*This excerpt from Ready or Not…There We Go! May not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of the publisher.
Secrets to Exiting the Toddler Tunnel (with Sanity Intact)
On the day your twins turn one year old—possibly even at the stroke of midnight—you will fall back on your bed and breathe a huge sigh of relief. After all, no year could be as challenging as the first, right? Right. That’s the good news. Some additional news: the toddler years are going to be “interesting.” I promise, you’re going to make it. Here are some products and mindsets that will guarantee your success.
Your Own Phone Booth
As with many of my sanity savers, I credit my friend Mollie for this one. We were talking recently via phone and all four of our boys were screaming at us (Mollie’s twins, Tommy and Kevin, are five weeks younger than Jack and Henry). Mollie proclaimed (loudly), “That’s it—I’m asking Gary for my own phone booth for Christmas this year!”
The key to surviving these years of non-stop vocalization is to accept that you will have nary a moment of peace between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. When you are playing with your children, each is vying for your attention. When you’re trying to book a doctor’s appointment (perhaps with a licensed therapist), at least one child will likely be hanging on to your leg and whining. When you’re trying to simply take a seven-second bathroom break, one is banging on the door in fear that you’ve stealthily slipped out via the toilet bowl. I’ve tried locking myself in the pantry for eighty-four seconds to place a quick just-checking-in call to Mollie, but in the end we are usually only able to confirm that the other is alive (and in the midst of my relief that she indeed is, I end up discovering a previously hidden stash of candy and ingest far more than I should in such a short span of time).
Since you probably won’t be able to have an actual phone booth installed between the refrigerator and the range, recognize that early on, the sanest way to take or make most calls is to do so while the kids are napping or after they go to bed at night.
A Warehouse-Sized Jug of Maalox
During the second year, you will likely find your twins in some precarious places―and possibly even positions attempting to get to those places. For starters, I’ve found my boys locked in their room (one with an appendage stuck behind the bed), on top of their bookshelf (yes, it’s bolted to the wall), and hiding small toys quite deep inside their floor vent. The key to keeping your doses of Maalox infrequent: when it gets uncomfortably quiet in your home before the kids are in bed for the night, don’t be thankful. Be nervous. Be very, very nervous.
I never thought that an item typically reserved for home-improvement projects would come in handy for child-related challenges. I was wrong. Our sorority’s first experience with duct tape came when Mollie could find no other way to keep her boys from pulling open her oven door. All of the local stores were out of the oven lock (must be a common challenge), so in the meantime she wrapped the entire front of the appliance with duct tape.
Shortly thereafter, in an effort to strategize a solution to prevent Jack from removing his diaper during naptime, Mollie suggested wrapping it with duct tape. More on that later!
The Ability to Discriminate Between an Inconvenience and an Emergency
As Richard Carlson noted in his fantastic book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff, “Although most people believe otherwise, the truth is, life isn’t an emergency.” A dirty house is an inconvenience, not an emergency (unless Oprah is on her way over). Not having time to hand-make your holiday cards one year is an inconvenience, not an emergency (unless you’re my friend Barb). Don’t pressure yourself to be and have it all each and every day. In most cases, the only person with unreasonably high expectations of yourself is you! There will be plenty of time once your kids are in school full-time to scrub the kitchen floor until it shines “like the top of the Chrysler Building” and craft until you can craft no more.
A Low Need for Order and Control
Newsflash: there is not going to be much of either, especially during Year Two. Toddlers are curious…period. Toddlers who have a constant partner in crime are something more significantly scary than curious. The amount of trouble these children can get into in the forty-two seconds it takes for you to switch a load of laundry to the dryer before it begins to mildew can defy even the most active imagination. Some points to keep in mind: First, while some are a bit more time-consuming than others, most messes can be cleaned up. (If necessary, review the above inconvenience-versus-emergency advice.) Second, if it’s broken but not valuable, it’s okay. Third, if it’s broken and valuable, perhaps it shouldn’t have been out in the first place!
What is the biggest giveaway that a woman is a mother of multiples? She’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt in the middle of February in Chicago. Why? Because she’s constantly sweating. My poor husband suggests we build a fire most winter nights, and I have to weakly reply, “Uh . . . okay . . . I guess.” I then sit in another room. And I wonder why I rush coatless to pick up my daughter from school thinking how wonderful the cool air will feel, only to develop frostbitten arms between the parking lot and the front door.
While it may sound ridiculous at times, the effect of slowly counting to ten is highly underestimated. You could even learn to do it in various languages to create a calming experience for yourself and a learning experience should your children actually be listening. There will probably be many occasions when your first instinct will be to yell when something inconvenient occurs. This is perfectly understandable. After all, finding the entire contents of a tube of bubble-gum-flavored, blue toothpaste all over the bathroom floor can be frustrating. Do your best to determine which incidents are indeed accidents—and, quite possibly, the result of your child simply learning and becoming more independent—and which are behaviors that your child knows aren’t acceptable. When the latter occurs, have a plan for a natural or logical consequence. Most important, be calm and consistent with your response. Sometimes, the entire point of the wrongdoing was to work you into an uproar. Try not to allow yourself to lose this battle to a toddler.
A Lot of Paper Towels
Yet another good reason to join a warehouse club. Do not buy the cheapest paper towels—the ones that break in half when you attempt to fold them. At the same time, don’t assume that the most expensive brand is your best bet. What you want is the most absorbent paper towel your dollar can buy. I’m personally a huge fan of Bounty—you know, the “quicker picker-upper.” Maybe my preference is due in large part to the jingle associated with this product because I do find myself singing it on occasion as I’m cleaning up the latest flood. By all means, please don’t rinse and reuse paper towels in an effort to conserve money or anything else. I have a penchant for bargain shopping, but even I draw the line on this one. Our family goes through approximately one roll of paper towels every two days or so, and that’s just fine with me. I don’t have the time to do multiple loads of laundry each day to wash the again dirty (yet pretty) dishtowels.
A Reliable Sitter (or Two)
By the time your multiples reach the age of one, you’re going to be ultra-comfortable leaving them for an evening, believe me. It’s extremely important to ensure that you have a reliable sitter with whom you are comfortable leaving your children for a few hours so that you and your husband can get out together. Once you get comfortable with actually leaving your children, you may get uncomfortable with how much it will cost to leave them. It’s easy to think that going out isn’t worth the expense, but look at it as an investment in your marriage, and allocate part of your monthly budget to babysitting services. This way, none of it is an unexpected expense.
Yoga (or at least the ability to breathe deeply)
The ability to transform yourself immediately into a relaxed state will come in handy when you hear someone yell, “That wary bad! Crayon only go on paper!”
Ketchup, Lots of Ketchup
This is the surefire can’t-beat-it sanity saver for mealtimes. My kids put ketchup on their ketchup. I bet many kids would eat even brussels sprouts if they were covered in ketchup.
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