After unsuccessfully trying a couple of ‘positive reward systems’ for the twins, I have discovered one that actually works for us! I thought I’d share it so that you can give it a shot. You never know, it might work for your family too!
I reward good behavior using pompoms. The kids can earn them in all sorts of ways, such as –
being kind to each other
playing nicely (including sharing toys)
not beating the shit of each other
using good manners (Flynn can often be heard saying “Thank you, Riley. So much!”)
eating all of their meals
not throwing food/cutlery/plates/bowls on the floor, or creating gravy handprints on the wall (these occurrences happen rather frequently, I’m afraid)
listening with their ‘listening ears’ (as opposed to the ones that sometimes appear to be painted on)
helping to tidy away their toys/things
using the potty or the toilet (as an alternative to Flynn coiling one out in his bedroom and then rubbing it into the cream carpet with the doorstop…yes, that happened)
Being kind to their furry sister, Bundy
I labelled up an old jar, in which I store the pompoms; then I labelled two plastic see-through containers for Flynn and Riley. Before I purchased the child-friendly tubs, I made sure that the twins could easily take the lids off and on, because that’s part of the attraction for them – being responsible for their own pompom collections.
I recycled a larger plastic box, filled it with cheap little toys and silliness, and labelled it up as ‘Pompom Prizes’. The twins know that if they earn enough pompoms to fill their own tub, they will be allowed to choose one prize from the box.
So far, it’s worked wonderfully!
The first couple of times, I handed out pompoms quite easily, in order for them to get the idea quickly and not lose interest in the process. They soon came to realise that they will be rewarded for doing good things.
I don’t take pompoms away for bad behaviour, but I have had reason to say “Oh well, that’s a shame. You won’t get pompoms if you behave like that…” which seems to do the trick.
I’d love to hear what systems you have in place for your kids. Please feel free to share your ideas.
Last night, Riley wouldn’t go to sleep. By 9pm, she had graduated from pretend crying (because it was wearing thin and she could see how cranky Mummy was becoming with every jaunt upstairs to attend to her) to calling out with pretend reasons for still being awake.
“My foot hurt. Want some cream on it.” I gave her some cream.
“My nose! My nose!”, followed by a long pathetic-sounding pretend snuffle. I gave her my Vicks inhaler.
“Don’t want Lamby in cot.” I removed her highly offensive cuddly lamb toy.
“Lion’s coming! Lion’s coming!” “Oh for goodness sake, Riley. There is no lion coming. There are no lions wandering about. They live in Af-ri-ca. This is Au-stra-lia!” “Want sleep in Mummy’s bed.” “Fine.”
After a dozen or so treks up and down the bloody stairs within a half-hour span, she had broken me. I went downstairs, chugged the remains of my glass of wine, made the all-too-familiar trip back upstairs, collecting the complaining girl-child on the way, cleaned my teeth and climbed into bed, laying Riley down beside me.
“Mummy, I want lamby”.
I swear to God, my kids are trying to kill me.
After an hour or so, I was rudely awoken by the boy-child, screaming at the top of his lungs. Actual proper screaming. Like he was being attacked by a vacationing African lion. My husband (who had been downstairs watching TV) and I reached the hallway at the same time, but since Mike’s eyelids weren’t welded together like mine, I let him attend to Flynn and I stumbled back to bed. The screaming continued. In fact, I’m fairly sure it increased in volume and pitch. I lay there, wondering what the hell was going on, trying to comfort Riley, who was also now awake and insisting on going to see what was wrong with her brother. I let her. I figured that Mike would appreciate the back-up. I continued lying in bed. Don’t judge me. It was cold. I was tired. Surely the father of my children was more than capable of calming down his distraught offspring? Then Mike rushed in, stating “He’s freaking me out! I’m not sure if he’s awake or not!”
No, but every other f*cker is!
“Just pick him up and bring him in here” I replied from underneath the doona. “He wont let me” Mike said. “He’s doing that thing he used to do when he was a baby and had reflux. He’s making his body stiff as a board!”
And so that’s how we all ended up in Flynn’s room at 11pm. Even Bundy.
Sleeping with an adorable twin snuggled cozily at either side of me sounds like it might bring back fond memories of my pregnancy when they were snuggled cozily in my womb, right? Wrong. It was like being in the ring with Tyson. I was kicked, I was hit, I was headbutted. Mike probably thinks he drew the short straw by having to sleep in the guest bed because there wasn’t enough room in our bed, but I would’ve happily swapped places with him in a heartbeat.
Morning rolled around all too soon, and I was awoken by Flynn patting my head and asking me “Where’s Dad?”. Riley was next to wake with a loud complaint about not having enough of the blanket. Flynn then demanded that I find his projection torch. I told him I was trying to sleep and he could go and find it himself. Lots of banging and running sounds later, he came back into the bedroom exclaiming indignantly “It’s up high, Mum! Can’t reach it!”
I suddenly realised exactly where it was. Where I’d left it last night when I’d tidied the play room – on the bannister, just out of reach of little hands. I quickly weighed up how dangerous it would be to let him climb up and get it versus how cold it would be getting out of bed to get it for him. Decision made, I said “Get your stool. Then you can reach it yourself.” Don’t judge me. I’d had very little sleep and was covered in fast-forming bruises. I was, however, quickly rewarded by Karma herself (she’s a bitch sometimes!) when he returned excitedly, torch in hand, and shone it directly into my eyes. My retinas will never be the same.
We are all so bloody tired that today is simply about survival. I still haven’t washed the breakfast dishes and it’s afternoon now. The house looks like it’s been ransacked because I am basically letting the twins do whatever they want. Except have lollies for breakfast. They must have sensed my complete lack of parenting ability today because Riley did ask that very thing. And I won’t lie, I actually considered it for a minute or so, but then I reasoned that I didn’t have enough energy to put up with the chaos caused by the ensuing sugar rush, and so I summoned my inner adult and declined her request.
I wonder how Mike is surviving at work?
Bundy is asleep in her bed. She has the right idea. Would it be wrong of me to give the twins the container full of Lolly Treats and crawl in beside the pooch for a nap?
I said it before and I’ll say it again – my kids are trying to kill me!
Pray for us. Send help. Send wine.
This is pure exhaustion. I bet she secretly wants to be put back on a plane and returned to my in-laws’ house where there were no such things as toddler twins roaming free.
Today’s blog title is borrowed from the wonderful Dr. Seuss – whose books I adore, even now as an adult, much more than before.
“How did it get so late so soon?”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Theodor Seuss Geisel. “Where does the time go?” is an all-too-familiar phrase. Especially in a house containing toddlers. Two of them.
I have so many thoughts and amusing snippets of my crazy twin-life that I’d like to share, spinning about inside my head, but actually finding the time to sit at the table and type them out is difficult. But not impossible, right? Like now, for example. The boy child is at kindy (pre-school, child-care, whatever you might call it), after the biggest meltdown in the history of the Penman Twins, which included copious amounts of snot, tears, screaming, howling, wailing, a sobbing phone call to Dad, and proclamations of persecution at the fact that I was making him go to ‘school’!
The girl child is upstairs, asleep in her cot, exhausted after her morning of op-shopping with me, (‘op-shopping’, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, is basically buying other people’s unwanted shit from a second-hand store), where we purchased a bejewelled plastic tiara, a sparkly magic wand and a rather fetching pink tutu, all for less than the cost of a cup of coffee! When we returned home, I showed her how to wave her magic wand and *poof*, she would simply get what she so desired, which was fairly stupid of me, in hindsight. She ended up creating a cold breeze with the amount of waving she was doing.
“I want pineapple juice!”
“I want to watch The Wiggles!” “I want my teddy!”
It was a bloody exhausting couple of hours, let me tell you. For both of us. Consequently, I’m not too shocked that she’s up there, snoring away like a cute fairy with acute sinusitis. She even fell asleep with her new magic wand held tightly in her chubby little hand.
And then there’s the furry child…laying in her bed beside me, feeling rather pleased with herself, I would imagine, after she has just witnessed me cleaning up her dog vomit (a job that actually made me physically gag). Why would that particular act provide her with a modicum of satisfaction? Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it? She is still punishing us for leaving her on the other side of the world for six months. Literally. But what else could we do? She needed to get lots of tests done in order to meet the Australian import requirements, and those examination results take time. Throw in the extra stint she had to do in quarantine, aside from the usual ten-day stay, due to another imported pooch testing positive to CIV (Canine Influenza Virus), which is something the Aussie hound population haven’t ever had exposure to, and is it any wonder she is still so pissed off with us? It also might have something to do with the fact that she was confused by the term ‘import requirements‘ and had convinced herself she’d breeze through the entire process being that she was SO important!
Anyway, I digress. I was talking about time. Or lack thereof. It’s odd, because I have the same amount of time in my day as everyone else, and yet I can’t seem to get my shit together well enough to blog when I want need to. So, I must think of a Plan B, because Plan A isn’t working out so well.
Oh, hang on. I’m not sure I’ve even shared Plan A with you. I had decided to send the children to kindergarten. This was the proposed initiative – on Mondays, the twins would go to kindy together; on Tuesdays, Miss Riley would attend by herself and I would have a delightful day of one-on-one time with Mr. Flynn; and vice-versa on Wednesdays. Thursdays and Fridays would be non-school days. This agenda would provide me with one day of much-needed ‘me time’. I say ‘me time’ but really, it’s anything but. The last bit of ‘me time’ I had was spent donating plasma at the hospital. I got to sit still (in a reclined position, no less) for a gloriously uninterrupted half an hour. I had a pillow placed comfortably behind my weary head, and a warm blanket laid across my lap. And they made me a chocolate milkshake. And apart from the fact that I could see my own red blood cells being returned to my body via a plastic tube, it was just like being on a spa day. And it was free. Result!
* The above blogging was interrupted by a phone call from said kindergarten, asking if I could pop along and collect (a woefully unhappy) Flynn. I am now continuing to type my blog almost twenty-four hours after the fact!
So, this was our first week of embarking on Plan A, aside from last week’s orientation. As I was showering on Monday morning, I couldn’t help but gleefully sing the Soup Dragon’s 1990 song – “I’m free…to do what I want…any old time”. And then the twins started crying. A lot. They cried before we’d even got there, they cried as we made our way from the car to the classroom, and I could still hear them crying as I duck-walked my way outta there, in order not to be spotted through the windows by my caterwauling children. I found it distressing. They must have found it distressing. I imagine the child care workers also found it distressing. We were not off to a good start. And I spent most of my ‘free time’ at the shops stocking up on bits & bobs for my latest ‘positive parenting reward system’. On Tuesday, the school phoned me to come and collect Riley because she was so upset. Wednesday was Groundhog Day, except this time the phone call was to tell me to go and collect Flynn.
I had so much riding on my ‘day off’. I had planned to do all manner of things. Clean, blog, sew, read books about parenting (the ones that have been sitting on my bedside table for months, gathering dust), exercise, go for long walks with the pooch, bake cupcakes, repaint furniture, paint my neglected toenails, poo alone, sort out my wardrobe and the garage and the garden…. You get the picture, right? So many goals to fit into one child-free eight-hour day per week. ‘Achievement’ was going to be the theme of every Monday from here on in.
Who was I kidding? Or rather, who were my kids kidding?
Today is Thursday. Last night, when I was putting the twins to bed, I had to reassure them that nobody goes to school on Thursdays. Instead, I was forced to solemnly promise that we would go to the park instead. To be honest, I can think of far worse ways to spend my Thursday than chasing my two little tykes around a playground.
You’ve all heard people say it, right? In a number of ways, I imagine.
“Seriously. You have no idea. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
“Forget brain surgery. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
“No doubt about it. Parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
“Sure, being a Landmine Remover wouldn’t be easy, but parenting is the hardest job in the world!”
Before I had children, I thought people who said any of the above sentences, or similar, were exaggerating for effect. I just figured they had previously not experienced any real difficulty in a job role. How very naive of me. I now realise that they were simply stating a fact.
In my experience, parenting truly is the hardest job I have ever had. I’m not just talking about the basics of it, either. Yeah, sure, there is a lot to do. Things we possibly haven’t ever had to tackle in our previous child-free, get-to-lie-in-on-Saturdays-with-a-hangover life. When our children are tiny, we find ourselves stuck in a continuous loop of feeding baby, burping baby, changing baby’s nappies, bathing baby, dressing baby, putting baby down to sleep, doing copious amounts of laundry (none of it our own infant-vomit-covered-clothing) and comforting baby. Over and over. And over. I originally started to type ‘sleep, eat, repeat’ after that long list of baby-related chores, but ‘don’t sleep, eat biscuits, repeat’ is probably closer to the truth! And for mothers who breastfeed, that mundane (let’s be honest here – it gets boring!) routine intensifies due to the fact that nobody else can really help with those 3-hourly feeds, unless you express some breast milk, but that takes time as well. And when you are a mother of multiples, you can definitely add on some more ‘awake’ time! ‘Double trouble’ = double the work = double the sleep deprivation. And let me tell you in no uncertain terms, sleep deprivation is an absolute bugger! No wonder it has been used as a form of torture by some military groups, who have broken the will of a prisoner by simply keeping them awake for days. Not sleeping can cause psychosis, a deterioration of cognitive functions and a breakdown of the immune system. No wonder new parents can lose their temper, cry, feel depressed, suffer memory loss, possibly become ill and experience a general feeling of malaise. I certainly did. Quite frankly, I was SO crazy with bone-aching tiredness in the first six months of the twins’ life, I’m surprised that my husband and I didn’t divorce! I still vividly recall (and with a fair amount of embarrassment) the time that Mike and I had a screaming argument, in which I dropped the C-bomb with gay abandon. While my mother-in-law was visiting. Not my finest moment.
Then, as our babies start growing, we get more used to the daily grind routine. We get better at it. In fact, we may even begin to relax a little. That, my friends, is a mistake. Why? Because the little darlings lull you into a false sense of security and then they move the goalposts! One day, you’ll leave them lying peacefully on the living room floor, gurgling away quite happily at the toys dangling from their baby gym mat, while you sneak off for a much-needed poo, and when you return, they’ll be halfway to the bloody front door! God knows how they got there, but they will have graduated to moving when you least expect it. And that changes everything.
If having a baby is a steep learning curve for some, then having twins was positively perpendicular for me!
The Penman Twins are two-and-a-half years old now and I am still learning. Every. Single. Day. Learning which aspects of parenting work for me and which don’t. Learning new ways to handle the issues that arise from being a parent. Learning how not to react to a tantrum-throwing, psychopathic little person. Learning how deeply I can actually feel the love for said little people. I suspect that I will never stop learning.
The daily responsibilities of parenting don’t concern me as much as other aspects. I am more than able when it comes to feeding, clothing, entertaining, teaching and, of course, loving my children. But it’s a scary thought that I am wholly responsible for raising a person who can show empathy, share love, express feelings, know how to be happy. This is the part that I find the most difficult. The emotional side of parenting. My emotions, yes, but more importantly, their emotions. I want them to be happy. I want them to have a great childhood. I want their memories to be good ones. I want to ensure that they know how to manage their own emotions. I want to lead by example. That’s why I currently go to see a psychologist. How can I teach my kids to be zen, when I am so highly strung that I could string Christmas lights for Jesus? But that’s a topic for another blog.
I don’t know if other parents can relate to the things I have shared. I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who struggles. Other people seem to breeze through this parenting gig. I continuously struggle my way through. Sometimes I feel so lonely. I feel so tired. I feel so unqualified. But then, my kids will cuddle me, and I feel so blessed. Or someone will tell me how beautifully behaved the twins have been, or how clever they are, and my heart swells with pride, and I dare to say to myself “Maybe you’re getting better at this, Liesa?”.
Time will tell.
*THIS* is what sleep deprivation looks like. The twins were two weeks old here. Flynn on the left, Riley on the right. I may look tired, but I love this photo. I still think of life as a miracle when I look at this picture.
Hello and welcome to the ‘virgin post’ on my new blog, being written from the point of view of a first-time mother. An ‘older’ mother. To twins. Toddler twins. SEND HELP!
You have either: a) stumbled across this page in an internet search b) are a Facebook friend of mine, and saw my recent post ‘advertising’ my new blog c) clicked on the link I cheekily provided to friends, asking them to kindly share with the world – but no matter how you have ended up here, I am pleased to have you on board.
My previous blog was all about our journey through the harsh world of infertility. These days, the ‘i’ word seldom enters my vocabulary. But I still recall how trying it was, how heartbreaking, how draining, and how emotional that time in our lives was.
And we were extremely lucky. Lucky to find a fantastic IVF clinic, lucky that my husband’s sperm was made of strong stuff, lucky to both be able to work and therefore afford to pay for multiple treatments, and lucky to finally be successful. I know that. And I will never forget that. I had dreamed of being a mother for the longest time. And now I am. And damn, it’s hard!
I think, in hindsight, that I romanticised the concept of having children. Especially after I had tried for so long and lost a few babies along the way. I truly thought I was going to be THE BEST MOTHER EVER. No question about it. I was going to be SO awesome – calm, knowledgeable, emotionally stable, an ‘earth mother’ who carried her breastfeeding twosome strapped to her body in a large, undyed, breathable, hemp fabric wrap.
And I had plans. BIG plans. I would feed my children on organic foods, (after they’d breastfed for at least a year, of course!) mostly fresh fruit and homegrown vegetables. I would limit sweet treats to birthdays and special holidays. I would sew clothes for my offspring. And I would learn to knit so that I could whip them up some Merino wool cold-weather items, while they were napping. I would also use cloth nappies, to do my bit for the environment, and to ensure that my children’s soft, dimply, little bottoms would never experience the pain of chemical nappy rash.
I would teach my children by example, never shouting or losing my temper. I would explain situations to them, clearly and kindly, thereby removing the possibility of any tantrums or upset, eliminating the need for strict discipline. I would make my own play dough and flash cards so that they could be creative and educated. I would ensure they had a solid routine, so that over-tiredness never became an issue. I would be organised. My kids would be polite, smiling, adorable, non-crying, happy little cherubs. All. The. Time.
Turns out that I was totally deluded. Possibly even under the influence of some mind-altering drugs that I don’t recall ingesting. I don’t think I could’ve been more mistaken! Whatever made me think that parenting would be a piece of piss? I’ll tell you. The world at large.
Yes, I am indeed laying blame at the feet of the human race. People procreate. They don’t stop. The true stories of childbirth and parenting are rarely relayed in all their glory. Instead, we are bombarded with photographs of adorable, sleepy-eyed newborns, curled up in the foetal position, making our hearts melt and our ovaries ache. Social media users tend to post ‘happy family’ pictures, as opposed to showing the reality of their lives.
Well, my friends, I pledge to you to tell the truth of it all. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly. I am prepared to tell you how it really is. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not all bad. It’s amazing. And funny. And it can make your heart physically throb with love for the little beings. And I will be forever grateful for those parts. Because, quite frankly, if it was only sleepless nights, shitty nappies, snotty noses and screaming, it would be a bit of a let-down.
So, hang around, folks. Go on. I dare you! Let the Penman Twins give you a dose of reality. I will share amusing anecdotes, photos, real-life stories, tips and hints, and I will provide honest reviews of products that promise to make our parenting lives easier.