A turning point

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.

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School holidays and the things we learn

Every school holiday I learn something. Like that October half term when I thought that what we all needed was some chill-out time at home, and so I planned practically nothing. I’m not sure what I was thinking really – I think I had visions of cosy days full of baking and games and crafts; but by the end of the week we were all in tears and I was ready to poke my eyes out. I made a mental note to fill future school holidays with plans; to remember that days at home with all three children are very rarely either relaxing or productive. Now I approach each school holiday knowing that plenty of plans are very necessary in order to stay sane; and this tends to work.

The school holidays also remind me that providing three meals a day every day for all of my children is so much harder than I ever remember it being before they started school. Nothing I produce can ever compare to what the school cooks manage to rustle up and therefore is, very often, a disappointment. I am running out of ideas……and generally apologising for not being the school cook.

But this holiday, aside from trying to keep busy and struggling to keep up with the never-ending meals, I have learnt a couple of other things too.

Number 1 is that incorporating some named, timetabled elements into the day is, apparently, a good thing.

At the start of this holiday, I decided that every day we would have 15 minutes quiet reading time. There are always books around the house and my boys can often be found with one, but the difference with Quiet Reading Time (notice the capitals – it is now a thing) is that it would apply to everyone in the house at the same time, and we would all sit together for 15 minutes. It’s amazing the difference that simply giving something a name makes. Hundreds of times a day I ask my children to calm down, to stop shouting, to go and do something rather than poking a sibling with a pencil or sliding around on the stairs; but saying to them, ‘Right then, now it’s Quiet Reading Time‘ actually means something to them. They know what to do; and believe it or not, they all do it – at the same time. There is usually one boy (the same boy) Quiet reading timewho spends a couple of minutes insisting that he is off to do something else; but in the end he appears with a book looking sheepish. The youngest two usually also ask me a never-ending string of questions about what they’re reading and why Batman is chasing X and whether this guy is a good guy or a bad guy; but essentially, we all sit down with some reading material. Occasionally, if the books are going well, quiet reading time lasts for longer than 15 minutes – it is bliss.

When I think about it, I suppose it’s not surprising that my children prefer to have us all sitting down doing something at the same time rather than listening to me telling them all to calm down as I attempt to cook the dinner, clean the kitchen and nag a child about handwriting and spellings. Quiet Reading Time has helped calm the fractious moments and helped me to realise that sometimes, I need to do less yelling and more sitting.

Number 2 is that sometimes, you need to recognise when it is time to outsource. That sometimes, you can’t do it all yourself; and that’s ok. This holiday, I realised we needed to outsource the ‘learning-to-ride-a-bike’ thing for the biggest boy. I had been putting off the outsourcing, because I felt like riding a bike was the sort of thing that we should be able to teach him ourselves. I felt like we were letting him down, like this was an important part of parenting that we really should be able to do. But he just was not interested, and on top of that he was frustrated. So frustrated. Having always struggled with co-ordination, just learning how to use pedals had proved to be enough of a challenge. He was frustrated with himself and frustrated with us, and in the end he lost the will to even practise.

Thankfully, I came to my senses and realised that we needed an outsider to intervene, and so I booked him onto a Learn to Ride course over Easter. The first day, he absolutely categorically did not want to go – he ‘loathed’ cycling, so he said. He never wanted to be able to ride a bike……apparently he would walk everywhere, or run. That morning, he woke up and cried, and my heart broke as I dropped him off. But predictably, when I picked him up a smiling face appeared – he ‘loved’ it, he felt ‘confident’…..and he hasn’t looked back. It has taken him longer than most but who cares? I am ridiculously proud.

It takes a village -that’s what they say. Not many of us tend to have a village these days; but trying to take it all on ourselves isn’t always the best way forward. If outsourcing is what it takes then occasionally outsourcing is the thing to do. And in this case, it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

So here’s to Quiet Reading Time, or whatever your activity of choice might be, and to thinking about outsourcing some of those things which just aren’t quite working. And to keeping busy and staying sane for the last remaining days of the holiday…… which, incidentally, feels like it’s been going on for months. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, but it does feel like Easter weekend was about 3 months ago.

How many more meals to go??

Boy on his bike

Yippeeeeeeeeee!

 

The many faces of mum

The tears are great, huge puddles. Those tears you can see when they land. You can’t look at them, or you’ll start crying them too.

It is 7.45am and you know this mood – this mood that starts shortly after your child gets out of bed. This mood that nothing can calm until it decides it’s ready to calm itself. It might come before a big event – the first day back at school after the holidays, for example. Or, like today, the morning of a sharing assembly.

This morning, everything is wrong. Your already teary child misses his chance to lay the table because he is too busy crying over this morning’s choice of cereal. Then his brothers dare to get their own spoons out even though it is HIS turn to get everyone’s spoons. Then he is the last to get the fruit to go with his cereal, because he has been too busy crying over the spoon situation. Then there aren’t enough raisins in the bowl full of raisins. Then he realises that he won’t have time to play after breakfast because he has spent all of breakfast time and more crying over everything and nothing.

You try your hardest to stay calm – you are marginally better at this in the mornings than you are in the evenings. You try to be calm and firm and sympathetic all at once. You take him away from the situation but he won’t have it – he is wriggling and sobbing and fighting to escape as you try to give him a cuddle. And you sit at the bottom of the stairs struggling with a 5 year old, hoping that your other children will just sort themselves out and wondering whether this will be the morning that you have to phone the school and say I’m sorry, but I am actually incapable of getting my children out of the door.

You give up the struggle and he calms down a fraction, until it starts again over something else. And you try to find out whether there is something worrying him, but he says there’s NOT; it is just MUMMY making everything go wrong with his BREAKFAST. It is just all MUMMY’S fault.

Of course. At least now you know what the problem is.

And you need to get ready for work but you feel like you have done at least a day’s work already and no-one has even gone anywhere yet.

You would love to curl up and get back into bed. But everyone’s got to get to school and there’s the assembly to watch, and then it’s straight to work for you so there is no giving up and definitely no going back to bed.

The upset child drives some toy cars around and calms himself down – once his moment is over he is relatively quick to recover. It’s just that the moment itself lasts quite a long time.

You put on your ‘Morning! Yes we’re fine thanks‘ face as you leave the house; even though you feel like you’ve been put through a spin cycle and hung out to dry. But your children have got their coats, hats, book bags and water bottles; and they are happily walking to school. They are fine, you know that. But you also know that this slightly knotted up feeling right there, in the pit of your stomach, will be with you all day.

And your little ones give you the biggest hugs and say ‘See you at assembly, mummy‘. You see – everything is fine. No-one would even know about the heartache and the upset over a bowl of raisins and not having laid out the spoons.

Then you go into assembly and wear your proud but also slightly teary face, because you are convinced that this is what it was all about. It wasn’t about the raisins at all. And the assembly is joyful and brilliant and your children say their little lines and you just want to wrap them up in the biggest hug.

Then you get in the car and drive to work; and you allow yourself a little cry. Because so far today you’ve worn the I’m-doing-my-best-to-stay-calm face, the sympathetic face, the firm face, the ‘Morning! Yes, we’re fine thanks‘ face; and the proud-mum face and sometimes it just feels like too many faces.

Because you remember those big puddle tears and those angry little limbs.

Because you’ve got 5 minutes to yourself, and you can.

And then you get a tissue, dry the tears; and put on your work face. And you start the day again.

school run boys

Mummy away / Mummy at home – a tale in two parts

Part 1 – Away

Mummy is lucky enough to be having a weekend away. No husband, no children……just mummy and some friends.

Mummy sits down on the train and thinks about the fact that she has two whole days ahead of her which will not require her to be a human vending machine, or to attempt to answer three questions at once, or to repeatedly ask boys to blow their nose.

Mummy considers the fact that her bags contain her things, and her things only.

Mummy considers the fact that she will be able to talk freely and finish conversations.

Mummy considers the fact that her friends are unlikely to feel the need to pull on her arms or shout her name over and over if they want to get her attention.

Mummy considers the fact that she might even be able to read more than half a paragraph of her book in one go.

Mummy’s head isn’t spinning.

Mummy revels in the freedom, but also sends her husband numerous messages to check that he is doing things more or less exactly as she would do them. Mummy has been known to get irritated with daddy for not using his initiative; however, if daddy chooses to use his initiative but then does things in a way that mummy doesn’t approve of, mummy reserves the right to be furious.

Mummy acknowledges that daddy has a difficult task ahead of him this weekend.*

Mummy and her friends agree that they would like to spend some time pottering round the shops, because they absolutely never do this in their normal lives. Six hours later, the carefree foursome are still happily pottering. They have tried on things they don’t need, spent time examining things they are never going to buy; and marvelled at the joy of wandering unhurried around the shops, without the fear of anyone attempting to dismantle the displays.

Mummy is oblivious to the Saturday crowds. Saturday crowds mean nothing when you are used to having three small children hanging off your arm and clamouring to be heard.

Mummy feels a bit like she is 15 again……at the shops, with her friends.

Having eaten too much, shopped too much, wandered leisurely around a museum and finished more conversations than she can remember having finished in the last seven years, mummy gets the train home. Mummy has coffee and a mince pie, nobody on her lap and, in the space of an hour, reads more of her book than she is likely to read for the next two weeks.

Part 2 – Home

Mummy walks through the door. Mummy’s children are happy, noisy and excited; and the smallest ones are overjoyed that mummy happened to pick up the Go Jetters magazine complete with a Grandmaster Glitch figure.

Mummy has been away for two whole nights which means that right now, mummy is a novelty. Three boys are eager to tell mummy every single thing that comes into their heads, all at once and in no particular order. They watched Star Wars with Jar Jar Binx and Qui-Gon / they watched some fruit fall off the minions’ heads / Strictly was in BLACKPOOL / Claudia had a seagull on her head / Blackpool is really huge / they played Strictly with their great-grandma / they scored 17 goals at football.

Mummy is quite enjoying being a novelty and being surrounded by children who don’t appear to be cross with her.

15 minutes have now passed and mummy is no longer a novelty. Mummy was actually surprised that her novelty status lasted for as long as it did. Mummy is required to answer a series of quickfire questions that are in no way linked to anything that has just been discussed…..such as what colour is petrol, and if you’re invisible can you see melted ice-cream.  Out of nowhere, Boy 3 is sobbing because both his brothers got to ‘speak to Tess’ when he didn’t; and Boy 2 is shouting something about his brother having stolen Grandmaster Glitch’s wheel…..turns out Grandmaster Glitch didn’t even have a wheel.

Mummy has ‘Go go, go go, Go Jetters‘ going round and round her head, and threatens to confiscate Grandmaster Glitch whilst wiping away Boy 3’s tears and promising that he’ll be able to speak to Tess next week.

Mummy is home. And her head is spinning once more.

Mummy away

What a peaceful scene

 

*Turns out, daddy uses his initiative pretty well.

Our new happy hour – weekly one-to-ones

Banana ice-cream was what you wanted. ‘Isn’t it a bit cold for ice-cream?’ I asked. But apparently not. You were adamant – chilly day or not, you would absolutely love an ice-cream.

You declared it the best ice-cream you had ever had. I’m not sure it was really, but perhaps the happy circumstances made it seem that way.

You were out with mummy. Just you. No big brother and no twin. No-one influencing your choices. No-one telling you not to interrupt or asking you to wait your turn.

Just you and mummy on a cold day in the park cafe. A good tempered, calm mummy for once, because she hadn’t gone through the trauma of getting three boys out of the door.

We have realised, perhaps a little late, that regular one-to-one time has become very necessary…..for you twin boys in particular. It is important for your big brother too, but he tends to get this naturally as a result of being a different age, having different friends and taking part in different activities. It’s not that there aren’t huge advantages to being a twin. I often look at the two of you and think how lucky you are to have each other – a buddy who is there with you at every milestone. But equally, I know that being a twin brings challenges and that there are things you miss out on as a result of being one of two……mainly, attention.

If you read anything about parenting multiples, the standard advice is to separate them every so often; but for us it just wasn’t a priority in the early days. Perhaps we were wrong, but it just didn’t really occur to us at weekends to schedule time to split everyone up. You boys were generally happy together, so we were happy to let you be together.

And then we realised that regular time on your own was something you desperately needed, and that we needed to ensure you got. Time to be yourselves. To remember that you are important individually and not simply as a unit. Space to make your own choices. To be listened to properly rather than by a parent who also has an eye and ear on what the other two are up to. It wouldn’t be anything grand, just time. And I really mean nothing grand – for Twin 2’s outing, we went to Tesco. I know. We chose Halloween hats and had a coffee/smoothie and a pain au raisin. It was such a treat (it really was).

And then last weekend, Twin 1 and I went to the park. It seemed strange seeing you racing around on your own; but I don’t think it occurred to you to be lonely. Mummy wasn’t distracted. You climbed and mummy watched. You spoke and no-one interrupted.

I wasn’t surprised you were sad when I said it was time to go home. But then the joy on your twin’s face when we got home made the brief separation worth it too. It was as though you’d been apart for days. And, surveying the calm atmosphere at home, it occurred to me that actually, this is special time for everyone……not just for the boy who is taken out. Taking one out of the equation means those left at home also get more attention. There are fewer siblings available for a squabble. There is less noise. The parent left at home is less stressed. It is a win-win situation.

It feels like we have had a hard few weeks, but being out with just one boy helps me to remember the things I love about being a mum. It has made me realise that around 90% of what I do when I’m in charge of three children is crowd-control, only about 10% is actual parenting. Please don’t do that. Please get off him. Why have you taken that off him? Is that a kind thing to do? Why are you poking him? If you get your hands off him, then he won’t get irritated.  And I know all about the benefits of having siblings; but still, sometimes children need a reminder that who they are and what they have to say is important. They need to choose their own ice-cream without a sibling’s input. They need to see a parent enjoying their company; without being distracted by cries of ‘He is talking to me in a MEAN way‘ and ‘He stood on me‘ and ‘I’ve lost Spiderman’s head AGAIN, mummy‘.

It’s only for an hour or so. But what a happy hour it is.

boy in leaves

Ups and downs, highs and lows

Sometimes I watch as you amuse yourselves building rockets out of bricks and think yes, we’re all doing ok. You play, you build, you feel proud. You are loved, you are warm, you are fed. But then a few minutes later, it all falls apart – one of you wants to build a monster, another wants to build a zoo. Nothing is fair, it’s all his fault. Mummy tell him!……TELL HIM OFF! 

And I realise I was getting cocky. I let myself think too soon that it was all going well.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t stand any more squabbles over whose turn it is to help get the breakfast ready. One of you sobs your heart out and tells me it is definitely YOUR turn, definitely. You haven’t done it for AGES. But then there is your brother……No, mummy…..I haven’t done it for ages. It is definitely MY turn, mummy. Please mummy. PLEEEEEAASE.

And I don’t know how I’ll get through a day with this going on in the background.

Sometimes I watch the three of you sitting down happily poring over a book. And I think yes, this is just as it should be. Look at you, content just being together – nothing makes me happier than this. And then you all need something from me at exactly the same time; and suddenly I feel totally inadequate. I realise I’m not doing the right thing by anyone – half-heartedly answering a question for one boy while I attempt to draw a gingerbread man with another and stick a plastic bottle onto a margarine tub with the third.

Sometimes I watch you all walking along together: chasing each other, hiding, laughing; occasionally holding hands. My little unit. And it makes my heart sing.

And other times I see everything start to unravel and I wonder why you are suddenly so ANGRY. What is behind your rage? Is it something I’ve done? Is it something I’m doing? At those times, my evenings are spent Googling ‘Angry 5 year old‘ and my head is full of strategies and tactics; but I know that the next morning I’ll be watching you again as you happily potter around with those bricks, and all those worries will melt away.

Sometimes it hits me how grown up you suddenly seem. We can have proper conversations. You are interested and interesting. And then out of nowhere you urgently need to know how scaffolding is erected. Scaffolding. It is not satisfactory that I have absolutely no idea. And we’re walking along a busy street so I just can’t find out for you right now. But apparently I am not understanding your question. I need to LISTEN to you; I’m not LISTENING.

I am listening to you, I promise; but I still don’t know anything about scaffolding.

And that makes me feel inadequate too – I don’t think I ever realised that I wouldn’t have all the answers for you. Or maybe I imagined us sitting down quietly to look up the answers together…..which just isn’t possible when you’re walking along a busy street; or when there is always another child demanding time, energy and answers to different questions.

Sometimes I realise how behind I am with everything. That I’ve missed a birthday. That I haven’t replied to a text. That I haven’t read the latest school newsletter or seen the list of upcoming events.

Sometimes I see the pile of laundry and just want to weep.

Sometimes, like this morning, I open a drawer and it falls apart. And all I wanted to do was put clothes away.

Sometimes, in fact most of the time, I vow that I will start going to bed earlier. I know that will help me to deal with the challenges in the daytime. But then I also know how impossible I find it to give up my evening. My time to just be, without all the noise. Without the mummy, mummy, mummy demands.

Sometimes, I realise that I really had no idea what a rollercoaster this whole thing would be. I knew there would be challenging times, but I had no clue that I would regularly experience the whole spectrum of emotions over the course of one day, or even one hour. I had no idea that my heart would swell with love and pride one minute, and that I would be tearing my hair out with frustration the next. I had no idea that sometimes, I would feel like every  last bit of goodness had drained out of me by midday….or earlier.

Sometimes…..well sometimes raising children is just a bit overwhelming. There are up-and-down days, seemingly impossible days; but then there are also days when I see my boys kicking their way through leaves or marching along happily with a giant stick. Hooray for those days – those are the good ones. And when we look back at these days in a few years…..well, hopefully we’ll have forgotten that mummy didn’t have any of the answers to your questions about scaffolding.

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My little boy with a giant stick. Because a giant stick makes everything better.

 

 

 

 

 

A twin journey

“I think you need to look at the screen”, said the sonographer. So I finally looked up.

“There’s baby number 1”, she said. “….And there’s baby number 2.”

I hadn’t wanted to look up until then. Because the last time I’d been on that bed, there was an awful silence. One of those silences which is heavy with meaning. One of those silences which means there’s a problem.

And so when I was back on that bed, my head was very deliberately turned the other way.

Baby number 2? …….. Baby number 2?

It took a moment.

There were definitely tears…..tears of panic, really. I was thinking of giant buggies and new cars and the fact that since having baby #1 I had always looked at anyone with twins and thought ‘how on earth is that possible?’

“But we’ve already got one”, I said to the sonographer – as if that piece of information might change things. “What are we going to do?”

“First time is the hardest”, she said. “You’ll find it easier this time.”

That was about five years ago now. It almost feels like a different life.

Since then, I have thought I can’t do this more times than I can count; but also known that I don’t actually have a choice, because I have to do it.

I have felt bewildered, overwhelmed and at times totally inadequate.

I have watched crawling twins, climbing twins and walking twins gain in confidence as they worked out how to get to all the things which had been deliberately put out of their reach…….And I have felt like things were rapidly slipping out of my control.

I have eaten too many sweets, a lot of cake, and tripled my coffee intake.

I have accepted kind words from strangers and tried to stay strong when people have felt the need to be unkind.

I haven’t completed any of the baby journals or scrapbooks that I completed for my eldest boy. Instead there are hospital bands and locks of hair and scan photos strewn casually around the house. Sorry about that, little ones.

I have struggled my way through hundreds of painful, over-tired bedtimes.

I have cried. A lot. Tears of exhaustion, frustration, joy and everything in between.

I have despaired over squabbles about who gets to open the bedroom door first, who gets to go to the toilet first, who gets to wear the Spiderman pyjamas, who gets to choose their cereal first, who gets to wear the stripy hat, who gets to choose the music in the car, who gets to be the one to open the front door on the way out (this is the most coveted job of them all, and is always worth fighting over).

I have felt like the world’s worst referee.

I have spent nights being budged out of my own bed, nights lying on the floor next to small boys’ beds; and too many Sunday mornings trying to convince little ones that 5.30am is just not an acceptable time to start the day.

But there is also this – the fact that you, Baby number 1 and Baby number 2, are now a proper team….. a unit. The fact that, as you get older, you are increasingly able to take comfort and confidence from each other. When I think about your play, your chatter, your day-to-day fun….well, I’m just not particularly important anymore. Apart from for logistics……and snacks, obviously. At four years old, you are now able to cooperate, share and take it in turns – of course you still have your moments, but who doesn’t? The skills are there, and you display them more frequently than you used to. You consult each other on which television programme you should watch next; you arrange to swap hats and trainers. You have got used to always taking someone else into account – sometimes this doesn’t suit you…… of course it doesn’t. But this is your life and you understand that. You are proud of yourselves when you manage to reach a compromise…… I am proud of you too. You organise your play meticulously: it always involves each other and only occasionally involves me – let’s play Fireman Sam and Elvis, let’s play doggy and his owner, let’s play daddy and baby, let’s play cow and farmer.

Frequently I feel like I am talking to myself – you are too busy in your own world to take much notice of me and…..well yes, that can be infuriating. But then when we’re not in a rush, I remind myself to take a moment to watch and listen to the way you talk to each other. The way you manage to work out a compromise. The way you adjust each other’s school uniform. Even just the way you use each other’s names. Because these are the things I know I’ll be desperate to hold onto as you get bigger and my window into your world gets smaller.

‘Impossible’ is what I used to say about having twins.

It isn’t impossible, as long as you adjust what you expect of yourself.

But the struggle to hear myself think, the feeling that nothing is being done quite as well as it should be, and the physical exertion required to get two small children of the same age through the most basic tasks…..well, somehow it all seems worth it when you see your twins manage to come to an agreement over who gets the top and who gets the bottom half of a hot cross bun.

Well done, boys – mummy is so proud x

arm-in-arm

I wrote this because February is TAMBA’s #lovemultiples month. Yes, I know I am sneaking in at the last minute on the very last day of February, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail all month so the fact that I’m a bit late to the party with this one too seemed fitting.