Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Twin Conundrum

There can be only one winner. The other, by default, is the loser... 

My brother and I are just over two years apart, and I don't recall every feeling that our parents had to force a winner - maybe they were adept at dissolving sibling rivalries, but more likely, it had to do with our age and gender differences. 

My only tool is difference in temperament.

While dropping my daughters with my co-worker for some Christmas fun, Jaeda announced that she needed to use the restroom. Upon being told she would need to put on her socks and shoes (she insisted on being barefoot during the car ride), and deciding she abhorred the socks I had brought for her, she began crying for her Hello Kitty socks. 

The very same socks that her dear sister had so dutifully selected when asked to go find socks. 

I looked at her incredulously and said with sarcasm (that was lost on her), "You want Tristyn to take off her socks and give them to you???"  

My co-worker suggested that they trade one sock each. Tristyn, always the agreeable one, sweetly offered one Hello Kitty sock to her sister, but to no avail - irrationally, this only made Jaeda more defiant and angry. 

"That's the best I can do", my co-worker said very matter-of-factly. A sentiment that I admired because, truly, coercing Tristyn into relinquishing the socks to her sister would be unfair. 

I often see Tristyn as being "punished" - for lack of a better word - for being the obedient one.

I looked at my co-worker and said, "you're experiencing first hand a 'twin conundrum' that you always hear me talk about".

Luckily for me, she was undaunted, not having to deal with this on a daily (hourly) basis, and I left the bickering children in her capable care.

By the way, at naptime, I noticed that Jaeda had on ONE Hello Kitty sock. By bedtime, she had managed to finagle both from her sister. *sigh*
bickering since the very beginning...

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I've written before about my singleton angst towards mommies of one baby. It's all about perception. When the girls were newly home from the hospital, I recall seeing a documentary about newborn triplets. During the first night at home with all three of them, juggling feedings and intermittent sleeps, the mom joked to her husband, "twins would be a breeze... one would be a cinch!" I never forgot that.

It has always been the logistics that have flustered me. I'm an analytical person, always trying to solve problems in a mathematical way. Which, of course doesn't necessarily translate to having two babies.

In my online research, it appeared that the accepted advice for grocery shopping with young twins was to use two shopping carts - pushing one while pulling another behind you.

Uhh, two shopping carts? No. Freaking. Way. 

But where do you put two babies while attempting to shop? If you push a stroller, you might as well do the double cart juggle. The best way we found was to have one baby in a Bjorn strapped to your chest, and the other in the car seat situated atop the cart. But having a 15 pound baby strapped to your chest does not make for an easy shopping experience.

Honestly, nothing is easy with twin babies. But I was determined to make it look easy.

I can think of a few times when I failed miserably. The girls must have been about 6 weeks old, and I decided to stop by a friends' office to see her. I hefted both car seats out of the back seat and carried them both into the lobby. By the time I had crossed the parking lot (imagine carrying 2 buckets of water at your sides holding them out so they don't spill), I was sweating and overheated. And the girls were getting hungry and starting to whimper. I immediately regretted getting them out of the car. The visit was rushed and anxious.

That's another thing. Breastfeeding. Normally, a mom can scoop up her baby and calm a hungry baby in her arms. Don't get me wrong, I was "tandem" feeding before the girls were out of the hospital, but in public? Hell no. Simply getting situated to breastfeed 2 babies required an assistant (either a nurse, my mom or my husband), and eventually, when I figured out how to do it myself, I needed a gargantuan twin breastfeeding pillow, an armchair and cover-ups because guess what? It's impossible to breastfeed two babies simultaneously and be discreet.

This post about trying to figure out how to navigate a bathroom break while on a road trip with twin toddlers (sans a stroller) really hit home for me. Their infant car seats had their own challenges, but portability issues become even more challenging once they are in toddler seats.

Walking toddlers, too, came with challenges. I bravely attempted to utilize the dual leash system that is despised by many moms, and that was a PARENT FAIL. It worked great at first, but when the two independent minded little girls decided to go in different directions, I was forced to cruelly pull one child down onto the floor in an attempt to thwart them.

Simple pre-babies tasks became herculean to me. A necessary trip to the post office bogged my mind down with details. Besides being physically exhausted, my postpartum depression made me anxious and overwhelmed. After much mental deliberation, I opted for a single umbrella stroller and a baby on my chest in the Bjorn. Once I had negotiated the babies into their designated spots, I felt the stares of strangers boring into me like lasers. Did they know I was cursing the task, my car, the World? Did they know I was overheated and grumpy? Or was I successfully disguised behind my pseudo happy facade? 

I begged family members and friends to accompany me to the girls' doctor visits after a solo trip when a second hand umbrella stroller broke halfway across the parking lot and I was forced to ask a stranger to hold one of my babies.  

I became increasingly frustrated trying to explain the logistics to those around me. My friend didn't understand why I was hesitant to have lunch in a restaurant with two babies (I did it a number of times, and found it to be doable, but remained anxious throughout). My husband didn't understand why grocery shopping solo terrified me. 

Parks felt like a complicated puzzle that my brain wouldn't grasp. How could I be in two places at once? I recall my anger after attempting to observe both of my daughters equally at a playground, only to watch helplessly while the baby furthest from my grasp stumbled and fell right off the play structure, landing roughly on the bark mulch below, and eliciting screams that felt like daggers in my heart, my brain projecting her thoughts: 'Why weren't you there to catch me?'

I've found the peace within me that parenting is never perfect, and in every situation, you do the best you can. My daughters survived their infancy, and so did I. 

That's all I can ask for. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Unaccompanied Minor

My first solo airplane trip without my twin daughters felt Sooo Simple that I reprimanded myself for ever complaining pre-children, with only myself (and sometimes partially my travel companion) to take care of. Only my luggage to cart, my shoes to remove, my_self_ to walk through security.

I hate airplane rides. It's not that I'm scared of flying. I'm not claustrophobic. I don't have a phobia of germs. Unless its intense, turbulence doesn't even really bother me. Quite honestly, it's the air. Not the air outside. The recycled, nauseating, dry air that seems to always be blowing at gale force on the top of my head, no matter how many times I twist the damn thing to OFF.

Oh, and I'm one of those lucky people whose ears pop incessantly during takeoff, and then refuse to pop at landing, so my voice is trapped inside my own head, oh-so-annoyingly, until I can snort just the right way with my head tilted to the east and my left index finger on my right nostril to clear my ears.

We traveled across country a staggering four times (that's 8 flights; 2 segments each for a total of 16) before the girls' 2nd birthday (with the last trip occurring on their 2nd birthday). And I'm not talking quick jaunts from Seattle to Portland. I'm talking 6-hour, red-eye-to-save-money, transfer-planes-in-unfamiliar-airport-with-too-little-time-in-between, lap-infants-to-save-money flights and let me tell you, It Was Not Fun.

I would scour the Dollar Store weeks before each trip searching for airplane activities that were age appropriate for my two babies/toddlers - books that made animal sounds when you press a button, large piece toddler puzzles, child-safe stamp kits, washable markers, notebooks for them to scrawl all over, stickers, you get the point - and diligently pack them away for the surprise unveiling on the plane.

Not to mention the bottles so their ears didn't hurt on takeoff and landing. The massive amounts of food and related accoutrements required to keep two babies happy on a long flight. The diapers (and extra diapers just in case) and changes of clothing. The additional layers for unanticipated changes in weather.

And all the other little items that are simply expected of a mother to have at a split seconds' notice - tissues for efficiently wiping noses, baby wipes for inevitable messes, sticky hands, POOP and the like. Band-aids - lest there be a minor toddler EMERGENCY in need of one, sugar-free suckers for soothing an over-tired 18-month old, baby advil and OMG a baby thermometer - what if baby/babies get a fever? Teething tablets, ear-ache drops, Benadryl....

Did you know that lap infants/toddlers cannot sit on the same side of the same row of an airplane? In other words, even though we were often gifted an open seat or two, we could not let the girls sit next to each other, nor could my husband and I sit next to each other (leaving one child unaccompanied on the other side of the row).

Which means passing and re-passing items back and forth across the aisle to my husband and other child. And it means having to share the coveted single DVD player between two demanding toddlers.

My anxiety before a flight has always been high. Even though I've been a regular airline customer since I was 8 years old, I still get pre-flight clammy hands and sour stomach. But with children - and postpartum depression, my anxiety began days before the trip, not the morning of.

I would keep detailed lists, scurrying around the house to make sure my carry-on bag included a solution to every possible potential problem that might occur.

This past October, at a very mature 3 1/2 years old, we all flew to San Francisco for a weekend with Grandma Starr (my mom). It was heaven. Each girl carried their own bag filled with their very own selection of toys. No need for diapers or bottles. The little seasoned travelers followed instructions perfectly, removing their own shoes at security, waiting patiently in line to get on the plane, and just generally being cute to all the other passengers.

As luck would have it, my most recent flight to Mexico with hubby and friends put me smack in front of a grumpy lap pre-toddler.

Whom I could not take my eyes off of.

I twisted around to wriggle my fingers at him between the seats. I removed my scarf and passed it to his chubby hands to play tug-of-war. I offered his harried mom one of those sugar-free suckers (that I still keep in my purse) during a tantrum.

And then I turned forward in my seat, put in my earplugs and fell asleep to the random rhythm of kicks on the back of my seat with his adorable toddler tennis shoes, thankful to have served my time on an airplane with babies.
Trying to make it look easy, 5 months old
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