I love my 2-1/2 year old twin girls. Anyone who knows me, knows this. And yet, this age? Not easy. I struggle a lot. A LOT. So much so that my frequent grumblings and jokes about the impossibility of toddlerhood have recently made me feel like I might sound a bit like an ingrate. After all, twins (imagine sparkly gems and rainbows adorning the word… TWINS, *pow pow!* in all its magical, sparkly glory) are such a blessing. Such an amazing miracle. Such a gift. If only I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, “Twins? I always wanted twins!” Of course you did. Everyone does. I did too. I used to imagine the possibility of having twins and hope I would be one of the lucky few who get to experience the miracle, live the dream.
And then, I actually HAD twins. And I will be the first to tell you – THE FIRST – that twins are everything you imagine they would be, everything their sparkly magical name implies. Twins are a blessing and a gift. Twins are a miracle and (especially identical twins like mine) a crazy cool medical mystery. Twins equal mystical sibling relationships and secret languages and twice the hugs and double the love and so much laughter you just wouldn’t believe it.
I love having twins. I adore having twins. I wouldn’t trade being a twin parent for anything in the world. Having twins is just… man, it’s just the best thing ever. But you know what is not the best thing ever?
HAVING TWO KIDS THE SAME AGE, PARTICULARLY WHEN THAT AGE IS TWO AND A HALF.
In every way that having twins is miracles and rainbows and laughter, having two kids the same age and stage (when that age and stage is particularly difficult), is equally infuriating and frustrating and bang my head against the floor impossible.
The tantrums. The power struggles. The FIGHTING. Think about it. Two year olds are incredibly narcissistic creatures who genuinely believe that anything and everything they see, touch, or can possibly imagine in those little noggins of theirs, must be theirs and be theirs NOW. Imagine having two beings in that frame of mind in your house, sharing space, sharing toys, sharing mommy’s lap, sharing daddy’s time. Whatever one has, the other must have. Even having doubles of things rarely solves the problem. And some things, like daddy and mommy, you just can’t duplicate (although sometimes I can convince one of them that watching an episode of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is just as good as mommy’s attention, so that I can continue to give the other kid some undivided attention).
Speaking of awesome parenting strategies (like “using television in totally inappropriate ways”) let’s talk about time-outs, shall we? In my profession as a marriage and family therapist, I have often recommended “time-ins” instead of time-outs to parents struggling with their children’s behaviors. When a kid is struggling to self-regulate, putting them in an isolated time-out may diffuse things, but actually staying with the child in time-out (hence, a “time-IN”) is recommended because the parent can then help the child learn to calm down and self-regulate. In addition to time-ins, therapists will often recommend that the parent give THEMSELF a time-out rather than removing the child if things get too heated. It’s a great way to break the shame of a child who is always being “banished” and sets an example that “mommy is human and has emotions and needs breaks too.”
Let me show you how this looks when you have two children the same age. Let’s imagine they’re the lovely age of two and a half…
Child A has a yellow plastic giraffe that Child B decides she wants. Child B attempts to grab yellow giraffe from Child A. Fight ensues. There is pushing, there is bull-dozing, there is a weak attempt at choking (What the? Yes, they do this. It’s strange. Like a narrowly focused, exaggerated hug). There is screaming. There’s no biting, yet, but I’m sure they’ll eventually figure that out too. There is Child A escaping and running for her life while Child B throws herself on the floor screaming, clearly not regulated (in fact, let’s call it what it is: she is PISSED OFF).
So here comes mommy, she gently takes Child B by the arm to lead her to a time-in where she can calmly and quietly help Child B learn to self-regulate EXCEPT OH WAIT! That doesn’t work because as mommy tries to lead Child B to her room for a quality time-in, Child A (still upset about being bull-dozed and weakly strangled – relax, she was nowhere near being strangled) decides that the indignation of mommy giving Child B this attention must be rectified immediately, and follows mommy and Child A, screaming and clawing and OH LOOK, a new fight ensues.
Now mommy is Fed. Up. Mommy recognizes she is fed up and decides to give HERSELF a time-out EXCEPT OH WAIT! If mommy walks away to give herself a moment to calm down, these two toddlers are going to continue to claw each other’s eyes out, so mommy removing herself from the situation may actually not be in the best interest of anyone. So guess what mommy does?
You! – Here!
You! – There!
Me! – WINE.
Just kidding, I don’t drink on the job.
The point is, at this moment in time, I am struggling with having two children the same age and stage. I’m struggling with knowing that I can’t even use the common parenting strategies I have recommended to others for so long. It’s hard. It’s unbelievably hard sometimes. But here’s the thing, folks: just when I hit that point when I think I’ll never survive having two kids the same age, and I’m certain I’m going to snap, those two kids who have done nothing but drive me absolutely insane the last four hours suddenly become the twins that I love. It takes just one moment of sparkly rainbow *pow!pow!* Twin glory to make all the frustration and irritation and hopelessness subside. One giggling toddler dogpile. One rousing and raucous duet of Mary Had a Little Lamb. One “Sissy! I love you, sissy! Kisses sis-tah!” One moment for me to remember the blessing, the gift, the miracle of their two hearts and souls that began as one and then split to become these two girls who are so funny and goofy and smart and beautiful and amazingly unique and yet so amazingly the same.
And so amazingly mine.
No, I may not always love having two kids the same age, but I always – ALWAYS – love having twins.
Andrea Makunje is a lucky momma to identical twin girls in the Northern California Bay Area. In addition to being Mom, she also is a psychotherapist and works full-time for a nonprofit agency. In her virtually non-existent spare time when she should be reading great works of literature, she instead enjoys watching lame reality television and reading parenting blogs that remind her she’s not alone in this mommy madness.