Will My Single-Born Son Be Close to His Twin Brothers?

Question: I just found that I am pregnant with a boy—our third. Our fraternal twin boys will be two and a half when the baby is born. I am experiencing some unwanted and unexpected gender shock/disappointment but that is a whole other issue. I bring this up because I’m curious as to how this is all going to go with three boys, two of whom are twins. For their whole lives, I have viewed the twins as being so close and loved them being close. They do everything together—hug, kiss, fight over toys. I’m so worried that this new little boy will disrupt the balance of how things are now. I thought if I were having a girl things could continue—I could love the twin brother bond and spoil the little girl who would be special in her own right due to being the only girl. But I am already feeling bad for this little boy. Will he know where his place is and what will his role be in the family? I just don’t know how to do any of this. Do you have any advice? Are your boys close and do they view themselves as brothers first, twins second? Do your twins have a closer bond than the third boy?
—J.W.

Answer: The timing of our children and the zygosity of each is exactly the same. My fraternal twin boys were two and a half when my singleton son was born. So I understand your concerns and worries but take it from me, it will all work out fine.

I remember when I went into labor with my third—I cried as we left for the hospital, thinking of how everything was about to change. Yet, when I held my youngest son in my arms for the first time, I fell madly in love. The bonding experience with him was completely different than when I had my twins. It was more intimate, more intense, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Three days later when I checked out of the hospital, I cried again. This time because I didn’t want to leave!

But let’s talk about some of your concerns.Three smiling boys.

You write, “I’m so worried that this new little boy will disrupt the balance of how things are now.” You got that right! Yes, your newborn son will definitely disrupt the family but so would a daughter. Bringing home a third child, regardless of sex or zygosity, changes the family dynamics forever. Period. But that doesn’t mean you won’t quickly adapt. You will.

Next, when referring to your twins’ bond, you write, “For their whole lives, I have viewed the twins as being so close and loved them being close. They do everything together…” Yes, that sounds about right. Young twins spend more time with each other than with anyone else, even mom, but I smiled when I saw the words, “their whole lives.” They’re only two years old! Only two short years out of a long lifetime. Although they are close now, their relationship will grow and evolve. Once they hit the school years, your twins’ social circle will widen tremendously. And it should. Your twins need to develop close relationships with others in order to develop into emotionally mature adults, and that includes forging strong bonds with their other siblings, not just with each other.

But as a parent, you may need to help your twins foster those outside relationships. How? First, start by changing your vocabulary and your family’s vision. Don’t put all your focus on “The Twins.” Instead think of your children as just that, your children. Don’t put them into categories: twins over here, singletons over there. And the twin bond? It will take care of itself without encouragement from you. In fact, when parents place a strong emphasis on the “twin bond,” putting stereotypical expectations on their twins, it sometimes has the opposite effect of pushing twins apart. I get dozens of emails each year from twins who feel suffocated in their relationships with their doppelgängers due to the pressure they felt growing up to take care of each other. Everyone around them expected them to be close, to do everything together. Many twins push back and pull away.

Although my twins are close, they still see each other as brothers first, twins second. “It’s a title and nothing more than that,” one twin told me. The “twin-thing,” he added, is only brought up by others, it’s not something he or his twin thinks about on a daily basis. And how does my singleton fit into his brothers’ lives? All three are tight. They all attend the same large state university and hang out with each other often. All three have many of the same interests and even friends. But from the time my boys were little, we made the effort to ensure that all three boys were treated individually and that each twin had a relationship with their younger brother. If I had to run errands on a Saturday morning, for instance, I’d take only one twin and the singleton so they’d have a chance for some one-on-one time. (The other twin would stay home with his dad.) If one got invited to a party and the other didn’t, I encouraged the party-goer to go alone. And once a year, we had all three boys switch bedrooms so at some point the singleton roomed with each twin. It was this focus on each boys’ individuality that I believe strengthened their connection and bond with many, not just with their twin.

My singleton has never felt it was two against one. In fact, he believes his relationship with his brothers is more like the Three Musketeers—one for all and all for one. His brothers have always provided support, offering advice to him on what lies ahead such as how to navigate high school, for instance. And his relationship with each twin offers his brothers a chance to be someone else other than just a twin—a chance to be a true individual.

Bringing a new baby into the family is indeed stressful but truly exciting time for everyone. By the bottom line is simply—see each child individually and love each child uniquely and the rest will fall into place.

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

 

When Only One Twin Makes the Team

Question of the Week: Hello, I read your articles online about twin discrimination, and I’m wondering if you could provide insight on this. My nine-year-old twin boys both play the same sports. Recently, both tried out for a travel baseball team for next year’s season. We learned last night that one twin would make it; the other would not. Both are excellent in their own areas on the field. Do you really let one participate and be on the team but not the other? At this young age, how can you make the one who didn’t make the team feel as though he’s good enough? Wouldn’t he give up and not want to try as hard? Is it fair to him to have him spend his summer next year sitting in the risers at weekend tournaments? Wouldn’t it be a continuous put down and struggle for him as he watches his brother play on the team? Do I tell the coach, no thank you, and just let the boys continue with rec baseball?
—K.D.

Answer: No doubt this is a tough one and no one would blame you if you told the coach no. But just to play devil’s advocate—and because you asked—what about the son who did succeed in making the team? I noticed that your question solely focused on the son who didn’t make the team but there was no mention of your other son and his great accomplishment. What about him? He’s obviously gifted in the sport. Shouldn’t he be encouraged and supported, too? Why should he lose out just because he was born a twin?Fraternal twins boys dressed in soccer uniforms.

This is life with twins, and it’s just the beginning. This is going to continue to happen throughout your twins’ lives. Whether it’s making the team, getting a part in the school play, getting into a choice university, landing a plum job—one twin is bound to out perform the other twin. So how long do you continue to say no? How long do you continue to shield the one who didn’t succeed? At what age does it become OK to try to teach him that life isn’t always fair, and that it’s OK that he didn’t make the team, or get a part in the play? At what age? Age 10? Age 12?

And what do you think would happen if the twin who did made the team finds out years later that you had said “no” just because he was born a twin? My guess is that he may be resentful not just of you but of his brother, too. It’s bound to present a whole host of new problems for your sons’ relationship and their bond as they grow up. It could cause a rift between them as the twin who made the team may feel as though the other “held him back.”

Take a step back for a moment and consider your words: “…it would be a continuous put down….” Would it? I don’t think so. It’s not a put down. He just wasn’t good enough to make the team and that’s OK. Personally, I think kids are way more resilient than we give them credit for. Furthermore, I think it’s a parent’s attitude that sets the stage. If you’re positive; they’re positive. If you think he’s good enough; he thinks he’s good enough. If you project that it’s no big deal that he didn’t make the team; he’ll think it’s no big deal as well.

It might help you if you try not to think of your sons as twins. After all, how would you respond if they were two or three years apart and the same thing had happened? My guess is that you’d tell the one who didn’t make the team that there’s always next year, or that’s what going out for sports entails—sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But that’s what’s so great about playing team sports—you learn to take the loss with grace and dignity and move on. What a wonderful life lesson, one that we need to teach more, not less.

It would take a change in attitude to take this on, however, as well as some logistical planning. I agree that it wouldn’t much fun for your twin who didn’t make the team to sit on the bleachers and watch his brother play baseball all summer long. Instead, find something else for him to do during tournaments and weekly practices as he deserves to find his own niche where he can shine on his own.

I hope this helps, and good luck with whichever way you choose to go.

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

My Twins are Loud and Aggressive

Question of the Week: I have twin grandsons. One twin is very aggressive, pushes his brother down and is generally ugly to him but he does look to him for help sometimes. He is mean and doesn’t listen to me or his parents. They are five and in separate classrooms in school. My daughter does dress them alike and they are on the same sports teams. I keep them every Wednesday after school. They try to talk over each other by getting louder than the other so I can’t hear either one! Today, I was in tears when they were here. What can we do? Thanks.
—B.B.

Answer: Before I offer some advice, I want to put this into a little bit of perspective for you. Most young twins are on a perpetually playdate together. What do I mean by that? Young twins spend much of their waking hours together, more time than any other two siblings or even friends do. If single-born children had a non-stop playdate with each other, for instance, sooner or later they too would end up bickering, pushing, talking over each other, and yes, even biting. In other words, it’s not necessarily your twins that are the problem, it’s often the situation that they find themselves in.

Try to Understand the Source of Aggression

I said the aggression could be the circumstances that your grandson finds himself in (i.e. being a twin) but then again, maybe it’s not. Therefore, it’s important to try to figure out why he is being aggressive as it can originate from a number of different situations. Aggression could be part of your grandson’s personality, for instance, in his DNA. Or it could sometimes be an outward sign of the child’s frustration or poor impulse control when he is unable to verbally express himself. Or it could be a symptom of something else. Perhaps there is conflict within his family? Or in his neighborhood?

I am not a doctor so if you suspect that there is some strong, underlying reason to your grandson’s aggression, you should speak with his pediatrician about having him properly diagnosed.

So what are you to do in the meantime? Below are a few tips and tricks to help.

Implement the Odd-Even Rule

Taking turns is a skill that twins need to adopt early in their lives. For some twins, however, sharing is a difficult pill to swallow. They are just not having any of it! Each wants to be first—the first to tell a story, the first to try out a new toy, the first choose the movie. One way to help teach how to share is to use the Odd-Even Rule—”Twin A” gets to go first on odd-numbered days; “Twin B” gets his turn to go first on even-numbered days. You can use this system for any number of situations, including sharing an exciting event that happened during the day (but put a limit on how much of the story each can divulge during his turn.) It’s not a perfect system (for example, months that have 31 days can be challenging) but it can work surprising well.

Reward the Positive Behavior No Matter How Minor (and Try to Ignore Smaller Infractions)

All children want the approval of their parents and caretakers. Some just try to get approval in negative ways. So it’s your job to change that script and teach your children (or grandchildren) that only positive behavior will win your attention and praise.blonde twin boys in car

This one can be difficult for some parents as they swear their children rarely act in a positive way but if you look—I mean really pay attention—you can find even the naughtiest of children will show kindness. It may be something very small indeed but if it’s something positive, jump on it! Pour on the praise: “Wow, I like how you gave your brother your baseball. That was so nice of you! I’m so proud!” But you may have to start out small, so commend your grandson even if he sits quietly while watching TV or takes his empty milk glass to the sink without asking. Find anything positive that he does, and praise it often.

Conversely, try to look the other way when he makes small infractions, and let his cotwin fend a bit more for himself. In other words, don’t jump in when the aggressive twin grabs a toy from his cotwin. It not only gives attention to the bad behavior but it also may make the cotwin look like a victim. Instead, wait and see if the cotwin will resolve the situation on his own.

Step in Immediately If the Behavior Turns Violent

Yes, ignore the small stuff but never turn your back on physical aggression. If your grandson kicks, bites, or punches his cotwin (or you), calmly remove him from the situation immediately and explain, “We do not bite. Ever. You are now in a time out.” Then turn your attention away from him and comfort his cotwin.

After five minutes, return to your grandson and ask, “Do you know why I gave you a time out?” Encourage him to use his words to explain his feelings. Listen and nod. Then ask him what he could have done differently. Brainstorm together. When the conversation ends, give him a hug and move on.

Keep Tabs on Your Own Temper

Children look to their parents and caregivers as examples of what to do and what not to do. Therefore, never spank your children or scream as a way of disciplining them. Parenting is a tough job, so you may have to take a time-out yourself if you feel that you are losing your temper.

Keep Routines and Schedules Consistent

All kids (twins especially) react well when they know what to expect and when. So stick to a schedule whenever possible.

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

Mothers’ Day Do-Over

Good news! This Sunday, May 21, is the official Mothers’ Day do-over. For those of you who flunked out on last Sunday’s event either from being too busy or just too lazy, you’re in luck! You are getting a second chance. This is your opportunity to raise your GPA, or your Good Person Account, which will bode well for you later in life when it’s time for reading of the will.

For your convenience, I took the liberty of putting together a simple-to-follow study guide for the upcoming do-over day. Please take a moment to review the bullet points as it will help you pass the do-over holiday with flying colors. And please feel free to share it with your friends (mothers around the world would appreciate that).

Sharpen your pencils and let’s get to it!

  • Saying, “Happy Mothers’ Day,” is nice but it does not count as a Mothers’ Day present.
    Not even close. Well wishes first thing in the morning should be just the beginning of a lovely, fun-filled day with gifts and time spent with you, her child.
  • Don’t ask your mother what she wants to do for Mothers’ Day.
    She will always answer, “Oh, nothing,” but she doesn’t mean it. Ever. The expression, “Oh, nothing,” simply means, “Don’t do anything big,” like take her sky diving or riding into the room on an elephant. Mothers always want you to do something. Always. What that something is, however, is your responsibility. Use your imagination just like she used hers when she threw you countless themed birthday parties for the past 20 years. Besides, you’re a smart kid as you managed to figure out how to avoid having any college classes before 11 in the morning or on Fridays all together. If you can solve that logistical puzzle, you can certainly figure out that brunch at a nice restaurant or an afternoon family barbecue is the way to go. Take-out food, however, is not.
  • Don’t ask your mother what gift she wants for Mother’s Day.
    Again, she will say, “Oh, nothing,” but she doesn’t mean it. Ever. (If you’re confused, please see the bullet point above.) If you open your eyes and pay attention to her world rather than always being plugged into your phone, it will be obvious. If you really need some direction, however, flowers are always a good bet. But a bouquet from the supermarket or Trader Joe’s does not count. Yet, if you insist on going that route, for goodness sakes take the flowers out of the plastic and put them in a vase as it will up the presentation. (By the way, candy from a drugstore also does not count. See’s Candies, on the other hand, shows that you know your shit.)
  • Don’t forget a card.
    Store-bought cards are nice just as long as you write something a little more than, “You’re a great mom!” Take an extra two minutes and write why she’s such a great mom. Hand-made cards are always a lovely alternative but again, write something heartfelt and meaningful.
  • But forget about breakfast in bed.
    It may be counterintuitive since doesn’t everyone love breakfast in bed? Well no, we don’t. I don’t know who started that rumor but breakfast in bed is completely overrated. It’s simply too awkward to manuever the tray and eat at the same time. Instead, make a nice breakfast and then invite mom to the table to sit with you.

Well, that should cover it. If you take a moment to study these five points, your Mothers’ Day do-over should be a smashing success. See you Sunday! And don’t forget the bacon.

Will My Daughter Adjust to Our New Twins?

Question of the Week: I have an eight-year-old daughter who loves to be the center of attention. She is the youngest of four children, and the only girl, and I will admit that everyone in the house spoils her. She is daddy’s little girl and the baby of the family. But now, I’m expecting twin girls in January. I’ve taken my daughter to my ultrasound appointments, and I’ve let her help us get the nursery ready for the twins. For my baby shower, I told the guests to bring presents for her as well as the babies so she wouldn’t feel left out. But I’m still worried about how she’s going to react when the babies are born and they take up a lot of our time.
—M.M.

Answer: First, congratulations on your twin pregnancy! Yes, your household, your husband, your daughter, and your sons are all in for a big change once your twins arrive but it sounds like you have this under control. Many kids struggle with jealousy when mom and dad bring a new baby home; many others do not. By merely being aware that your daughter may get lost in the shuffle tells me that she probably won’t. Try not to over think the situation (for instance, don’t keep insisting that it’s OK to be jealous—saying it once is enough) but I do have a few suggestions.

Expose Her to Other Twins

Do you know of any other families with twins, preferably a family with twin infants or toddlers? If so, see if you can pop by for a short visit. Let your daughter ask questions about the twins, such as what family life is like with new twins. Let her see a little bit of the chaos that naturally comes with twins. Later, talk about what she observed and her feelings about it.

Some parents have had great luck with giving their singleton children “twin dolls” to play with. Once your twins are home, and you need to bathe your infants, for instance, you can suggest that your daughter bathe her “twins” at the same time. This form of “parallel play” will give your daughter a strong sense commonality with you, strengthening her bond with you. Exactly what you need!

Or, you can always go the book route. I’m Having Twins is one of four books in a series about being a sibling to new twins. They are written by Paris Morris, a big sister to twins, who took to writing the collection when her mom was expecting twins.

seven-month old twin girlsInvolve Her With Your Twin Preparation

You’ve already mentioned that you’ve taken your daughter to your ultrasound appointments and that’s great. Keep it up!

When it’s time to pick out the bedding and paint colors for the new nursery, ask her opinion. But don’t just say you love her choices and then go completely in another direction. (She’ll see right through that!) So ask for her thoughts on something you really need help with. But when it comes to the babies’ shower, no need to have others bring her gifts. That might be a bit excessive. Instead, have her help you open the gifts that you receive from others.

Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane

Pull out your old photo albums, the ones when she was an infant. Show her how much attention and love you showered on her when she was born. Explain that the new twins will require a bit more of your time, especially during the first few months, but that you will always be there for her.

Rely on Other Family Members to Pick Up Some of the Slack

You have three, older sons who can pick up the slack and spend a bit more time with their younger sister (maybe a private chat with each of them expressing your concern will put your mind at ease). Besides having them spend one-on-one time with her is also a great way to build up their sibling bond, too. Perhaps an occasional a date with Grandma (aunt, uncle, and so forth) will also give you a bit more breathing room.

Compliment Her Sibling Skills

Even if it’s something minor like your daughter picking up one twin’s binkie off the floor, let her know, “That was so thoughtful of you. I’m sure your (twin’s name) really appreciated your help.” Also, try to compliment her to others when she is within earshot and can overhear. “You should have seen how good she was with the twins when I was on the phone. I was so proud of her!” Your daughter will believe it even more if she thinks she is accidentally overhearing the praise.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Continue to be aware of your daughter getting lost in the shuffle in the coming months. Make time for her even if it means letting someone else take care of the twins for an hour. If that’s impossible, try for a short, ten-minute interlude every day—just the two of you hanging out together.

But don’t stress about it. Her personality and constitution are fully formed so she’ll be just fine. The last thing you want to do is make her out to be the victim.

 

 

7 Ways to Get Your Twins to Read More This Summer

We all know that getting our kids to read for pleasure is very important. But it can be a challenge to entice your twins to pick up a book during the lazy days of summer. After all, didn’t they just spend ten months stuck in a classroom? I’m sure you’ve heard the tips before—surround your children with books at home, model good behavior by reading more often yourself, take regular trips to the library. Blah, blah, blah. All great ideas but if you have a reluctant reader like I did, those suggestions just don’t cut it. But reading is important. (Duh!) A strong reader is more successful in school as every subject involves reading. But what can you do if your child flat out refuses to pick up a book? Here are a few, fresh ideas that are sure to make a bookworm even out of the most hesitant reader.

See the Movie First

Popular wisdom says that you should read the book before you go to see the movie. But why not turn that argument on its head and see the movie first? If the film is done well (think The Hunger Games or Harry Potter) it’s sure to create excitement and curiosity for the book. Besides, it’s easier for a struggling reader to follow the plot and characters in a book once he has a visual from the movie in his head.

Two Times the FunLet Them Read Anything They Want

When my son was in fourth grade, he was hooked on Garfield comic books. At first, I disapproved wanting him to read “real fiction,” but then it hit me—he was reading and not watching TV or bugging me to get on the computer. So I left him alone. Eventually he moved on to other books and I didn’t even have to nag!

And please, don’t try to “challenge” your twins with books that are above their reading level as that often backfires. As an elementary school librarian for the past three years, I see this all too often from well-meaning parents. When you choose a book that is completely above their comprehension, kids tune out convincing themselves that reading is “dumb” and not for them. Instead, try to keep the overarching goal in mind—to instill a lifelong love of reading.

So instead of pushing the classics on your kids, step back and allow them to read what they want. I guarantee that they will surprise you. Without pushback from you, they will naturally begin to challenge themselves when they are ready. Remember, it’s not the quality the counts at this point but rather the quantity! The more books they read, the better! So comic books, magazines, graphic novels, sports almanacs, whatever. If it has words, it counts as reading.

Entice Them With Banned Books

What school kid would pass up the opportunity to read something so taboo that it was banned from a library? Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and even, Dav Pilkey’s much-beloved Captain Underpants series—all absolutely great books, and all have been banned from libraries or schools somewhere in the United States at some point. But there are dozens more! Just Google, “banned children’s books” for a complete list.

You can even make reading banned books into a game by creating a “Banned Book” reading chart and awarding a star for each book read. Or, see how long it takes for your twins to find the naughty word or words in the banned books. (What kid wouldn’t love to find the word “ass” in the banned book, James and the Giant Peach?) And the conversations you can have discussing why the book was banned and if it was warranted—pure gold!

Try Different Genres of Books

Most kids refuse to read simply because they can’t find something they like. They need your help in introducing them to books that fit their interests. Ghost stories, autobiographies, mysteries, fantasy, even non-fiction books—expose them to all types of genres until you find one (or two) that inspires your twins and ignites their imaginations.

Designate Family Reading Time

Set aside thirty minutes every evening where everyone in the household stops what they’re doing to sit down to read together. (My reluctant reader willingly gave in to his book if I would snuggle with him on the couch.) One rule, however: no distractions. Turn the cellphones off; put the computers to sleep and just sit and read. Make it fun by having a special reading snack that comes out only when the books do. (Freshly popped popcorn, perhaps?)

Or, read aloud to your twins. One mom I know reads to her children when she knows she has a captive audience, like when the kids are eating dinner or in the bathtub.

Let Them Use Technology to Read

There are parents out there who believe that a child should read a book in its paper form rather than having him read on an electronic device such as an e-reader. But why? Both forms have words, sentences and paragraphs. Furthermore, kids today are wired. That’s how they roll. Don’t fight it; just make sure your kids are reading an ebook rather than checking in with Facebook!

 Start a Kids’ Book Club

Gather a small group of your twins’ friends and form a monthly book club. Have your kids pick the first book and instruct all participants to think up one question to discuss at the club meeting. Plan a themed play date to follow a 30-minute kid-lead discussion.

 

Why Do Strangers Want to Parent My Twins?

I was at a party a few months back where I was chatting with a woman I know peripherally—we have a few friends in common and know a bit about each other’s lives but nothing more than that. She knew I had a set of twins who go to the same university, and a singleton who would be heading to college in the fall.

“Where will your son be attending college in September?” she asked. I told her, and then explained that it wasn’t his first choice; he had wanted to go to the same school as his brothers, but sadly, he didn’t get in.

You would think that by now I would have learned that sometimes it’s best just to answer the question and move on, especially when it comes to parenting twins and their singleton siblings as everyone—especially strangers—seems to have a strong opinion or advice that they’d like to share on the subject. (Advice, by the way, they contribute regardless of whether or not you’re interested in listening.) But no, I gave too much information in my response to this woman, inadvertently giving her an opening for some unsolicited assessment on why my son shouldn’t go to the same university as his twin brothers. Mind you, she doesn’t really know me or my sons, or their relationship, for that matter. Furthermore, she doesn’t have twins from which to draw her own personal experience. But she felt she knew enough about the twin dynamic and their relationship with their younger brother that she listed the reasons why it would have been a mistake for my son to go to the college of his choice.

None of your business.I sound annoyed, don’t I? I guess I am. Normally I let this kind of stuff slide as I’m pretty used to it, as I’m sure all parents of multiples are. From the moment my twins were born more than 20 years ago, I’ve politely smiled when strangers and mere acquaintances have asked those silly and sometimes ignorant twin questions: “Who’s the smart one?” or “Which twin are you closer to?” I have smiled when they’ve quipped, “Uh, oh, double trouble!” as I truly believe that most people’s intentions are pure. Most are just oblivious to how insensitive those types of questions really are to parents of multiples. I know that 99 percent of the time, people are just trying to connect with me by striking up a conversation.

But in this particular incident, it was just too personal; too close for comfort. And frankly, none of her business. Perhaps it got under my skin because it was such a disappointment to my youngest when his first-choice school (for many reasons, by the way, his brothers attendance not withstanding), turned him down. Or, maybe she hit a nerve. Maybe my youngest will be better off at a different school than his twin siblings. Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps my youngest would be best served academically, socially, and spiritually by being at a different school. Then again, maybe not. It’s not her call. Nor mine, for that matter. The decision of where to attend school lies squarely in my youngest son’s corner.

In general, I think it would be way more helpful if friends, acquaintances, work associated, and strangers would think before they speak. Maybe it would be way less annoying if these well-meaning folks would put on their filters before they boldly express how others should raise their kids.

I’m sure this has happened to you, too. Tell me about in the comment section below.

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

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.