But a lot of exciting stuff is happening to them these days, and that can make kids a little stressed out. They've transitioned from two naps to one, which changes the rhythm of their entire day (and mine). And they're getting over two weeks of a nasty cold, followed by a little aftershock of sniffles, which is not so much "exciting" as it is "stressful" to them and everyone around them. Other ways to describe the sickness include "suck-ass" and "shit sandwich."
The effects of this stress have manifested in heightened whininess, clinginess, and sleep disruption. And instead of rallying during this trying time, I have tended to allow my fatalist leanings to get the better of me. "This is my new reality," I think as I try to prepare meals with one kid in my arm and the other pulling at my pant leg, screaming, "Uppy Uppy Uppy Uppy." Because of course it's all about me.
At least I don't blame anyone but myself: "This is all on account of your hubris," I admonish myself. "Bragging about how good your kids are. Implying that you're some kind of great parent because your kids take a lot of naps. Pssht. Jerk."
I'm happy to report, though, that the ill-effects of their being sick are dissipating, and they're both slowly adjusting to their new nap schedules. And I'm starting to have a brighter outlook for my tenure as a full-time parent.
They're also at the beginning of the nearly vertical segment of the language learning curve. This both creates its own stress, and provides a window into their consciousness that was previously accessed entirely by speculation. So now, instead of relying entirely on guesswork as to what they want and need, we have some clues about why they are freaking out.
We've always been advocates of the "cry it out" school of sleep training. We won't let them cry indefinitely, of course; but we've found through a bit of trial and error that they actually go to sleep more quickly if we leave them alone than if we comfort them every time they cry. I've got nothing against "attachment parents" who co-sleep with their kids, or parents who hang out next to the crib until their babies go to sleep. Whatever works for you is fine. But we just couldn't handle that with twins.
Surprisingly, it was fairly easy to let them cry it out when they were infants. First off, once they were about four months old, they went to sleep pretty easily and consistently. Secondly, at that age, if all their physical needs had been attended to, we could attribute their distress to some kind of nebulous baby-angst that we couldn't really do much about.
But as they grew more sentient, and as we got to know them better, it became more difficult for me to hear them cry and not rush to comfort them. They were becoming little people, and had real fears and anxieties about the world they were becoming integrated into. As newborns, their neurons were firing randomly; but by the time they were six or eight months old, they were figuring out reality, and every time they learned something, it had to inspire a whole litany of questions and theories about something else. Their little brains where whirring with the most fundamental problems of existence and identity. And they were becoming more emotionally complex as well.
And then they started to speak.
So now, when they inexplicably wake up screaming in the middle of the night (as one or the other of them have been doing almost nightly for the last three weeks), they are often able to express the root of their anguish. And this is sometimes serious anguish. Like death-of-a-loved-one anguish.
But--and this may not be as shocking to you as it was to me, especially if you are a veteran parent--the source of their angst is usually not as existential as I had assumed. In fact, it's usually quite petty. At four in the morning, I tend to think of it as "idiotic."
For instance, a common conversation I would have with Cobra in the wee hours, after I can no longer listen to her wailing, might go like this:
Me: Sugar, sugar, sugar...settle down, settle down...
Me: What's wrong, honey?
Me: You want Puppy?
Cobra: Puppy Puppy Puppy
Puppy is her favorite stuffed toy, which she now drags around with her everywhere. Except she doesn't take it to bed. We have to tuck Puppy into his own bed, and tell him "Stay, Puppy," then say goodnight to him, before we do our nightly yoga (long story) and put the kids to sleep.
But apparently, Cobra wakes up with the night terrors, and simply must check on Puppy's status before she can go back to sleep. Sometimes she just needs to see him, and sometimes nuzzle him a bit, before she can lie back down. Then, if we're lucky, she can sleep through until at least 5:30 a.m. without worrying about her pet. Or having frightening visions of garbage trucks.
I almost liked it better when I assumed they were grappling with questions about their place in the universe.