The boys have been attending swimming lessons since they were 5 months old. It’s part of our weekly routine now and we are used to it, but we shouldn’t take it for grant it. There are so many reasons to go swimming with toddlers, I can’t understand why most of my friends stopped.
Where to start… The obvious one, swimming is an essential life skill.
Compared to most activities is not too expensive.
It’s the only “sport” you can do before the age of 1. Better start them young!
It improves gross motor skills and built confidence. The first time B held on to the side wall by himself he looked like he just won the lottery!
And most importantly it tires them out, which implies a longer afternoon nap! Excellent to catch up on your housework or maximise on cuddle time on the couch.
Despite all these reasons, for us the original idea behind the swimming lessons was very different. We started the lessons in a time in which I was feeling very isolated. I was still on my maternity leave and I was home alone with the boys for hours and hours every day. Despite signing up for a thousand baby and mum courses, I still felt like nobody could relate to what I was going through except for a couple of other twins mums. On top of that, my husband and I only had one type of conversation “at what time does my shift start?”. T was still not sleeping through the night, in fact he was waking up every couple of hours. We were tired, stressed and occasionally desperate. We needed something to do together. Something to do as a family. After all we were starting to believe we made a mistake and we didn’t really want a family anymore. It wasn’t how we pictured it (it never is) and we couldn’t see when or even if we would ever be that nice little family we dreamt of. Swimming came along as a desperate way to force the four of us to do something together every week. And it worked!
We love swimming now and we wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. It gave us a chance to see how our unit of four could work. Although it was only for 30 minutes a week. Those were 30 minutes without nappies, feeding, screaming and moaning. It was a small window into the future.
Now that we reached that future. Now that we are a nice little family. Now that we can finally sleep. Now that our conversations are back to normal… Now I can finally write about this.
And like Dory said in Finding Nemo… just keep swimming!
Last week I had a very long conversation with an old friend and a lot of it was about the unanswerable question: is having twins better than two children one after the other?
Although there’s no answer to the question, I can’t stop thinking about it. What if I only had one child (at the time)…
If I only had one child I would have had so much more sleep in the past 2 years. I would have not appreciated it at the time, as sleepless nights are hard that you have 1 or 2 babies, but it would have been so much easier.
If I only had one child I would have had no reason to write this blog. My evenings would be so boring.
If I only had one child I would have had to go to work. Instead with two children in nursery I make so little money out of going to work that I could quit tomorrow and not notice a difference. This implies that I enjoy my work and I am motivated to wake up and go to work every morning. If it changes, I
will stay at home and play with the boys all day long. It’s good to have a plan B.
If I only had one child everything would take half the time. For example yesterday I was cutting the boys’ nails. With one child that is hard work as toddlers wriggle so much, but at least you wouldn’t have to do it while the other one tries to climb up your back!
If I only had one child I wouldn’t have pictures and selfies of me squeezing two beautiful boys! My phone would be empty without those photos!
If I only had one child there would be no fights! Sometimes the boys play together so well and sometimes they are in two different rooms with different toys. But most of the time they want to play with the same toy at the same time… you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realise what happens next!
I don’t know much about being the mum of a singleton. I know a lot about having twins. I also know a lot about sleepless nights, having too many nappies to change and synchronised meal time nightmares, but I still don’t know enough to answer THE question. With all my experience in the matter I honestly believe that there’s no way to determine if having only one child at the time would be better, but I can tell you… it would definitely be less tiring!
When did you first give chocolate to your child? The twins are 20 months old and have never had chocolate. People find it strange or even cruel, but I can’t see why. Although chocolate is lovely and I have it on a daily basis, it does contain exiting substances and trust me when I say that the twins don’t need any help to be hyper!
At nursery they occasionally serve chocolate, so I asked for the boys to have an alternative dessert when chocolate is on the menu. This request was found so unusual from the staff that I had to explain it to the nursery manager to convince them. They even tried to make me believe that the boys seemed upset when everyone has chocolate but them. That may well be the case, but as they had never had chocolate how would they know what they are missing out on? Do vegetarian children feel upset every time someone in their class has a sausage? Do children on a gluten free diet start to cry at the sight of pasta? I hope not!
One of the hardest moments in this battle happened last weekend. We had guests over and we bought 2 cakes, one with strawberries and one with chocolate. I ate only the non chocolate one and gave some to B, who happily ate it and then moved on to another thing to do. On the other hand, my husband decided to eat the chocolate cake, but gave T only bites from the strawberry one. That did not go down well! T was determined to have what daddy was eating and nothing was going to stand in his way… except for mummy! I immediately convinced daddy that he could say no to his son. Even if he was crying. Even if he was using his best version of the this-is-so-unfair look. If you don’t say no to a toddler, when will you start? When they are 5 and they can argue back? When they are teenagers and taller than you? No, this is the time to say no. No to biting your brother. No to climbing on top of the coffee table. No to another episode of Thomas the tank engine. No to chocolate.
Sometimes I think it’s a matter of principle more than dietary requirements, but I still think it’s a very important lesson in parenthood. When daddy said “Sorry T, mummy said no” and then quickly added “and daddy says no too”. I knew I won a small battle, but the war is still long… I know.
I know that technically I have never written about exhaustion part 1, but do I have to?? Can’t you just imagine how exhausting was breastfeeding twins, going shopping with newborn babies or the classical sleepless nights? Even people without children could guess how exhausting that was. Raising toddler boys thought requires a surprising amount of energy…
Not that I thought that it was going to be a walk in the park, but when I do take them to the aforementioned park I would hope to see them running around and enjoy myself while supervising. The cold reality is very different! For every time they go down a slide, you have to pick them up and put them at the top. Every time they want to climb somewhere, who is pushing them up? And there are always two of them! Two!
And then there are the night calls. One coughs and wakes the other one up. One has a bad dream and wakes up crying and wakes the other one up. Or even one farts too loudly and wakes the other one up! If it happens 2-3 times in the night (and you can bet it will) and you still have to wake up at 6.30 the morning after, it becomes exhausting after a while. All of this had some consequences.
You know you and your husband are exhausted when one of the following thing happens:
1) One of you falls asleep on the floor (in the living room, in the kids’ bedroom or even in the bathroom during bath time).
2) Shaking with cold when outside there’s sunshine and 20C.
3) Waking up at all hours of the night (it’s counterintuitive, but if you are too tired it can be more difficult to sleep).
4) Meeting your neighbor at the park and not having enough energy to recognise who she is.
5) Putting a dishwasher tablet in the washing machine!
6) Writing a really boring blog post…
I guess I’d better go to sleep then.
Understanding a toddler is an art. It takes practice and self belief. It is so difficult that most parents have to translate to outsiders what their child is saying. It’s a very common thing and most people don’t think twice about it. But what happens when not even the parents understand? The secret is simple. Guess!
Nobody will ever know if you guessed correctly. You just need to look confident to others and to your own child. Make him believe that you are right! If you can’t do it now, he certainly won’t start to believe you have all the answers in his teens, will he? I’ll make you an example of something I observed at the playground. A little boy asking for something. Daddy looking momentarily puzzled and than he offered him a teddy bear. Maybe the poor little boy wanted something to drink, but his daddy was sure he wanted his soft toy. The boy gladly accepted the toy and probably forgot about the drink.
Or maybe his daddy was right.
We will never know…
So you can choose to believe your bilingual son just said “pesce”, while the grandparents swear he said “fish”. He probably said “pesh”, but the most important thing is that he got himself understood and made 3 grown ups extremely proud.
On Thursday evening I arrived home a little late, so my husband was already feeding the twins dinner. I got closer to say hi and I noticed that T had a scratch on his right cheek which was still bleeding. I immediately thought it just happened and that he probably had done it to himself by mistake. A few minutes later though, my husband started to tell me all about what happened at nursery that day…
“So apparently T was scratched by this horrible child” my husband started to narrate the story. “They were fighting over a scooter or a bike outside and this child just went up to him and scratched him! He was too fast, so the nursery staff couldn’t do anything.” To myself I did agree this child was a little horrible, but he was also a child. It happens. But then my husband carried on: “I mean, over a bike! I can’t believe somebody could behave like that. Look at his face! It is still bleeding now!” I was starting to see his point. Well, maybe I should talk to the room leader, I thought. It is a little worrying that a child could do that to T. Ah well, one more thing to do tomorrow then. A phone call or maybe I could even go and pick the boys up and have a word…
“Well, at least B’s day was alright, wasn’t it?” I asked my husband. “Yes” he said, “although I had to sign a form for him as well.” “Really? What for?” I asked checking B for other bloody injuries. “Apparently he scratched this poor child who wanted to use a scooter or a bike or something…” My husband said with a cheeky smile.
Does having two identical things of everything really helps? This is a question that I ask myself daily! It certainly doesn’t help my wallet having to buy 2 sets of everything, but if that would mean less fights, I would happily pay the price.
A few weeks ago we bought a push along tractor for the twins. My husband thought they could share it. Within 4 hours from arrival I was already on Amazon ordering a second identical tractor. Did that help? No.
To be honest, it did help a little bit, and seen the boys on their tractors around the living room is really funny. But after 2 weeks T tried to claim both tractors at once and he hasn’t stopped since. I’m not sure why he believes B is not allowed a tractor, but if T is on one and B sits on the other, T would jump off and go to push him off it. This morning in fact he actually bit poor B!
On the other hand, if you have a drink from an orange sippy cup, your brother won’t really accept a blue one. So having two identical sippy cups is very important, if not essential for twins idration!
Other things though seems to have no importance what so ever. For example forks can have different colours, as long as the food is identical. But if one fork is metal and the other plastic… big trouble!! As a parent I found it very confusing. Cups must have the same colour, but forks don’t? What about plates then?
My twins are so different, I can’t see how they could like the same thing anyway, so I observed them closely. As I suspected they have different taste in toys. One likes Duplo, the other loves trains. One likes cooking, the other prefers watching TV. The problem is that if you are not doing anything but your brother is, bother him is a great activity… probably the best there is!