Cutting Down the Christmas Tree and Twinning. 2018.

We survived without feeling like anyone hated us for being lesbians. So that’s a step up from last year. ¬†We contemplated going outside our town, even though there are five tree farms in our small little town. But I convinced my wife we could just try another tree farm. The guys working there were incredibly friendly and no one cared we were gay. Thank freaking God. Because we had enough to deal with.

My wife said we have two threenagers. I disagree. We have two three year old boys with my gene pool. It was bound to happen. They both are as stubborn as I am, Declan is as empathic as I am, and Jackson is as manipulative. Because yes, I know how to read people and I don’t use my powers for bad in terms of being manipulative, but at age three, who knows, I probably did. They are impatient as every three year old is, but it’s also worse because patience may not be part of my personality at all. Ever.

My Jackson knows how to melt me. Declan knows he just doesn’t milk it quite like his brother.

So there we are at the tree farm. Now I’m picturing finding the perfect tree, having the boys stand and watch in awe as we cut it down. Then enjoying hot cider in the barn afterward. Yeah I don’t know how I thought that vision would be reality. Sometimes I feel incredibly naive as a Mama of twins.

After a long and cold walk my wife and I found the tree. I called the boys over who were crawling on the ground, chasing each other around, and showing off for two little girls who were there with their parents. They come stumbling over, laughing, and I tell them proudly, “Here’s our tree!” They look at it. Declan proceeds to dive into it like he’s diving into home base, then he cracks himself up and stands up and starts trying to climb it. I’m yelling at Declan to stop climbing the tree as the branches start to bend under his weight and Jackson has completely lost interest and has his back turned and is staring at the girls.

We cut it down (by we I mean my wife) and I had to literally drag Jackson back with us as he decided to throw a tantrum. It was cold. We were all hungry. We had a big tree and a big saw that we had to carry back and herd two hangry boys.

What I’m constantly reminding myself with strong willed twin boys is nothing will be how I picture it and/or how I want it and I need to be okay with that.

At Thanksgiving they barely sat for five minutes at the table and the one group picture I’m literally holding Declan down to the chair. Getting the tree we are not going to have a family moment where we sing Oh Christmas Tree as we cut it down. It’s going to be a mess. It’s going to be running after them, herding them like cats, some one crying, some one hitting, some one climbing, and then just when I think I’m ready to toss them across the freaking tree farm Jackson will come up to me, pull me down to eye level, hold my face in both his hands and say, “Mama, I wanna donut.” Then kiss me and wait for me to say “Of course baby.”

So many people I talk to daily have ideas of how life and moments “should be” and what I’m finding is if I focus on the should’s, it makes me upset at the here and now, and I’m missing it. I’m missing the crazy. Because that’s what it is having twin boys. A whole lot of crazy intermingled with those moment of hands cradling my face asking for donuts.

It’s exhausting. I feel tired all the time since I’ve had them. And I’m sick of people saying innocent things like, “Oh you are getting your tree this weekend? That will be fun with the boys!” or “Christmas will be so fun this year!” or “The boys must have loved Thanksgiving.” I just smile and nod. But in my head I hear this evil maniacal laugh and I’m thinking ‘You want fun? You think it will be fun? Fuck you.’ Because it’s fun but it’s also work. It’s an incredible amount of energy. All the time. And sometimes all that work and energy only gets us a temper tantrum. Which literally makes me want to cry.

There are moments as a Mom when I want to just fall to my knees and say, “You win,” to them. I want to crawl under my covers and go to sleep for a week.

But we trudge onward. Because that’s apparently what parents do.

We get the tree. We put it up. (Well first we hose it down and my wife and I were snippy with each other after the exhausting tree farm experience, so I’m spraying it and it starts to slide down the house and I’m saying ‘grab it, grab it,’ and she’s yelling at me, ‘stop spraying the water!’ which I don’t. So it falls. Then we are yelling at each other as she’s picking it up, and I’m still trying to spray it, the boys are running around with their doughnuts, and then we are cracking up because we realize we are ridiculous)

We appreciate the absolute shit-show it is hanging up the ornaments. I laugh as I pick an ornament off the bottom of the tree, the branch bent to the floor, by not one but a chain of three ornaments one of them made and hung. I made little pizzas thinking they would love them. They of course did not touch them and wanted a year old candy cane they found in the ornament bin.

As I lamented the individual pizzas I came across an ornament that listed all of our names, and I called them over and I said “Look babies, look, it says Declan, Jackson, Mama, and Mommy, it’s all of us.” And they did actually look, and Jackson snatched it out of my hand, and walked around carrying it for the next hour and he and Declan would intermittently hold it up and say, “My famwee” “My famwee” (family). And it was that moment. That moment where I stopped caring that they didn’t stand nicely in front of our tree at the farm, that I had to drag them across the freaking farm screaming while holding a saw, and that they didn’t eat the pizza and I was just content. Content to have my famwee with all its imperfections.

 

Mom Shame and Twin Talk

A few months ago the owner of our daycare approached us and mentioned she felt the boys are behind in language compared with the other two year old’s in their class.

Couple preface statements- We LOVE the daycare. We adore the owner. It’s a wonderful daycare where my two white boys are the minority among kids and teachers which is just amazing. The owner has been in this business for many years and knows her stuff.

Regardless of our warm and fuzzies toward the daycare and the owner it’s like this vicious claw in your gut when some one tells you something’s wrong with your kids. My wife was all type of offended and then she came home and told me and I was instantly on the defense and we both agreed that there is nothing wrong with our kids. That they are perfectly wonderful toddlers.

But it set something in my head. I couldn’t get it out. Still can’t. And to tell the truth, I knew she was right. Why when I’m in healthcare, worked in pediatrics, and am fully aware of child development was I burying my head in the sand?

It’s befuddled me for a few months. But I think I can put a name to it. I felt shame as a parent that something could be wrong or delayed with my kids. I felt like I’m not a good enough Mom because they haven’t developed language at pace with their peers.

There is so much shame put on parents for so much that is out of our control.

Then when we need shaming for not setting limits and not fixing things within our control people are too scared to confront it. I mean I’m not. Obviously. I confront it within myself and within my clients. I said to a client just today, “Look, I’m honest. I disagree with you. I have clinical expertise in this area. We are not going to agree. And that’s okay. But I’m not going to sugarcoat your diagnosis or your prognosis because that would be doing you a major disservice.”

Then I was thinking, yeah, so the daycare owner wasn’t sugarcoating and she wasn’t doing it to shame us as parents. She was doing it as a service for our kids so we can get support if needed to help them develop language.

So here’s the thing about twin boys. Boys develop language slower in general. Then add in they were a month early. Add in the twin thing. And I’m not surprised they are behind. I can tell you they understand EVERYTHING. It’s scary. Jackson is completely Amotivated to speak English because Declan understands everything he mumbles off. So if I don’t get what Jackson is saying, Declan translates. Declan is more developed than Jackson in language because he’s more alpha, and literally they talk to each other and understand everything each other says. Then really they only need to communicate with us and their daycare teacher and we’ve all adapted to their twin language.

The twin talk is totally bizarre. It’s not something I can even describe and I didn’t realize how weird it is until I started to really take notice and listen to them and watch them. They have their own language. It is not English. They have full dialogues about God knows what. Then Declan translates to us for Jackson when needed.

So we’ve started engaging Jackson more, not letting Declan translate. I’ve started making him parrot me whenever I say something to him. It’s helping slowly.

They turn 3 next Monday. I can tell you that it’s been a wild freaking ride. That the whole parenting situation pushes and pulls at me in ways I never quite imagine or expect. I still remember looking at these two little bundles on the futon between my legs when they were four days old thinking, “Holy crap there are two of them,” never comprehending then how life would be today.

I’ve learned about Mom-shaming in the worst ways. I’ve learned about the defensiveness we feel as parents and the ugly side to it as well as the beautiful intense love that only a mom can feel for her son.

When a kid in their class recently asked why there were talking “baby-talk” I had to restrain myself from slapping him. I didn’t respond. But I wanted to say it’s not baby-talk it’s twin talk. And they are speaking it because they’ve been together since conception and they want to talk to each other and I’m going to let them.

It’s this hard balance we have to strike of being parents who allow our kids to develop in their own time at their own pace while also not wanting them to fall too far behind their peers. At the end of the day I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it until they turn three. Which is Monday. Then I decided I’m not going to worry about it until we see their pediatrician in a few weeks.

Then I was thinking how parents come in to see me very defensive sometimes and I think I get it now. It’s hard to hear that there is something wrong with your kid. To be told your child is depressed or anxious or suicidal can make a parent feel shame and fear and defensive.

But if our society was more friendly, more supportive, and more engaging with one another I don’t know that it would feel like an attack. Or perhaps we are trained to take it as an attack on us. I don’t know.

I do know that Jackson figured out where we hid the Halloween candy, I told him it was time to go, he disappeared and came back with both bags and said, “Time to go Mama.” And I thought, that kid just somehow managed to monkey his way to the very back of our counter where he can’t reach from the floor, get the bags with the candy that I hid, and try and bring them to daycare. I’m thinking his brain is working just fine and his language will catch up.

 

What People Should NEVER Say to a Mom of Twins.

I generally say whatever comes into my head. No filters. Except…with other parents. If I am with other parents and especially if all our kids are together or even if the kids are not there…I keep my big mouth shut tight. Because I’ve learned as a Mom to just shut the F up. Nobody wants to hear my parenting opinion about their kid. Because I really shouldn’t have one until I’ve walked in their shoes. Just as I really don’t want to hear anyone else’s opinions about my kids and my parenting. Especially people who only have one kid at a time. No offense singleton parenting but literally say nothing to twin parents. Because you don’t know.

Things people have said to me have made me want to cry, laugh maniacally, and/or commit actual physical violence. I’m not a violent person but literally I’ve had visions of slamming my knee into someone’s stomach or my fist in their face. I think/hope it’s the sleep deprivation.

“I always wanted twins.” “Twins would have been so much easier.” “One and done!”

I hear these all the time. To the mom who says “I always wanted twins.” I smile. Then in my head I’m like you fucking idiot. You wanted a high risk pregnancy that most likely would result in a C-section? You wanted two premature babies who are allergic to formula so you have to breastfeed them BOTH for a YEAR?! You wanted to stretch your body so much that no amount of greens and hot yoga will get rid of that pouch? Really? You wanted to live in the USA where my wife went back to work after four weeks and left me home alone with two premature and underweight newborns who laid on my chest/boobs/belly for the next fourteen weeks? Nothing about twins is easy. Ever. In fact they can lead to mom’s feeling resentful because we feel like we missed out. We missed out on one kid at a time. On maybe actually ever enjoying breastfeeding instead of despising it because I literally did it 24/7. No sleep. For a year.

One and done?! It wasn’t one. It was freaking two. And we will NEVER be done. Don’t say it. That’s one that leads me to violent thoughts. Like can you count? I mean I understand one pregnancy but it’s pregnancy on steroids because there are two fetuses. It’s kind of a big scary deal.

“You should separate them in kindergarten.”

This one gets me too. First off don’t ever start a parenting opinion with ‘should’. It’s rude. Second, why? I’ve heard all the opinions about it. Here’s mine. I’m their Mom. I know them best. I know that they have literally not been apart for more than two hours since they were born. That when they are apart they fret and worry over each other. “Jacky k? My Jacky okay?” Over and over from Declan. “Decky k? Decky come home? Decky k?” from Jackson. When they are together they shine. I mean they fight and stuff, it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows. But they are securely attached to one another. And why is that a bad thing? In a society where we are continuously disconnected from one another I will do anything to foster their love and their bond. I would never put them in a brand new school with brand new classmates and teachers and separate them. Maybe in their 1st or 2nd grade when they are used to the school. But in kindergarten they will be 5. Why is it bad for them to want to be with one another?

Shit’s about to get deep. Gear up. The other truly dark and terrifying reason I want them together is because we live in the state where an entire kindergarten class was shot to death. That is always in the back of my head. Because it’s very real to everyone who lives in this state. God forbid any type of danger reaches my sons at the age of 5. I want them together. I want them to have each other to love and protect if they ever have to live through that terror.

So when some one who doesn’t have twins starts to say seemingly innocent crap about having twins and making judgments about decisions that I have already made in my heart because of my own life experience and my own reasons…yeah it irritates me. Which is why I keep to the Shut My Mouth rule when I’m with other parents. Which is what I advise every one of you to do as well.

I don’t tell everyone who makes these remarks everything that’s in my head and heart. I generally just nod and smile. Because when some one discusses kindergarten who wants to think about a devastating school shooting? When some one discusses a two for one deal they don’t actually want to know how incredibly trying that pregnancy was or the delivery or the aftermath. They just want to look at my cute boys and imagine life is wonderful. Well generally it is. I don’t regret my twins, and I love them beyond reason. But don’t tell me it’s easy because it’s not. Don’t tell me to separate them because I won’t. And never act like you know more about my kids then I do. Unless you’re my wife. In which case you may be entitled to that opinion.

Also never ask when they started sleeping through the night. You don’t want to know. For real.

The one question I do tolerate is people asking if they have their own language. They do- it’s morphing more into normal English now, but from the start of their verbalizations it’s been totally coherent to the two of them. My wife and I can pretty much translate it now and often they translate for each other if Mommy or I take too long figuring out what one of them is saying.

They are obsessed with each other and hearing Declan call “My Jackie, come my Jackie” across the house, and then seeing my Jackson run to wherever Declan is calling him from then hearing the conversation they have…well that’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.

This morning one of them was showing me his boo-boo on his hand. The other one came over and kissed his brother’s hand. Melt me. These are the moment’s that help me understand why someone would yearn for twins. It’s that whole no sleeping for a year thing that I still clearly am not over that makes me question people’s sanity for wanting twins.