Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of parenting twins occurs right after delivery! This miracle of a multiple birth is often throughout pregnancy and delivery turned into an event suitable of a 3 ring circus. There is an abundant let down that happens once they are delivered; as the mother is seemingly forgot and looked over while everyone in the world marvels over her children. In 4 out of every 5 cases of twin birth there is at least some minimal neonatal medic involvement and almost as quickly as they arrive they are whisked away from the mother and taken over by gawking visitors, family and hospital staff. Surely, this is all because twins truly are a miracle and something to look at as well as they often have needs beyond that of normal newborn. But there is also a devastating affect of parenting twins that result from a ruckus birth experience and couples with a woman’s natural hormonal shift to make it difficult for parents to say the least.
If you were to ask any parent of twins they would no doubt say that there is a tremendous amount of guilt involved. Feeling guilty for not being able to hold, nurse or cuddle with two at once; for not being able to just enjoy the tranquility of the first few months like normal parents do; for always being so busy in the beginning trying to manipulate two into once schedule that parents immediately feel overwhelmed. Suddenly, the twins are 8 months old and mom is wondering about the bonding; exhausted from the work involved and irritated by the outside world who treats her like a spectacle each time she wanders out. Then there is more guilt. It almost seems as if the world for new parents of twins is a constant struggle or fight against the ebb and flow of two children who are absolutely needy and deserving of being treated as an individual.
Another occurrence that becomes vested as part of the landscape when you are parenting twins is the constant and irritating banter of outsiders. It never seems to matter whether you have two of one gender or one of each; people have to make idiotic comments. Perfect strangers also seem comfortable approaching you, touching your babies and then as if as an exclamation mark; makes some comment that either mistakes one of your girls for a boy (or other way around) or imposes the use of yet another one of those horrendous clichÃ© phrases like ‘double trouble” or ”got your hands full don’t you.” Or, and even more irritating is the constant feeling that every Tom, Dick & Harry just has to share the fact with you that their cousins sister’s brother has or is having twins. Like you care! You have shopping to do and naps to tend to!
Once toddler hood approaches there is the fighting, and the irresistible urges to favor one over the other because they are absolutely and totally different. What works for one; rarely works for both children so another large aspect of parenting twins is finding your duality as a parent. Nice voice for the sensitive one, stern for the one that pushes so hard it hurts. Chicken for one broccoli for the other. It would be so much easier to just force adherence and equality but that only makes things more tedious. There are the comparisons made in a parents own head and by everyone else who sees them. Teachers can’t mention one without the other and expect that their twin hood would have them both being more similar. There is also the abundance of stuff and a to do list that has no room for relaxation. The bonding is still a work in progress and many parents of twins spend a lifetime trying to make up for what they missed out on by not having just one baby at a time!
Parenting twins as they get older is hard because you have two kids in the same house who are the same age and expect the same things. It is difficult to do something special for one; without the other noticing. It is hard to have a private conversation with one without the other sticking their nose in. As soon as they can talk or wave their hands in exasperation twins learn phrases like ‘me too’ or ‘what about me’ as if they are the wicked step child who is getting left out of the mix. More guilt! There is also the financial aspect of raising twins which doubles the cost of everything. Diapers, child care, shoes and school supplies all the way to college tuition and beyond. Huge responsibility and pressure for the parent. Most parents feel like it isn’t their fault they were born together and justly they each deserve the most in life.
Lots of people imagine that parenting twins makes it easier because they always have a built in playmate. Yes, some days that works out well. As toddlers that works out for about 5 minutes at a time and by the time they are school age it may be just a little longer. At least when you have 2 children of different ages their age dictates much of they are allowed or not allowed to do and have. When you have two, always wanting the same toy (even if you have two of them) and living by the same set of rules with the exact same level of maturity everything from who gets the Elmo plate and pink spoon to who uses the potty first is a struggle. When you pick one over the other, even if it is completely grounded in common parenting sense; more guilt!
Twins are also prone to living a life knowing that everyone feels guilty about the fact that they were born in unison and don’t get any alone time with Granny or mom and dad. The older they get, the more they become adept at utilizing this to their advantage. So many people in their life seem to also feel the guilt that there is always a big deal made about the fact that there are two. This only puts air in a balloon that will fill up on its own throughout their life. In the same light there is also a bond and connection that very few in this world; except for the twins themselves; can understand. It is a deep valley of need and dependence, strung with seeds of jealousy and worry and outlined by a love that is unique to them. Few, not even their parents; can come between or stroll around this boundary and often part of parenting twins is realizing that they need and want each other more than they do anyone or anything else.
Unfortunately twins also become competitive at a deep rooted level early on in life. They can’t relax and play with a puzzle or watch a show on TV because they are constantly wondering and worried about what brother or sister is doing or getting. No matter they are doing, what their twin is doing always looks better. This causes them to be flighty, aggressive and often act out with frustration that although they feel; they cant explain because of the complexity. When one does something that makes people smile or laugh; the other feels the deep need to outdo. In the life of a twin child; the world is about demanding equality and attention and is highlighted with a sort of worry they won’t understand for many years. Part of parenting twins well is realizing this.
As pre-teens, they begin to wonder who mom and dad likes more; wonder why they had to have a twin; wish they had some autonomy in life and need to break the association that always pins one with the other. They tire of hearing school friends ask where so and so is every time they walk into a room and dislike the fact that they are sort of expected to share the same friends. They feel resentment and inherit guilt for feeling it. Most parents push the issue when they have twins; demanding that they are ultra close and decent to one another. They might be twins; but they are still siblings. They will look back at baby pictures and become upset that they were dressed alike and exploited by their parents who dressed them alike and sadly made every twin innuendo be a reality in their life. Dating? You can imagine.
On the flip side of the coin, parenting twins is often about bearing witness to the remarkable unselfish and innate spirit of humans. Twins out of necessity and expectation learn to share and think of others. From a young age they will begin asking for two cookies or two lollipops and even though they may enjoy time alone with dad playing golf as a teen; they are secretly wondering and hoping that their twin will not feel neglected. They can be mad at one another yet remorse when the other gets in trouble. Many twins form a bridge that cannot be crossed.
Parenting twins is definitely unlike any other form of parenting. It calls for a strong will, resistance to guilt and the ability to throw away the books on standard parenting and child rearing. The guilt that lingers in moms mind; even years down the road as she wishes, yearns even for the opportunity to have held them both constantly when they were infants simmers in her heart but never comes to a boil. Watching them while you parent it becomes clear that you do the best you can; find the perfect spot between what needs to be done and what can wait until later and hope that through the hustle and bustle of life with two; you are able to smile, laugh and love as often as possible without allowing the guilt to dictate the means of your parenting. Above all else; that is the most difficult part of being a parent of twins.