On the day your twins turn one year old—possibly even at the stroke of midnight—you will fall back on your bed and breathe a huge sigh of relief. After all, no year could be as challenging as the first, right? Right. That's the good news. Some additional news: The second year is going to be an "interesting" one. However, you're going to make it. Here are ten products and mind-sets that will guarantee your success.
VERY low expectations
Alice Walker summed it up perfectly when she said, "Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise." This is what you'll need to do for the majority of year two. If you can manage it—most of the time—you'll survive quite nicely. Choosing to maintain very low expectations might seem negative at first. If so, try thinking of it this way: This approach is not pessimistic, it's realistic. If you don't have a master plan in mind for the way things will go, you significantly reduce the potential for being disappointed. An experience that might otherwise have been viewed as horrendous might be seen as "fascinating." A trip to the grocery store during which the kids were not in the most wonderful moods might be viewed as a success simply because you were able to keep some semblance of peace until everything on your list had been purchased. Heed the advice of Emmet Fox: "Bless a thing and it will bless you. Curse it and it will curse you.If you bless a situation, it has no power to hurt you, and even if it is troublesome for a time, it will gradually fade out."
Your own phone booth
As with many of my sanity savers, I credit my friend Mollie for this one. We were talking recently via phone, all four of our boys were screaming at us, and she said (loudly), "That's it—I'm asking Gary for my own phone booth for Christmas this year!" The key to surviving this year of non-stop vocalization is to accept that you will have nary a moment of peace between 7:00AM and 8:00PM. When you are playing with your children, each is vying for your attention. When you're trying to book a doctor's appointment (perhaps with a licensed therapist), at least one child will likely be hanging on your leg and whining. When you're trying to simply take a seven-second-bathroom break, one is banging on the door in fear that you've stealthily slipped out via the toilet bowl.
Try to limit your social phone conversations to naptime or after the kids' bedtime. That way, when you have to receive or place an important call during the day, you can be more firm about the fact that Mommy is on the phone and unless someone's bleeding or has stopped breathing, the issue will need to wait a few moments.
A warehouse-sized jug of Maalox
During the second year, you will likely find your twins in some precarious places—and possibly even positions attempting to get to those places. For starters, I've found my boys locked in their room—one with an appendage stuck behind the bed, on top of their bookshelf (yes, it's bolted to the wall), and hiding small toys quite deep inside their floor vent. The key to the keeping your doses of Maalox infrequent: When it gets uncomfortably quiet in your home before the kids are in bed for the night, don't be thankful. Be nervous. Be very, very nervous.
I never thought this item would come in handy for child-related challenges. I was wrong. Our multiples sorority's first experience with duct tape came when Mollie could find no other way to keep her boys from pulling open her oven door. All of the baby stores were out of the oven locks (must be a common challenge) so in the meantime, she wrapped the entire front of the appliance with duct tape. Shortly thereafter, in an effort to strategize a solution to preventing Jack from removing his diaper during naptime (he can—and will—take off any and all clothes to get his diaper off), Mollie suggested wrapping it with duct tape. Good news: It prevents the child from being able to completely remove the diaper. Bad news: It does not prevent the child from reaching up through the legs of the diaper and removing its contents. More bad news: It's about as hard for parents to get the diaper off as it is for the child!
The ability to discriminate between an inconvenience and an emergency
As Dr. Richard Carlson noted in his book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.and it's all small stuff, "Although most people believe otherwise, the truth is, life isn't an emergency. The first step in becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you're creating your own emergencies. Life will usually go on if things don't go according to plan." A dirty house is an inconvenience, not an emergency (unless Oprah is on her way over). Not having time to hand-make your holiday cards one year is an inconvenience, not an emergency. Don't pressure yourself to be and have it all each and every day. In most cases, the only person with these high expectations of yourself is you! There will be plenty of time once your kids are in school all day to scrub the kitchen floor until it shines "like the top of the Chrysler Building" and craft until you can craft no more.
A low need for order/control
Newsflash: There is not going to be much of either during this year. Two year olds are curious.period. Two year olds who have a constant partner in crime are something more significantly scary than curious. The amount of trouble these children can get themselves into in the forty-two seconds it takes you to switch a load of laundry to the dryer before it begins to mildew can defy even the most active imagination. Some advice to keep in mind: One. While some are a bit more time-consuming than others, most messes can be cleaned up. (If necessary, review the above Inconvenience versus Emergency advice.) Two. If it's broken, but not valuable, it's OK. Three. If it's broken and valuable, perhaps it shouldn't have been out in the first place!
What is the biggest giveaway that a woman is a mother of multiples? She's wearing a short-sleeved shirt in the middle of February in Chicago. Why? Because she's constantly sweating. My poor husband suggests we build a fire most winter nights, and I have to weakly reply, "Uh.Ok.I guess." I then sit in another room. And I wonder why I rush to pick up my daughter from preschool—coatless—thinking how wonderful the cool air will feel, only to develop frostbitten arms between the parking lot and the front door.
While it may sound ridiculous at times, the effect of slowly counting to ten is highly underestimated. Learn to do it in various languages to create learning and calming environments simultaneously! There will likely be many occasions when your first instinct is to yell when something inconvenient occurs. This is perfectly understandable. After all, when the entire contents of a tube of toothpaste have somehow ended up all over the floor, it can be frustrating. Do your best to determine which incidents are indeed accidents—and, quite possibly, the result of your child simply trying to learn and be independent—and which are behaviors that your child knows are wrong. When the latter occurs, have a plan for a time-out or a natural or logical consequence for your child. Most importantly, be calm and consistent with your response. Sometimes, the entire point of the wrongdoing was to get you in the uproar that your child knows she can get you into. Don't allow yourself to lose this battle to a two year old!
A lot of paper towels
Yet another good reason to join a warehouse club! Do not buy the cheapest paper towels—the ones that break in half when you attempt to fold them. At the same time, don't assume that the most expensive brand is your best bet either. What you want is the most absorbent paper towel your dollar can buy. I'm personally a huge fan of Brawny—you know, the "quicker picker-upper." And by all means, please don't rinse and reuse paper towels in an effort to conserve money or anything else. I've made my penchant for bargain shopping quite clear, but even I draw the line on this one. Our family goes through approximately one roll of paper towels every two days or so, and that's just fine with me. I simply don't have the time to be doing multiple loads of laundry each day to wash the again-dirty (and pretty) dishtowels.
A good, reliable sitter (or two)
By the time your multiples reach the age of one, you're going to be ultra comfortable leaving them alone for an evening, believe me! It's extremely important to ensure that you have a reliable sitter with whom you are comfortable leaving your children for a few hours so that you and your husband can get out together. I realize that once you get comfortable with actually leaving your children, you will get uncomfortable with how much it will cost to leave them. It's easy to think, "Once we recover financially from paying the sitter, on top of the cost of our evening out, we might as well have just stayed home." Look at the expense as an investment in your marriage, and allocate part of your monthly budget to babysitting services. This way, it's not an unexpected expense.
Your twins' second year will be full of new experiences and lessons. Your children will bloom before your eyes in more ways than you can imagine. You will undoubtedly grow throughout the year as well. Noted St. Paul, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." Keep this attitude and you'll be at the beginning of year three before you know it.
Elizabeth Lyons is the author of Ready or Not.Here We Come! The REAL Experts' Cannot-Live-Without Guide to the First Year with Twins. Her website is www.elizabethlyons.com.
". . . the advice you need in the short, funny format your sleep-deprived mind can absorb. Lyons tells it like it is in a laugh-out-loud look at the uncertainty, craziness, and absolute joy of your first year with twins. An absolute must-have." --Lisa Earle McLeod, Columnist for Lifetime Magazine and author of Forget Perfect.