctors’ appointments and scheduled prenatal tests was also important. It was a bit overwhelming, to say the least. So to help keep track of it all, I used a pocket calendar to jot down what I ate during day to make sure I met my caloric goals, and to notate the various doctor and clinic appointments I had scheduled throughout the month. But it wasn’t long before I was also using that calendar for just about everything associated with my twin pregnancy—to stuff photos of interesting nursery designs that I had ripped from the pages of magazines (remember, this was pre-Pinterest) as well as ultrasound photos of my growing babies. By the time my babies were born, that little notebook was bulging with pregnancy mementoes, so much so that I thought, “Hey, I should create a twin pregnancy planner.”

Fast forward 19 years.

My Twin Pregnancy Week By Week: The Ultimate Planner for Moms Expecting Twins, is now available! Nearly two decades in the making, and a true labor of love, the book is designed for moms-to-be like you, expecting not one but two. Want to know what the book is all about? Below is an excerpt from the introduction which covers the scope of the book. Feel free to tell me what you think of it by making a comment below.

Introduction

My Twin Pregnancy Week By Week

Checklists throughout the planner keep you on track making sure you get everything done before your babies arrive.

Expecting twins? That is so exciting! But it is also a bit overwhelming and a little scary, isn’t it? You have heard the stories, I am sure, of how you will need to take extra special care of yourself, more so than if you were expecting just one baby. For instance, you will need to gain a bit more weight than you first thought, concentrating on getting enough protein in your diet. (Appropriate weight gain in a twin pregnancy is your Number One defense against preterm labor and delivery.) You will also need to slow down, cutting back dramatically on your exercise regimen as physical activity may increase the odds of preterm labor. And get ready for plenty of doctor visits, too, as you are going to be monitored more carefully, undergoing more tests than if you were expecting a single baby. But the payoff will all be worth it. Just imagine—two babies to love and nurture. Two siblings who will grow up together, establishing a bond that will last throughout their lives. How cool is that? Yes, it is exciting expecting twins but it is also a lot of work. But don’t worry, you picked up the right book to help you through this journey of a lifetime.

MY TWIN PREGNANCY WEEK BY WEEK

My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week is a planner and journal designed with you in mind—the mom expecting twins. Unlike pregnancy planners and journals geared toward women pregnant with just a single child (or ‘singleton,’ as we like to say), My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week zeroes in on your special needs, your unique circumstances. Everything in this planner focuses on a multiple pregnancy, systematically taking you through all nine months, helping you not only get your body in optimal shape, but also your home and family organized and ready for the arrival of twins.

My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week

Journal entries throughout the book help you document your pregnancy journey.

For instance, the planner tracks your weekly weight gain, pregnancy symptoms, questions to ask your doctor and your prenatal test results. Checklists throughout the book help you stay on track with your diet, your baby budget, your maternity clothes shopping, your nursery room planning, and your twin layette. There is also plenty of room to display photos of your growing double bump as well as ultrasound photos of your twin babies. And finally, there’s plenty of opportunity to write down your thoughts and feelings during this exciting time in your life in the journal sections of the book.

But most importantly, My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week is a planner for the busy mom-to-be who likes to have lots of information, organizational charts, and to-do lists right at her fingertips.

HOW TO USE THIS PLANNER

My Twin Pregnancy Week By Week

Notate all your pre-pregnancy stats so you can clearly see your twin pregnancy progress.

Organized into chapters (or weeks), My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week is completely user-friendly. To coincide with a typical twin pregnancy, the planner begins at Week Six, the time when many moms learn that they are carrying twins (but if you first learn the news at Week Eight or even Week Ten, it is no big deal, just start tracking your progress from that point on), and concludes with Week 37. Why Week 37, a whole three weeks earlier than the standard pregnancy planner? Remember that yours is a special pregnancy, one where research has now shown that the optimal time for delivery is Week 37, not Week 40. Most, but not all, obstetricians now recommend that their patients deliver if and when they reach Week 37.

The beginning of the planner has a Fact Sheet, a ledger where you can notate important names and numbers of all your doctors such as your obstetrician, perinatologist (a doctor who specializes in multiple pregnancies), and doula or birthing coach. You can input your important health data too, such as your due date, your pre-pregnancy weight and your weight-gain goal. Next up is a good old-fashioned checklist so you can quickly see at a glance all that needs to be accomplished before your babies make their appearance (think: checking on health insurance coverage, signing up for childbirth classes, choosing two names that go together well, organizing and preparing the nursery—all different for a mom pregnant with twins).

My Twin Pregnancy Week By Week

Each week offers tips and advice for a healthy twin pregnancy.

Then the planner takes you week by week through your pregnancy alerting you to specific details to a twin pregnancy as they occur. For instance, in Week 12, the planner reminds you to ask your doctor for a chorionicity scan to determine if your twins share a placenta (a risk factor for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a dangerous condition that affects approximately 15 percent of identical twins with a common placenta). There are plenty of useful charts included in My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week as well. For instance, in Week 8, you will find a Twin Pregnancy Food Diary so you can accurately track your daily caloric and protein intake—a must for a healthy pregnancy. A Twin Nursery Planning Graph is tucked into Week 14 or, take advantage of the Double Stroller Comparison Chart while shopping for baby equipment (Week 25), as the stroller is by far the most important purchase you will make. There is a Twin Layette Checklist in Week 33, and even a Daily Feeding and Diapering Chart (Week 36) to help you keep your head above water that first crazy month after your babies arrive. (All of these charts are also available to download for free at my website, Talk About Twins, http://christinabaglivitinglof.com/free-downloads.)

My Twin Pregnancy Week by Week

Easily collect paint and fabric swatches for your twin nursery.

And although this planner focuses on organization, you will find many medical tidbits peppered throughout the planner with Did You Know, facts that are specific to a twin pregnancy that will help you thrive, and Pregnancy Tips, little bits of wisdom and advice to help make your pregnancy a healthy one. The book culminates with the chapter, My Newborn Twins, where you can post your babies’ first photos, their footprints, notate the time they were born, and record each twin’s height and weight.

AND SO THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Carry this planner with you—drop it in your handbag; keep it in your briefcase. This way you will be ready to accurately track your weight, blood pressure, and test results every time you visit your obstetrician. But best of all, once your babies are born, this planner will become a treasured keepsake for years to come, one that you will want to someday share with your twins.

BUY NOW FROM AMAZON.

 



Bottle Feeding Twins: Tips and Tricks

Thank you to guest blogger, Vera C. Teschow, for this month’s post on bottle feeding twins. Vera is an educator and mother of identical twin boys. Read her full bio below.

The other day, while in a movie theater public restroom, I overheard some mothers of toddlers discussing their experiences with breastfeeding. “I breastfed Caleigh until she was three, but Sam was done at six months, and so was I!” laughed one mom. Another added, “Everyone kept telling me I should breastfeed for a year, but my first two were biters, and I just wasn’t putting up with that, so we switched to formula at around five months.”

I emerged from this unusual place of public discourse after washing my hands, and marveled at my boisterous twin boys, who were waiting for me out in the theater lobby. Somehow they had survived to the ripe old age of eleven, despite my own somewhat tumultuous early struggles with feeding them.

Before my twins were born, I had a firmly established plan to breastfeed exclusively for at least one full year before introducing other types of milk into their diet. But reading about breastfeeding is very different than the act of breastfeeding, especially when you have two fussy mouths to feed. Instead, there were tears and frustration, screaming and crying (both theirs and mine). Alas, our breastfeeding adventure lasted about a week, after which I pumped halfheartedly for another ten days or so. Finally, I took a different turn. From then on, I fully immersed myself into parenting my two, new babies with bottles full of formula and plenty of warm, loving snuggles.

No More Breastfeeding GuiltSmiling twin babies on blanket

There is so much guilt and mom-shaming surrounding those who can’t or choose not to breastfeed their newborn twins. But there doesn’t have to be. Yes, “breast is best” for many families, and if I had it to do over again, there are some things I would probably do differently early on to ensure a greater likelihood of breastfeeding success. (For instance, I would have let go of my ego and my inhibitions, and opened myself up to the practical advice and hands-on help from other women. But I was stubborn and wanted to do it all on my own.) But bottles may be better for many families, and rather than beating oneself up over a perceived failing, new moms (and their partners) who bottle feed should give up the guilt and instead focus on feeding effectively, and bonding with their twins.

One of the primary advantages touted by advocates of breastfeeding is the opportunity for mom and babies to establish a much closer relationship sooner. Interestingly, I recently saw a woman breastfeeding her baby with one arm, while holding a cell phone in the other arm, and fully engaged—not with the baby—but in the conversation with the person on the other end of the line. Not much mother-and-child bonding going on there.

Bottle Feeding Tips

Bottle feeding intentionally offers both parents (and grandparents, and siblings, and aunts and uncles) of twins the opportunity to bottle up and snuggle in close with one or both babies. I myself never mastered the double hold that I’d observed some bottle feeding twin moms achieve, but I took full advantage of various volunteers to bottle feed and engage with one baby, while I held, fed and chatted with the other. Once I stopped stressing about breastfeeding, I came up with ways to make bottle feeding more intimate, deepening my bond with my boys. For instance, I often bottle fed naked so that I could share skin-to-skin contact with my little ones. (The research cites many advantages to skin-to-skin contact such as regulating baby’s heart and breathing rates, and body temperature.) Their dad did this, too, during the first several weeks, and was able to engage with his new babies in ways in which fathers of breastfed babies are excluded.

Twin QuoteOne thing to remember when bottle feeding is to “rotate” babies for each feeding.  That is, if your preferred position is holding to the left, make sure to hold your babies to the right for half the feedings, if possible.  This will ensure more equal ocular development, as each eye will have a chance to be the “up” eye that gazes around while baby feeds, helping to strengthen the muscles in each eye. (With two or more babies to feed, it can be helpful to develop and use a tracking sheet, with not only the quantity consumed at each feeding, but also which side each baby was held on.)

No need to defend your choice to bottle feed. You can take heart in knowing that most commercial formulas are so nutritionally complete now that they even offer some vitamins and minerals that need to be supplemented for breast-fed babies.  Furthermore, most brands are carefully formulated to reduce or eliminate gassiness. And although it’s true that breastfeeding is free, and bottle feeding is not, it’s not uncommon or impolite to suggest a case of formula to visitors eager to see the new babies. This “entry fee” can help to offset the admittedly hefty cost of double formula.

Less time beating yourself up over your feeding choices, and more time bonding with your babies helps to ensure a positive parent-child relationship early on.

Whatever you end up doing, have fun, and enjoy the ride!

Vera C. Teschow is a certified teacher licensed pilot and mother of now 11–year-old monozygotic twins.  She is a former TPOMBA volunteer coordinator, and currently teaches web-based  prenatal classes for families expecting multiples, which includes an in-depth look at both breast and bottle feeding. Visit Vera online at www.BabiesinBelly.com or www.verateschow.ca

Should Your Twins Attend the Same College?

College application season is right around the corner, and if you’re the parent to twins, buckle up for it’s going to be a bumpy ride! Yes, applying to college is stressful but when you have two applying at the same time, it can be a bit unbearable.

Whew! Glad that part of our lives is a thing of the past!

As many of my readers know, my fraternal twin sons just finished their first year of college. But what my readers may not know is that my boys attend the same university. While many twins deliberately choose different school (and others intentionally decide to head off to school together), my guys didn’t have an opinion either way. “It’s a non-issue,” they’d say when asked the question (and believe me, people asked often). “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

Yet a number of confluences led them to the same school—each wanted to stay in the state of California, for instance, and after coming from a small, Catholic high school, each wanted to attend a large, public university. Finances helped to further narrow each boy’s list of acceptances. As their parents struggling to pay for double-duty tuition, we quickly vetoed the private schools with $60,000-a-year price tags. So in the end, their choices were very limited, and it wasn’t a huge surprise when they both ended up at the same school.

So how did it go?

Thankfully pretty darn well. For instance, both boys adjusted to college life very quickly and had a positive first year experience (perhaps a bit too positive, I think, after seeing their first-semester grades). Score one in the “advantage” column. Although my twins did not room together, just knowing the other was right there on campus had to have helped each boy acclimate to the co-ed life a bit easier. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a sweeping generality: I believe that twins who attend the same college (and get along well) probably have a lower first-year drop out rate than singletons. This is not statistically proven, mind you, just anecdotal, but it rings true to me as many kids who drop out of school their freshman year do so because they have trouble finding a social group to bond with or the pangs of home sickness are just too overwhelming. Having your twins together on campus, however, not only helps to lessen the feelings of loneliness and isolation, but doubles your friend base as well.

As a parent, I loved that my twins were on the same schedule (no surprise there). Same winter break; same spring break. Great for planning the holidays and family vacations. Financially, however, there was no advantage to both boys attending the same school, at least their first year. (It’s worth noting that some universities do offer sibling discounts; just not my son’s school.) But this year, we hope to see some savings as we ended up purchasing a small, two-bedroom condo near the university for both boys to live in while attending school. The mortgage and property taxes together are actually cheaper than paying for both boys to live on campus or rent apartments off campus. It’s our hope to sell it in a few years and break even. They are still not sharing a room as each boy has brought in an outside roommate.

Still, a tiny part of me questions if it would have been better for each boy to go his separate way and attend a different school. Should I have pushed my boys just a bit more to go in different directions? There’s always that question in the back of my mind—do they rely too much on each other emotionally? But to be honest, I’m not really sure what that means. Does it mean, they consult each other for advice when things get tough? If so, isn’t that a good thing? When I ask them if they feel they are dependent on each other, they laugh at the suggestion saying they spend a lot of time apart—and they do—but I wonder nonetheless. (I’m a mother; worrying is what I do best!)

So is attending the same school hampering their individuation and leap to independent adulthood? Will it be harder for them to live separate lives as adults due to their time together in college?  It’s anyone’s guess. But my boys seem to be balancing their twin bond with their quest to be individuals just fine, thank you. And I couldn’t be more proud of them. Well, I guess I could be if they’d just study a bit more.

Books about twins

What I Really Want to Ask My Single-Born Son

“What’s it like to be the brother to a set of twins?” As much as I’d love to ask this question to my single-born son, I won’t. Although I want to understand my son’s experience as the younger, sibling to twins, I can’t ask. To me, it would sound a bit like the old joke: “Well, that’s enough of my talking about me. Let’s talk about you. So, what do you think of me?”

Get it? Even though I would be asking about him, I would still be focusing on his twin brothers. The question wouldn’t be about him after all—it would be about how he lives and functions in their world. Although I know in my heart that it would be insensitive to ask the question, I still want to.

But why?Three smiling boys.

Because I want to know his frustrations and pleasures as the younger sibling to twins so that I can parent him better. I want to know the things that I’m doing right by him and the issues where I’m failing. But I’ve made it my mission as a mother to try to not draw attention (or at least lessen the attention) to the fact that my single-born son has “celebrities” as brothers. No, my twins are not TV stars, pop sensations, or YouTube entrepreneurs; they’re just twins. Fraternal twin brothers. But that in itself often gives them celebrity status.

From the time that they were born, my twins have drawn attention from family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers. If you are the parent of twins you know exactly what I’m talking about. Even though twins are very common these days, they still have a magical aura about them. Everyone wants to know what it’s like being a twin, having a twin. So when people see twins out in public, they often stop and ask. But where does that leave the single-born sibling to twins who happens to be with them? Sadly, often standing there waiting for some attention too. It rarely comes.

As a parent, I try to focus on the three of my sons as brothers and as my children rather than “the twins” and “the singleton.” So I go to great lengths to lessen the attention on his brothers “as twins,” even though being the mother to twins is how I make an income! For instance, when he’s around I don’t talk about the books I’ve written about twins, or when I’m updating this blog. If my singleton walks into my office while I’m writing about twins, I quietly close my lap top. Even this week as I’m getting ready to interview my twin sons again for a blog post about the questions people constantly ask twins, I’m patiently waiting for a day when my singleton isn’t here.

Am I over thinking this? Am I being ridiculous? Are my methods a bit much? I don’t know! Maybe. Maybe not. I’d love to ask my singleton.

But I won’t.

Book by Christina Baglivi Tinglof

Twins Are Not Their Brothers’ Keepers

This guest post originally appeared on Multiples & More. 

This morning, I received a frantic phone call from one of my fraternal twin sons. “Mom?” he whispered presumably while hiding in the bathroom as he’s not allowed to make cell calls from school. “I forgot my calculator and my math final is in a half hour. Can you bring it to school?” Under normal circumstances, I would have said “no” (lovingly, of course) as I’m not the kind of mom who saves her kids from every little calamity. But this was different. It was his quarter final! I felt I had no choice but to get in the car and take the long, 40-minute round trip ride to his high school. But I was annoyed. Really annoyed.

twin boys in baseball capsWhen I arrived on campus, I ran into my other fraternal twin son (the one who remembered to bring his supplies to school that day). I handed off the calculator to him and asked him to give it to his cotwin. “And tell him I’m very annoyed,” I said as I walked off. But as I was driving home, thinking about what had transpired I realized I broke one of my own rules. Instead of dealing with my forgetful son on my own, I involved his cotwin. Rather than leaving the calculator in the office like we had agreed upon, I placed the onus on my son to not only get the devise to his cotwin in a timely manner but to reprimand him, too. I had made him his brother’s keeper, the disciplinarian, outing his cotwin’s careless behavior. And when it comes to parenting twins that’s a big no-no. It’s never a good idea to assign one twin as the enforcer of the other since even simple transgressions such as this one can suddenly escalate into all-out warfare and, I believe, fan the flames of twin rivalry. No, it’s better for each twin to be responsible for himself, and for parents to deal with each child separately.

I learned this lesson (and a few more) in the sixteen-plus years as a mom to multiples. You see, as my twins have gotten older, they’ve had a greater need to be seen as individuals. Long gone are the days when they would hold hands and run freely in the park together or snuggle at bedtime. Now if one walks out in the morning with an outfit similar to the other, it’s a game of rock-paper-scissors to see who will go back to change his clothes. It makes sense as they’re in the throes of adolescence, on the brink of manhood. Every kid their age wants to carve out an exclusive niche for himself. Being a same-sex twin, however, it’s just a bit harder. Although they are still best friends and great brothers, their twin label, at times, can be a hindrance to the ultimate goal of evolving into unique, individual men. My boys are still amazed, for instance, at how many of their schoolmates buy into the “twin mystique,” that all multiples are inseparable or when they assume all twins share everything. Although my sons enjoy being classmates (they have algebra and chemistry together), they never study for tests together, sit near each other in class, or swap homework. This, they say, confounds their peers.

As their mother, I try to be their biggest supporter. I’m not perfect, mind you, but I make every effort not to lump them together as a pair but to deal with them one-on-one. It’s always been my hope that in doing so others will follow suit. Or, at the very least, my behavior will encourage each boy to freely express his need for autonomy without worrying that it will hurt his cotwin’s feelings. It’s OK to want to go out without your cotwin, I tell them, to hang out with a friend alone or to be by yourself even if others seem surprised by the idea, including your cotwin.

For instance, last summer, one of my twins asked if he could go to summer camp. Alone. Since he had never spent a night away from his cotwin (not unusual for multiples, by the way), I thought it was a great idea. Twins need to have time apart from each other and as parents, we should try to make that happen. But once we chose a camp located on a rugged island where he would work as a counselor-in-training, his cotwin showed interest in going, too. (Who wouldn’t want to go to summer camp on an island?) But I stepped in and lovingly put the kibosh on the idea. Although the camp-going son would have accepted his brother tagging along (after all, he’s used to having his cotwin around), I advocated for his going alone. I gladly accepted the role as the bad guy so he could experience life as a singleton even if just for a week. His cotwin would just have to make other plans for the summer. He did and all worked out well.

Although I miss the days when my twins were little guys, I love this time of life. It’s fascinating to watch their relationship grow, mature, evolve—friends one minute, enemies the next. On the one hand, they’re polar opposites, yet they’ll always be interconnected as twins. They’ll always understand each other a little more than anyone else, including their future spouses. I will always be mesmerized by their very special relationship but I’ll continue to support both publicly and privately their right to be two, separate individuals.

This is the yin-yang of their twinship, and it is indeed powerful.

My Twins Compete to Be Heard

Question of the Week: My boys, Jack and Riley, are turning nine years old in July. They are simply not able to tell us about a shared experience they have had. For instance, we recently asked them to tell us about their stay at a friend’s farm. They talked over each other, each speaking louder and louder, competing to see who could tell us the most. It is always very frustrating and always ends with one, or all of us, angry. I would like to know how to get them to feel that they can each tell us about their shared experiences knowing that the other twin will leave some details for the other.
—J.A.

A: I have to admit that I smiled when I read this question, and if I am totally honest, I laughed a bit too. No, I’m not insensitive; just the opposite. I understand this problem completely as we had this exact same issue when my fraternal twin sons were young.

For us, it began when our boys shared a preschool classroom together. Every day it was a race home to see who could get to me first to relate the events of the day. And, as you pointed out, each boy would try to cram in as much information as he could, speaking over his brother—louder and faster—in an effort to drown out his brother. It never worked. Both boys always ended up bickering with each other, or worse, in tears. I just ended up exasperated and annoyed.identical twin boys

But as my husband and I talked about this frustrating situation, we realized that their actions were actually appropriate considering their circumstances. At that time, my young twins shared just about everything together—mealtime, bath time, bed time, and now even a preschool classroom. They never had a solo experience, a unique event that they could call their own and share with the family. Once we realized this, we changed course. We separated them in kindergarten the following year, which helped, and took great effort in giving them some space from each other. For instance, we tried to spend more time with each son separately, from taking just one son to run errands on a Saturday afternoon to assigning them completely separate chores in different areas of the house. We even tried separate bed time stories, each boy choosing his favorite and snuggling up to just one parent. We just became hyper-aware when we were grouping them together, and made a concerted effort to separate them when it was deemed appropriate. And it helped.

But that was only part of the solution. Our next step was to try to teach them to respect each other’s right to speak, not an easy task for a pair of five-year-old twins. For instance, we tried to turn their story sharing into a game. When I saw them running to me after a shared experience, I’d stop them before either had a chance to speak. “Hold on!” I’d say. “Let’s play a game!” I’d tell them to each think of three things about their time together that they wanted to share. “Don’t say them out loud,” I’d warn. Then I’d implement the odd-even rule, where if it was an odd-numbered day, “Twin A” got to share one fun fact about their experience without “Twin B” interrupting. (But if it was an even-numbered day, “Twin B” got to go first.) Then it was “Twin B’s” turn to share one fact. After he was finished, it was “Twin A’s” turn again. And so on until the story hit a final conclusion.

This, too, helped. But there’s nothing like the passing of time for most problems to disappear. Your boys will mature and learn to control their emotions and impulses a bit more. In the meantime, hang in there!

Do you have a question about your twins? Ask it here!

Book by Christina Baglivi Tinglof

7 Things I Learned as a Stay-at-Home Mom of Twins

Two weeks ago, I returned to a full-time job outside the home for the first time since my twins were four months old. With my fraternal twin sons busy partying studying at college and my singleton occupied with high school, the timing of my position as an elementary school librarian couldn’t be better! A steady paycheck to help offset the staggering cost of sending both twins to college is a true Godsend. Although I loved being home all these years (it gave me the opportunity to build a freelance writing career), it certainly was a sacrifice both emotionally as well as financially (few freelance writers can actually support themselves). So if you’re thinking about staying home full-time with kids, go in with your eyes wide open.

In hindsight, here’s what I learned.

1. You are in the minority.

In 2013, nearly 70% of women with children under the age of 18 worked outside the home. By contrast, only 47% of moms worked outside the home back in 1975. The difference between “then” and “now” will have an impact on you. If you choose to stay home with your twins, you’ll clearly be in the minority as I was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but consider this: the days of neighborhoods teaming with at-home moms and preschool kids are over. More than likely, your girlfriends will be working; your neighbors will be working. And from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, your neighborhood may resemble a ghost town. (I know mine did and it was a bit disconcerting like the time I lost power in my home and headed outside to see if anyone else had lost theirs except no one was home to ask! It was a true Twilight Zone moment.)

2. You need to actively seek out a posse.Mother holding infant twins

Although 70% of moms are working, 30% are home with the kids just like you. The trick is finding them. For moms who are “joiners,” establishing a posse will take just a few weeks. For others, however, finding the right people will take time. But make no mistake—you will need support! You need to surround yourself with other moms (and dads) who have chosen the same path in life as you. Although your friends who work full time can be very supportive and sympathetic, few truly understand the challenges that the stay-at-home mom of twins faces every day.

So join a play group or Mothers of Twins group, attend library story time, get a membership to an indoor playground or kids museum. For it’s at these types of venues where you’ll meet and connect socially with other stay-at-home parents just like yourself.

Infant twins crying3. Even though there’s lots of noise, staying home with the twins can still be isolating and lonely.

There will be days—cold rainy days, everybody-in-the-house-is-sick days, waiting-for-the-repair-guy-all-day days—when it’s just impossible to go out. And after about eight to ten hours stuck at home alone with the kids, you’ll be ready for a stiff drink or a straight jacket. Some of us don’t mind getting down on the floor and playing Barbies for four hours straight. But others (me!) can’t handle play time for more than 30 minutes at a stretch and crave adult interaction, some adult conversation.

Now, reread #2.

4. A little TV never hurt anyone.

Before you have kids, you think, “I’ll never let my kids sit in front of the TV all day!” And then you have kids, and think, “I used to watch TV as a kid and it didn’t hurt me, so what’s the harm?”

Hey, if you can truly live without TV (or XBox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS), then more power to you! I am truly in awe of those families but we were never one of them. Although we were an active family with lots of indoor and outdoor imaginary play, when I had had enough, I would turn on PBS or a video and in a matter of minutes, a sense of calm once again reigned over my domain. As my kids zoned out to Big Bird, I had time to regroup, or at the very least, make lunch in peace.

But as most things in life, everything in moderation.

5. Don’t let twins stop you from venturing out.

Many new moms of twins are simply too overwhelmed at thought of packing up two infants and heading out for the day. So they stay home for that first year wishing for the days when they will be mobile again.

Don’t be one of those moms.

Not only are you wishing away the most precious time in your twin’s lives but your fear is a bit overblown. Sure, it’s tough for one mom to maneuver two infants. But you can do it! And the payoff is significant.

Every time I headed out for the day, I came home refreshed and rejuvenated. I returned believing that there was nothing I couldn’t do. I was an independent stay-at-home mom!

So start small. One mom told me that when her twins were infants, she used to head to the drive-through coffee kiosk. Once she had her hot cup of joe, she’d park and read a book while her twins peacefully snoozed in their car seats. You can do that, can’t you? Once you feel confident, graduate to the mall or even the beach! Heck, I even took my toddlers to see the Space Shuttle land at Edwards Air Force Base. (It was a crazy day that we still laugh about.)

6. You need a schedule.

For me, the monotony of the everyday minutia got to me from time to time. But once I got my twins and myself on a schedule, things changed significantly. For instance, knowing that my twins would nap from 9 to 11 every morning and then again from 2 to 4 every afternoon, helped me to hang on to my sanity. I could plan my day accordingly—I knew when I could shower, or eat, or even write. Having my twins on a schedule made me feel “normal.”

7. Don’t forget your exit plan.

Hard to believe but your twins will grow up. Even harder to believe is that very soon, they won’t need you on a minute-to-minute basis. And then what? What will you do? Many moms would like to head back to the workforce but quickly learn that it isn’t easy finding a job that matched the career they gave up all those years ago to stay home.

In addition to keeping up with the kids, you’ll need to keep up with your skills. At the very least, subscribe to journals within your chosen field so that you can stay current with market trends. Or, take a night class or class online to learn a new skill. And all those volunteer hours that you put in at your twins’ preschool? Document those too as they are valuable skills that future employers look for. (i.e. Organizing the school book fair, taking on the task of PTA treasurer.) Stay in contact with former colleagues, too, by meeting for lunch every few months.

Staying home is a noble profession. Time with your children is so important as they truly grow up very quickly. Make it enjoyable. Make it count.