I have seen a few posts recently about the challenges of parenting pre-school aged multiples. We are a couple of years on from that now, but I’ve been thinking back to when I was navigating my way through that very tricky territory.
I remember those days so clearly. When your little ones suddenly have language and are able to express themselves…. which you would think might make things less frustrating, not more; but of course it doesn’t because they don’t yet understand what is and what isn’t reasonable (and, of course, you are attempting to reason with two at a time). When it feels like one twin is always upset over something and you’re not sure how much energy you have left to reason with children who have not yet mastered the art of reasoning. When one minute it feels perfect but the next you are rocking in a corner, questioning everything and just wishing you were a different sort of mum and able to give your precious little people the time and attention that they deserve.
I don’t have any magical advice for this very tricky stage, but if I could go back and have a chat with myself two years ago, I think I would tell myself the following:
- Stand back every so often and let them resolve some things for themselves. Tell them you’re not getting involved, and go over the top with praise when they manage to resolve whatever they’ve been squabbling over.
- Realise when you are just adding to the noise – this is the hardest thing because when it’s all going crazy, well sometimes you just can’t help but join and in and let rip yourself…..but when they’re in the moment, squabbling over who gets to wear the tractor socks or who gets to use the special purple cup; they absolutely WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU. You can try, you can reason; but most likely……well, it will just be more noise. I still have to remind myself of this one all the time.
- Have a safe spot/safe toy/special cushion…..something they associate with calming down. We only started this one in the last year or so – my boys will now calm down with a fidget spinner, a favourite cuddly; or if they’re feeling really really angry and just need to go and hit something I encourage them to go and hit a cushion rather than lashing out at a sibling.
- A lovely doctor we saw a few months ago suggested this next one – let each child take it in turns to be ‘in charge of the day‘. Being in charge of the day means that you get to make all the big decisions…..you know, all the really big decisions like who gets to use the yellow spoon with the lion on it, who gets to open the front door, who gets to turn the television on. All the things that cause proper angst and heartache. And then at the end of the day, whoever is in charge gets 10 minutes of ‘mummy / daddy time’ – doing a drawing, playing a game or whatever. In theory, no-one can complain that it’s unfair because everyone will get their turn. It is not flawless and it can cause a few problems of its own, but it does help eliminate a lot of the bickering.
- When you can, change the dynamic. It is hard to emphasise enough how valuable one-on-one time is (I wrote another post about this), particularly for multiples. It removes so many of the elements that makes parenting so draining and achieves the exact opposite – a bit of one on one time with my boys usually reminds me how much I enjoy their company, and makes me better equipped to deal with the more challenging moments. It’s not easy to schedule time for, but if you can arrange a trip to grandparents/friends/an aunt or uncle for one without the other, it changes everything.
- DO NOT EVER compare yourself to other parents. Ever. Don’t look at pictures of your friends and their children on big days out and feel bad because you’re not doing the same. Don’t look at other children going from football to yoga to French and think that your children are missing out. Keep it simple, because there is plenty of time for #makingmemories and for adventures……I know we all feel the pressure to make every moment magical, especially these days; but with more than one at the same stage it can’t always be like that. And there is plenty of time for making memories when they’re old enough a) to enjoy them properly and b) to actually remember them. So just hang on a little while, because there is good news coming……..
It. Does. Get. Easier.
Or many of the things above do, anyway.
Over the last 6 months or so, I have noticed some BIG changes with my lively pair (who will be 6 in the summer); and I have realised that we have definitely entered a new era. What signalled the start of this new era was being able to read, and once that clicked, so many other things seem to have clicked too. Learning to read means so much more than just plodding through Biff, Chip and Kipper books after school. Learning to read is everything and feels like the proper start of independence. You see, as well as now being able to pick up a book and attempt to tackle it themselves, they can also now play proper sit-down games together; with minimal input from me. I first noticed it a few months ago when I watched them playing Top Trumps after school – they were happily playing by themselves, with no need for an adult hovering over their shoulders. Now games are a regular feature, and they have even been known to keep themselves amused with a few games first thing on a Saturday and Sunday morning.
Activity books are also achievable and, if my boys are feeling co-operative, something that they can do while I’m preparing the dinner. They can follow the instructions, attempt the puzzles and read where the stickers are supposed to go……which is excellent if, like me, you struggle to cope if the stickers that are supposed to ‘complete the scene’ on page 16 are stuck willy-nilly all over page 12 instead.
Something else that seems to have clicked over the last 12 months or so is the ability and desire to sit down and do some drawing or colouring – and not just furious scribbles on a page but trying to draw actual things. This was almost unknown two years ago. They still need to get outside regularly and run off some energy; but there are now so many more options for sitting down activities when I need them. Having mastered some basic life-skills, they just seem so much less frustrated with life.
And because of all of this this, the really good news is that it is so much easier to go out and have adventures. We can do bigger days out (I won’t pretend they’re not still exhausting), we can do train journeys, we can handle later nights. They can sit on a train and read a book or do some puzzles. When we’re out and about they can walk further, keep going for longer and there is less kit for us to carry around. So much so, that I am now desperate to book up more adventures – now that they are old enough to appreciate them but young enough to still want to have them.
The age my boys are at now does not come without its own challenges, obviously – that is for a separate post of its own. But in terms of the pre-school years – well, hang on in there ……because just like all the other phases, this too shall pass. And a new stage awaits.