The Joys of Twins
One of the many joys of having twin toddlers is that each of my girls has another child to play with. Not that they always play together, but they are never alone. My girls are 20 months and they play together just as often as they play apart–though sometimes I wish they would just play apart. I must recognize here that there are many advantages to my girls never being alone. This is an advantage when I am late picking them up from the nursery at church: neither of them will ever be “the last kid” in the nursery (that was meant in good humor –of course I am never late to pick them up, ehh hhmm). It is also an advantage that they learn from one another. Both of our girls have now figured out how to do somersaults, Callie first and then a few days later Bella jumped on the band wagon. The girls took their first steps on the same day, Bella first then Callie. They have twice as many outfits to choose from each day. I am more likely to take them to the park to play than I think I would be if I just had one. They never have to sleep in their room alone; now, as nice as that may seem (here is where I have to address the downside) that also means they share a room.
The Challenges of Naptime
Today this sharing of a room was the downfall of my afternoon. We went out for a walk with the girls’ grandmother, then we went back to her house to play. I knew they would fall asleep on the way home, and they did. The trouble is, they both woke up in the transfer. My husband is a graphic designer and works from home. We came in right as he was eating lunch and he helped bring in Bella while I carried Callie. As we laid them down, they opened their eyes. We didn’t say a word, the trouble is they saw each other awake. And that was it: nap time was over.
So I spent my afternoon navigating tired twins. My girls are real sweethearts, unless they are teething or sleep deprived. In which case they get aggressive and bite or pinch one another. Today it just happens that they were both: sleep deprived and teething. I managed to get through the afternoon by trying to stay ahead of them; but every time I left them to play with one another, within minutes one was crying. Then I would find myself giving one a time-out while consoling the other. I have realized a big key to the way a nap-deprived afternoon turns out depends a lot more on me than on them.
Let’s face it, just the prospect of an afternoon with a set of 20 month-old twins that haven’t napped is enough to rattle the nerves. But, I am realizing I can’t let it get to me. This isn’t the first time they missed a nap and it won’t be the last. I can’t let the idea of losing a small window of a break disappoint me. I can’t let this little change of plans become a monkey wrench in my day. There is a saying, “If mama’s happy, everybody is happy; if mamma isn’t happy, no one is happy” and it is true. It’s not their fault that they are so excited to see each other and me that they would rather play than sleep. As far as they are concerned, that short nap was their regular two hour long nap. It may seem silly but when I am in the middle of losing my “break,” it is really hard for me to remember this stuff. So I have come up with a few tips and tricks to get through a sleep-deprived afternoon. Here is how I got through the afternoon:
Tips and Tricks
Stay Ahead of Them
Stay ahead of your tired toddlers. When my girls are perfectly well rested, they have a hard enough time understanding boundaries and why they can’t do certain things. Take away their nap, and I lose any hope of them following directions well. They are speaking pretty well, but they still don’t posses the language skills or social skills to really pull off playing together well on their own. However, because they are twins they are playing together anyway. If I am watching (and watching closely) I can anticipate when one of them is about to do something that will spark a negative response or reaction from the other. I can generally stop it–if I am really watching. I have to be on top of this, because when they are tired their fuses are so much shorter. I don’t have the same lee-way time that I have when they are well rested; my response time has to be quick and short. Remember: get ahead of your tired toddlers, and keep an eye out for those things that will trigger an aggressive response.
Get A Grip: On Yourself
The easiest way to make a difficult afternoon more difficult is to add your own bad attitude to it. You can’t change your nap-deprived toddlers inability to control him or herself. But you can control yourself and you can make a choice to face the next few hours with a positive and hopeful attitude. I often find that if I am bummed out about how my afternoon is going to go, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can only be as good as I allow it to be and if I have already decided it is going to be difficult and hard then that is all it can be. However, if I have a “play it by ear” attitude and allow myself to be flexible and adjust according to what their actual needs are it goes much better for them and for me.
Back Up Games: Set them up for Success
Keep a list of back up games or activities. We have a few games that I can bring out that I know the girls love to play. We have a set of bowling pins and two bowling balls–for twins I wouldn’t introduce games that you don’t have two sets of all the components; sharing is not high on the ability list of tired toddlers. For my twins, coloring is a good quiet activity that can be done as they play side by side and not necessarily together. Coloring is also a good activity because it takes little instruction and direction from me for them to do it. I just make sure that they are coloring in their high chairs–this way I don’t have to spend a lot of time redirecting tired children to their color table. Set them up for success. If they have a hard time doing something when they are well rested, they definitely can’t be expected to do it when they are tired.