Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Single trouble

G and T - 2-and-a-half    M - 9-and-a-half months

When you have twins, you get a lot of attention. Everyone coos at tiny babies, but the comments and cuddles soon peter out, don't they? Not when you have twins. I love that people still smile at them in the street and stop to say hello. Usually, they'll wink and add: 'Double trouble, eh? You've got your hands full!' And they're right. I do. With my singleton.
M is into everything. Well, not everything. Just everything I don't want her to be. She's a lightning-fast crawler, pulls up on anything she can gets her hands on and spends her days cruising round the furniture trying to join in the twins' games. She made a grab for the laundry basket by my bed the other day. Unfortunately, it's a pop-up one that crumpled beneath her. She missed the corner of the bedside table by millimetres. But while I leapt up in a panic, she simply wiggled round and reached up for the table instead. She's fearless. And I'm exhausted.
When summer finally made an appearance this week, we all piled outside, delighted to be set free. But no sooner had a popped M down on the picnic mat than she was gone, heading full pelt towards the nearest stone she could get in her mouth. Gone are the days of her sitting happily playing in the shade while I hang up the washing. I've spent two days on constant watch, snatching her up seconds before she heads down the stone steps or tumbles into the flowerbeds. The twins are great at diving dramatically to retrieve stones and bits of soil from her chubby paws, but they're not the most reliable babysitters. Far too easily distracted by a manic game of Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosies. In the end, I decided to pick my battles. Just hope Daddy isn't too upset by the rather naked-looking plant I sacrificed in a bid to distract her...
When the twins were this age, life was a bit simpler. We lived in a flat then, and I simply caged them. We got ourselves two metal playpens and joined them together to essentially turn the living room in a toy-filled jail. Of course, the girls weren't trapped in there all the time (tempting though...) but it at least meant there was a safe but fun place for them to be when I needed access to both hands simultaneously. Things are very different when you have toddlers around. Babies don't care if you go out much. G and T get cabin fever. When they were little, I was in charge of what was on the floor. Now, there are crayons, stickers and all manner of little toys just waiting to be popped into a curious baby mouth.
I always wanted to have my children close in age, but it does have its drawbacks. The twins always start with good intentions of keeping forbidden items out of reach, but they're toddlers. They have fish-like memories for anything other than promises about after-dinner sweeties and trips to the playpark. I'm certainly not going to deprive them of toys, so little M is having to grow up fast. It's looking very likely that she'll be walking before the twins did at 11 months, and I'm hoping that when she can join in their games properly, she'll be less of a handful for her exhausted mum. Or she'll just be able to get into even more mischief. I'm not getting a rest any time soon, am I?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Panic stations

G&T - 2-and-a-half   M - 9 months

What is it about being a mum that turns you into a neurotic, over-anxious diva? Honestly, what is it? Is it the hormones? The post-traumatic shock of having had to actually give birth to the things? Or does your sense of perspective simply exit your body with the placenta?
This week, we confronted yet another parenting rite of passage. At the grand old age of 2-and-a-half, we finally ditched the twins' dummies. I never wanted to use soothers. There weren't any in my hospital bag, or at home, waiting to be popped into two mewling newborn mouths. But after about ten days of constant breastfeeding, refusals to be put down and crying relays, I cracked and sent Daddy off to Boots for two little plastic lifesavers. And I think they did save my life. Or at least my sanity. Sometimes, when there are two people screaming at you, both demanding all your attention, now, you run out of options. The dummies gave me breathing space, provided blessed relief from the agonising sound of them crying for a mummy who couldn't get to them. As the twins got older, I limited the dummies more and more. I've never liked the sight of a child playing silently, sucking away, so the soothers became nothing more than a sleep aid. I intended to go by the book, and have them vanish entirely by the time the girls were 1.
But they've just started sleeping through the night. I don't want to rock the boat... 
OK, they'll be gone by 18 months.
But now I'm pregnant. I can't be getting up all through the night again. I'm so tired... 
I'll ditch them by the time they're 2.
Getting rid of dummies with a new baby in the house? I'm not crazy... 
So here we were, at 2-and-a-half, and every nap and bedtime, the twins would pop a dummy into their mouth and drift off. But I knew it had to end, so I scouted baby mags for tips. I knew I couldn't just sneak them away. The girls wouldn't stand for that. And a suggestion about burying them in the garden sent shivers down my spine, imagining the carnage the next time the girls were set free with their sandpit spades... So we plumped for the dummy fairy. I explained how we were going to be posting the dummies away, and how the grateful fairy would deliver gifts. Helpfully, the girls had apparently had their eyes on a few goodies, so were quick to suggest appropriate presents. My heart raced as we popped the dummies into the envelope and walked to the local postbox. The twins waved them goodbye then, overexcited by the prospect of presents, insisted on running all the way back. The sight of Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy on the doorstep stopped them, wide-eyed with wonder, in their tracks. There was a wobble at bedtime when the reality of going into their cots alone sank in, but after about half an hour of singing and hilarity, and without a single cry or dummy demand, they both dropped off. Simple as that. Turns out it was yet another parenting dilemma I'd blown out of all proportion in my mind.
Sleep training, getting rid of bottles, changing from sleeping bags to duvets... Every time, I've spent days agonising over how the twins would react, and every time, they've barely batted an eyelid. Even potty training. OK, so it's not been easy, but I've realised that's only because I've got it double. T has been relatively easy and if I'd only had G, I'd simply have realised it wasn't her time and tucked the big girl pants away for another day. So what's with me? I don't think of myself as an anxious person. I'm pretty easy-going most of the time. Has becoming a mum made me this way? Am I resigned to a life of stomach-churning fear every time the girls go to school, or to a sleepover, or on a date? Seemingly it gets even worse when you become a grandparent. My dad, who spent my childhood returning to the house, shamefaced, with a grubby, happy child and a broken buggy, because, 'They'll remember the experience of the speed down that hill,' makes a grab for my daughters if they so much as stand on a chair. He can't explain it, but he sees danger everywhere, imagines every worst case scenario. I scoff at him and tell him that they need to learn to fall, but really, I'm no better. Having been determined to be an ethereal and serene earth mother, I never imposed a routine on the girls, but they ended up choosing one for themselves, and I ended up clinging to it, terrified of anything that would stop them sleeping. Stop me sleeping. I think that's the answer. It's self-preservation. My days are exhausting. Full on and fun, but exhausting. I need every precious minute of sleep I can get, and I live in fear of those bad nights when my body aches to be lying in bed, but just can't get there. So I'll keep dreading the changes, and with any luck, the girls will keep proving me wrong. I'll keep right on being an over-anxious diva of a mum and look forward to the day I can be an over-anxious diva of a granny instead, and just sneak off home for a good night's rest.