Prior to having children, I had never changed a diaper. I had never made a bottle. In fact when my application for parenting hit God’s desk, he looked at it and thought about putting it into the “Fun Uncle” basket. Then he shrugged (apparently they were short staffed) and decided I was suddenly qualified to be the father of two beautiful twin boys. At least that’s how I like to think it happened.
There is a truth to the axiom that there is nothing that can prepare you for parenthood. That seems to go doubly so for becoming the parent of twins. How could you be? As a kid, you think that your parents knew exactly what they were doing. The second that child (or children, in our case) is placed in your arms, you realize that they were making it up while they went along. Now you get to, as well.
While we had friends and family that had twins, they were close enough in age to our kids that we were naive enough to see them struggle with their children and say “that won’t be us.” Oh sweet summer children.
I don’t want to minimize anyone’s parenting experience. We all face unique challenged based on our own circumstances. What we have to respect is that those experiences are unique. It’s easy to make parenting an opportunity to one up each other. That’s not what I’m trying to do here. I just want to highlight some of our struggles.
Here are some of the things that I wish I had known about having twins.
Everything takes longer
If you’re reading this, you know that infants eat and poop… a lot. At the very beginning, they eat every three hours. With every feeding comes a diaper change. For those who aren’t great at math, that was a grand total of 16 diapers changed at a minimum per day. That’s a lot of diapers.
Even getting out of the house can be a nightmare. I remember the first time the boys and I took a solo trip to Target. We didn’t really need anything, but I just needed to prove to myself that I was capable of running a simple errand with twin infants (twinfants, if you will.)
I had just fed and changed the fellas. I got them dressed for the elements and buckled into their car seats, and the second I clicked the harness shut on the second car seat, I heard the first twin explode in a cacophony of stank. I addressed the situation, and as soon as I had him strapped back in, his brother decided he would not be undone. Long story short, we were out of the house in just over an hour.
As kids transition from infants to toddlers, things get, well, worse. Toddler wrangling is not for the faint of heart. While the woes of getting two children out the door is not an issue exclusive to twin parents, there is a reason why it is especially challenging for us.
Learning to Human is a group project
One thing that drives twin parents nuts are the parents who upon finding out you have twins will say, “Oh my kids are close in age, so it’s basically the same as having twins.” Fun fact: it’s not.
A parent with two kids close in age often seems to take one thing for granted. They forget that their first child had roughly a year to practice being human with undivided attention. For that first child, you’re either in man to man coverage or during the best of times, you even get to shift into double coverage.
In that first stretch, your child gets to experience a lot of socialization that is difficult for parents of multiples. With one child, when you want to go to a playground or park, you just grab the diaper bag and go. You don’t have to worry about your kids deciding to pull a divide and conquer maneuver on you at the park. By the time your second child becomes mobile, the first one has learned the rules of the playground.
With one child, babyproofing is a little easier. While you may take some precautions, for the most part you can just follow your kid around and make sure they don’t do something dumb like stick their tongue in one of the light sockets.
When our kids first became mobile, we had so many gates up in our home that if we had any more we would have been required to hire at least three trolls to guard them (as per the Mythical Creature Union Shop rules.) The key here is to avoid having one kid crawling up the stairs while you’re busy thwarting the other’s attempt to taste test the cat’s food. It’s easier to just block off everything.
All of those little socialization things can be especially challenging while in zone coverage. If you wait until you feel like your kids are old enough to handle the freedom, you’ll quickly realize just how important it was to get them free range out in the world early. I envy those couples who can let their new walkers toddle around Target with their significant other while they casually shop.
Shortly after my children began walking, I took them to Target for a solo trip with Daddy. Rather than break out the cumbersome double stroller, I figured we could free-style it up to the store, and I’d toss them both in the no less cumbersome double shopping cart. They held my hand and giggled as we walked up to the store. It wasn’t until I went to put them in the cart that I realized the fatal flaw in my plan. It would take two hands to lift and buckle each kid into the cart. What would I do with the other kid? In my hubris, I decided it would only take a moment to buckle one of them in, so there wouldn’t really be enough time for the other one to get into trouble. By the time I had his brother tucked in, my little doppelgänger was well on his way to Starbucks.
Above each of my sons’ beds is a sign that reads “Blessed to be born with my best friend.” What that sign leaves out is “and my greatest enemy”.
In three and a half years, my children have never spent more than a few hours apart. When one of them wakes up before the other, they count down the moments until the other is awake. They also have a tendency to punch, kick, push and otherwise torment each other every chance they get.
One of them could be in timeout for punching the other in the face, and the other will be crying to be with him. It’s one of the most infuriatingly adorable things I’ve experienced as a parent. It makes sense, though. Imagine spending every single day with your best friend. While you love them, and generally get along with them, spending that much time with any human being is bound to cause more than a little friction. They are drawn to each other with one breath and to oppose each other with the next. For their entire lives, they’ve had to share pretty much everything with someone who is interested in almost all of the same things they are. There is rarely an opportunity for the tension release valve of solitude. Even on the odd chance that the opportunity for it arises, they often have a hard time figuring out what to do with it.
Sunshine and Rainbows
Parenting isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. However, the key words in that phrase are “isn’t always.” The implication being that sometimes there is, in fact, sunshine, and with twin parenting, that’s doubly so.
Yes, there are challenges, but there are so many amazing things. Hearing your child say “I love you” for the first time will change your life forever. Hearing it in stereo is absolutely emotionally intoxicating.
Every milestone you get to experience back to back. That feeling of pure joy to had when the doctor placed your child in your hands? Double it. The sweet melody of your baby’s laughter? Double it. Hugs, kisses, snuggles, all of it doubled.
Twinning ain’t easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.