Three things that having twins taught me about motherhood

See those two cuties above? Today is their 11th birthday. Eleven years ago today my husband and I went from being the parents of one sweet little girl to….

…being outnumbered.

Everything changed that day. And I wasn’t the least bit prepared for most of it.

It’s true, I cried when the OB/GYN told me I was pregnant with twins. And they weren’t tears of joy. It’s also true that their first year of life is a bit of a blur. We were in survival mode, living through what felt like one, veeeeerrrrrryyyyy long sleepless night. I nursed the twins for all of three months before I felt like Elsie the cow and started to realize I was never going to get to leave my house again.

In the early days I wore the title “mom of twins” like some kind of badge of courage or Purple Heart because parenting didn’t just seem twice as hard, or like it was twice as much work, it felt 1,000 times more difficult than life had been with just one. (and this is where I pause and tell all you moms with triplets or more that you are freakin’ rock stars).

But now, eleven years later, it’s hard to even imagine a life without our three kids. And somehow over the years I transitioned from being the “mom of twins” to just simply being Daniel and Olivia’s mom. (And, of course, also Hannah’s mom, but she’s now a teenager so that’s a whole new badge of courage I’m sporting these days.)

Most importantly, though, I realize that having twins made me a better mom. It forced me to let go of a lot of things (showering daily is overrated) and focus on what was really important (getting two babies to sleep at the same time for more than 4 hours). It allowed me to discover the kind of mom I really wanted to be, and I’m so grateful for that.

So, here it is, three things (because ain’t nobody got time for anything longer than that) having twins taught me about motherhood.

  1. How your child acts in public is not always a direct reflection of your parenting. Oh, the ignorant blissful days of having just one child. One easy, slept through the night, smiled at everyone, loved school, easy child. Or maybe more accurately titled, my Judgy McJudgerson days. My first daughter was a breeze and, for the most part, very well behaved in public. Of course it helped that there were two of us to take turns holding her hand, entertaining her, watching her, re-directing her, etc. So it was easy for me to wonder what the other parents were doing wrong. The parents of the little boy putting mulch down his pants at the playground who told his pre-school teacher he hated her; or the parents of the little girl whose head was spinning around Exorcist-style as she screamed at the top of her lungs because her mother told her “no” to the baby she wanted at Target. Clearly those children behaved that way because their parents hadn’t taught them any better.Wrong.

    Those are all real-life examples of things my precious little cherubs did when they were toddlers ( I won’t even go into stories of things they’ve done as they’ve gotten older). All things that mortified and humbled me as a parent. But in a good way. And I think every parent who has ever looked down their nose at another should be blessed with at least one temper-tantrum throwing, mis-behaving, inappropriate word saying, call-from-the-principal kind of kid. Just to remind us that, hey — they’re kids! We can teach them right from wrong, manners, respect and kindness, but at the end of the day they are little human beings who make mistakes and will try to push the boundaries. (And just to set the record straight, my “perfect” first-born has had more than her share of cringe-worthy and embarrassing moments to last a life-time).

2. Being a “perfect mom” is highly overrated.

With my first daughter I tried to get it all right. I really did. We introduced veggies before fruits. We played classical music and read to her all the time. We loved tummy time and all the made-in-America-old-school-Melissa-and-Doug toys we could find. I went overboard with the perfectly planned, everything-is-part-of-the theme birthday parties. School snacks were home-made and holiday outfits were coordinated and chosen with care. And this was all before Pinterest was a thing!

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, except that trying to keep up with it, times three, was exhausting and overwhelming. And worst of all, if I didn’t keep up with it, then I felt like I was failing at this mom gig. That is, until I finally realized that being a stressed-out, tired, “super-mom” actually made me a pretty crummy mommy. So I stopped. I threw in the towel on most of it. And surprise, surprise, my kids don’t even notice. I’m more relaxed and happier, which makes me more patient and fun to be around. And last time I checked no one has given me a citation for being the mom who phones it in on the school snacks.

3. Every child is different and needs to be parented differently.

OK, so you don’t have to have twins to learn this…anyone with 2 or more kids can probably tell you this. But the lesson was certainly magnified for me when we went from 1 to 3 kids overnight. Add to that the fact that two of them were in utero at the same time, shared clothes, toys, and a room for the first five years of life, and yet could NOT be more different if they came from separate families…who lived in separate countries and spoke different languages and grew up in different decades.

What worked with our first born generally does not work with the other two. And what works for one twin does not work for the other. And so on, and so forth. I call this out not because it’s earth-shattering news, but because once I embraced this knowledge it made a world of difference in my tolerance, patience, and flexibility as a mom.

While they’ve taught me so much more about motherhood, life, and the kind of person I want to be, those are the three that really stand-out at this moment. I’m sure in another few years I’ll have some new lessons — after all, I will have three teenagers in my house in just two years!

But for today, I just want to say: thank you, God for this double blessing. For using my fear and weakness, and two little babies, to push and stretch me beyond what was comfortable and easy, so that I could become a better mother, and a better person.

Happy birthday Daniel and Olivia. You are my sunshine.

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