As a mom of twins I’m often asked how I do it. I’m assuming it means manage two kids, who have just learned how to run but still don’t know how to listen, on my own. I always have to smirk and say I don’t really have a choice. Because it’s true. If I don’t do it, Child Protective Services will do it for me. So, when a friend of mine dropped by the other day for a visit and asked me what it’s like to be constantly outnumbered, I struggled to find the right analogy. He asked me if it was like getting multiball while playing pinball and I immediately started laughing. Because that really is exactly what it’s like. He couldn’t have put it more perfectly. Having kids is a lot like a game of pinball.
I became a teen in the late 80’s. I spent a lot of time skating laps to Milli Vanilli and Rick Astley at the local roller rink. And it was there that I discovered pinball. God, I loved pinball. Almost more than roller skating (but not more than my grade 6 boyfriend, Axel). If I remember correctly (which I rarely do), I was pretty good at pinball too. But throw in a multiball and everything would fall apart. My 13 year old brain couldn’t transition into multi-mode fast enough and, in the end, I would have to just focus on one ball and let the others roll into oblivion. Now that I’m a mom of twins, I’m not sure my almost-40 year old brain can do any better.
The difference now is that I can’t just give up on one and let them slide out of sight (although it has happened). So when I say that I can’t meet you at the playground or library or anywhere near a busy road with multiple places to hide, please understand. I want to but I know the limits of my multi-child skills. Many parents believe having twins is like having two kids who are close in age. It’s not. Please trust me on this. You may have two small children but likely at least one of them is confident on two feet or understands when you shout “STOP!” as they approach a curb. The probability that you will have to carry them both at the same time is low and if you do, only one of them weighs as much as a tank. The odds of both of them disappearing in opposite directions is slim given that one of them can only crawl as fast a snail.
I’m frankly sick of hearing myself say “I’d love to but I can’t because I have twins” or “that sounds amazing but with twins, it’s just not possible.” It’s starting to sound like a crutch, I say it so often. But the truth of the matter is that I often don’t feel like other parents fully understand. It’s not their fault of course. They don’t know. Hell, I didn’t know until I tried a certain activity and failed miserably enough that I put it on my DON’T DO THAT AGAIN UNTIL THEY’RE OLDER list. But I still hate having to say it, for two reasons. One, I feel like other parents are judging me and think I can’t handle being a mom. And two, it makes me realize how much my kids and I are missing out on.
I don’t want it to seem like I was dealt a shit hand. I wasn’t. I love being a twin mom. But the fact of the matter is that, at their current age, there are things I just can’t do with them without another adult to help. My children run, but not confidently, which often leads to gravel-covered face plants. The two of them never (and I mean NEVER) go in the same direction. If they start out heading north together, they stop to have a brief sidebar and one of them concedes to head south. It is in these moments where they seem fastest on their feet. For the record, I love the library but it is, essentially, a maze for small children. All I have to do is follow the path of tossed aside books to find my kids; one in the adult science-fiction section and the other with his head stuck in the book return.
More than anything I would love to take my kids swimming more often. They are water babies, just like I was. With every visit, no matter how rare, they welcome the water with increasing enthusiasm. But without my husband to help, one would surely drown or, most likely, lock themselves in a change room locker. I know that this is just a phase and we will be able to experience more once they get older and more independent. And when that day comes, I’m sure I will mourn the days when they relied on me so heavily. So even though I often feel like we’re missing out right now, I remind myself to appreciate the time I have with my two demanding little ones who still fight over their mom’s attention. And with every passing day, I get increasingly more effective at managing them both by myself.
Like the New Kids on the Block sang, we just have to take it Step By Step, ooh baby.