By: Amber Leventry
My partner and I recently took the kids to our favorite pizza place, which for four of the warm Vermont months also serves as our favorite ice cream spot. We were in the middle our farewell to summer dinner, eating pizza outside on a warm, late September evening. The manager came out of the restaurant and without saying hello, looked at us with exhausted eyes and said, “It gets better right?”
Our five year old was complaining about the cheese falling off of her pizza, one three year old twin refused to sit while eating, and the other twin was crying because she dropped some of her food on the ground. My partner and I were annoyed, but eating independently, without feeding someone and with the ability to ignore our children and their self-inflicted reasons for complaint. Yes, it gets better. Relatively speaking.
Three months ago, Nick and his wife welcomed twin boys, giving their five year old daughter two new brothers. He had watched our family of three burst to a family of five and was now looking to us for advice, hope, anything to cling to as he and his wife learn to navigate life with twins and an older singleton. I saw the look of desperation in his eyes, and wanted to shout, “YES! Hang on, you are so close! It gets so much easier!” But that would have been a big, fat lie. Instead, we gave him empathy, milestones to look forward to, and the ability to vent without judging him or his worth as a parent.
Unlike what my partner and I sometimes heard, we didn’t tell him to enjoy every second; seconds during the early stages of having twins feel like hours. Instead we told him his twins will soon be able to hold their own bottles. We reminded him it’s okay to look forward to some things, even rushing others. Wanting personal space and a little sleep is not like holding your breath until the kids go to college.
We commiserated with Nick as we remembered the early days and ongoing hard parts of having twins:
You do everything twice. Changing diapers, changing crib sheets, loading them into car seats, climbing steps, washing bottles, and folding laundry are just a few highlights.
Some section of your clothing always smells like baby spit-up.
Twins are not cheap. I was lucky enough to have the time and patience to make their food, which helps, but formula is ridiculously expensive. And you also have to buy everything twice. The essentials at least. Our twins shared their sister’s old toys, so we saved some money there.
Just when you think you’re saving money, an older sibling will steal the old toys. You will be forced to find or buy something that was not hers, and you will need to convince her that said item never belonged to her.
It’s never out of the question for an older child to bite, hit, or make other mischief when you are busy with the twins, particularly if you are not watching her do “ballet”.
There is a lot of crying.
There is not much sleep.
Having a babysitter is nearly impossible. Finding one capable, better make it two, sitters to handle three kids is expensive and out of the question. We relied on kid-free friends who were not busy with their own kids and who were happy to help once in a while so my partner and I could get out and feel human. We are thankful they worked for beer and casseroles.
Two people are always needed at dinner and bedtimes. When the twins were babies and one parent needed to be out of the house during these times, help was absolutely needed in the house. Three young kids and one adult was not a safe ratio. For anyone.
Seeing friends is tough. Spontaneity is gone. Catching up over a drink is usually not an option. Luckily, friends came to us. But, our house was nutty—still is—and our friends, especially those without kids, were not yet accustomed to the amount of noise a big family generates. When friends showed their annoyance I felt like a shitty friend. Find comfort in being a good parent.
Having dinner without meltdowns and actually eating food before it gets cold happens once a week. Maybe. But when it does, it’s okay to be convinced Rapture has started.
My partner and I were blessed with an embarrassment of fertility riches, but having twins is tough. Having an older child and then twins is really tough. Not so long ago, having one child felt overwhelming. We quickly learned that one child or baby was a breeze. Even two babies without their toddler sister seemed like heaven on Earth. We felt for Nick. He went back to work and we went back to our pizza, which we realized was still warm.
It will get easier, Nick. Relatively speaking.