Friday, October 15, 2010
At the playground yesterday afternoon, a woman about my age, with big fake boobs and sweatpants with "Pink" emblazoned across the ass, asked me if my girls were twins. I said yep, and she told me that she had twin girls as well. I was thinking playdate, but she said her girls were fifteen. So maybe babysitting instead.
Like almost every parent of multiples that I have spoken to (and believe me: if you have twins, everyone else who has twins--or is a twin, or knows twins--will tell you all about it), this woman said, "Don't worry, it gets easier."
This seems strange to me, because frankly, it's been pretty easy so far. Our kids are champion sleepers (still on the 2-nap-a-day plan), adventurous eaters, of moderate temperament, and have barely even had the sniffles so far. Pretty low-maintenance all the way around. But if it gets even easier, then that's all to the good. I like easy.
The problem is that I don't really buy it. Taking care of the twins is changing in many ways, but on balance I think it may be getting just a little more difficult. More fun, but more work too.
You see, lately they have started wanting. A lot. When it was just a matter of taking care of what they needed, I could get by with a very limited parenting repertoire. But now, their demands for entertainment and attention and just...things...are much more specific and urgent, and they expect quick satisfaction, despite their Neanderthal communication skills.
Along with the wanting comes the occasional not getting, which leads inexorably to the complaining, usually in the form of whining and crying. And sometimes this makes Daddy angry.
I've gotten pretty good at sublimating my gut reaction to brain-withering screams, overturned bowls of food, eye-gouges, and twin-on-twin violence; and usually it's easy to curtail the offending behavior just through distraction. When it gets really hard though, is when I'm trying to do something else at the same time as I'm trying to not get mad at a kid. Especially when that other thing involves trying to not get mad at something else.
Like yesterday morning, for example.
Our house is long and narrow. All the open areas you see in the drawing below are actually filled with furniture and appliances, so there's just a narrow corridor of space that goes through the entire house.
(If you are considering using this plan to figure out how to break into our house and steal our VCR, you can just forget about it. We have a fearless guard dog who will eat your spleen.)
The kids use this corridor as a drag strip for their various wheeled push-toys and the battery-operated ATV their grandparents inflicted upon us. Stella, our 120-lb dog, who is on medication for her crippling anxiety (it kind of works?), has to share the space with them. She doesn't have enough sense to find one secure nook and hunker down; and her previous refuge, the stair landing, is off limits to her because of this and similar offenses.
So the kids tear from one end of the house to the other, and Stella, her ears pinned back and tail between her legs, freezes up until the little hellions are upon her, at which point she makes a wild break for the side of the house they just came from. This sometimes makes Daddy angry at the dog. But again, there's no profit in yelling at a dog because she's scared. So I try to soothe her. Or throw her outside. Which seems like it would be a relief for her. But strangely, she usually wants to come back inside almost immediately.
The above scenario was playing out yesterday morning, plus Stella needed to eat, which means going out onto the deck because she is the messiest-eating dog I've ever seen, and so I tried to usher her calmly past the kids, who were having a very lively play session in which Cobra was using Butterbean's head as a conga drum.
But Stella would not be persuaded to walk past the twins, who stood between her and the back door, lest she be crushed by a tiny plastic shopping cart or gutted with a wooden spoon.
Stella's route to the deck. (I don't know how to use Photoshop, so I used my own program, which I call "Gluestick.")
I had Stella's food (and her crazy-pill) in one hand, and was trying to lure her to me with the treat I had in the other hand. She froze up. Meanwhile the kids started closing in on me.
There were a lot of different actions I could have taken at that point, but I was determined to get Stella out of the house, so I went to her and started dragging her toward the door. She panicked--first trying to back up, then trying to run toward the back door, and finally just generally skittering and thumping and making a horrible commotion.
The ruckus, and the proximity to naptime, caused the girls to start screaming and tugging at my shorts as I tried to wrestle the maniac dog out the door without spilling dogfood all over the playroom.
As I had no hands left to disentangle their meaty little fingers from my leg-hair, I was faced with the task of verbally convincing the children to let go of me.
Now, I know that I should have responded to their wild behavior with an equal measure of calm parental reassurance. I'm reading Touchpoints, for cryin' out loud. Even though the girls don't really talk yet, they understand a lot of what we say. I should have explained that I realized they were going through a lot of changes and learning so fast right now, and that it was wonderful but sometimes frustrating and confusing and sometimes even scary, and that I knew they needed their mom and dad maybe more now than ever, even though they were transitioning into a phase of greater independence.
But what I heard hissing through my clenched teeth instead was: Back. The fuck. Off.
Which had the twofold effect of a) making me instantly feel like an asshole; and, b) well, nothing. I still had to shove the flailing dog out the door while dragging along the screaming kids who had by then pierced my hamstrings with their talons.
These moments of exasperation are really few and far between, and I think they are becoming more rare even as the kids become more demanding. I'm pretty pleased with myself on that account. For a while, I was getting annoyed with the kids fairly regularly. But I realized that it only happened when I was trying to multi-task, which is something I should never do in the first place, and, unless totally unavoidable, is kind of like cheating on the kids. Usually when the girls get cranky, all they want is my attention, which is not such a difficult thing to give. And, unlike with grownups, being patronizing actually works on them.
Posted by Beta Dad at 7:02 AM