For the last couple of months before John died, he was not able to help me care for the twins very much. He did everything he could and he conserved his precious energy for the critical times: getting us out the door in the morning and getting the kids in bed in the evenings. Beyond that, though, I handled most of the twins' care on my own. Because of that, it hasn't been as hard as I thought it would to ease into being the babies' sole caretaker. Plus, since John died, I've had family or friends around to give me a hand.
Last night was the first night that the twins and I were truly on our own. We had a good night. I picked them up from daycare, we took a walk, then we had a little playtime before dinner. After dinner, we played a little more, then had bottles and stories and bed at 7:15 p.m. Sure, there were some tears here and there (theirs! I saved mine for seeing who got voted off of Idol, and for that J.C. Penney ad about mother's day that uses the Yaz song "Only You"), and Riley was on the cranky side, but overall things went smoothly. I was glad to get that first night over and done with and know that we could do it.
Another thing that's helped me transition to being on my own with the kids (I'm just not ready to refer to myself as a single parent, ugh) has been structure and routine. Before Maddie and Riley were born, I had these utopian attachment parenting visions of following each baby's cues, breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, never even considering cry-it-out, and babywearing.
Ha ha ha.
Let's hear it again: HA HA HA.
Maybe other people can make that work with twins, but not me. I ended up breastfeeding on a schedule, moving the kids to their own room at six months, embracing cry it out, and trying not to feel guilty about my decisions. Seriously, is there anything more guilt-inducing than an attachment parenting book? I think not.
Since John's death, I've found that for my own sanity along with the kids', I cling to routine even more than ever. I run a tight ship around here, and I've had to lay down the law on a few things. For starters, babies do not get out of bed before 7:00 a.m. They've been waking up early, and while I had family in town helping me, I'd been getting them up when the woke up. When I go back to work, though, I'm not going to be able to do that because if they are up and about at 6:00 a.m., when will I take my shower? I need to get that done before they get up. So I instituted a policy of not getting them out of bed until 7:00. The first few days there was some fussing. Sobbing, even. They've calmed down, though, and now they still wake up early but they talk to themselves, talk to each other, play with toys in their beds, etc. It's going well.
I also had to get tough on eating. I'd gotten in a bad habit of starting their meal in their high chairs, then when they got bored, moving to the playroom and trying to shove bites of food in their mouths while they played. No more. They eat in their high chairs, and when they get fussy and want down, the meal is over. This was a struggle for the first week or so; there was lots of protest and drama and whining. Now, though, mealtimes go great. I give them some finger food to eat/play with while I wash their bottles from daycare, then I feed them whatever needs to be served with a spoon. Then they get a bagel or crackers while I clean up the dishes, floor, and their trays. No one can get down until everything is cleaned up. Then we can all play together.
I'm working on teaching them some independence with movement, too. I used to carry them from room to room. Now that they can crawl, I am encouraging them to follow me rather than carry them. It's a lot easier for me, so why not? It's taken a couple of weeks, but they are starting to understand that when I go into the next room, they can come along, too. I lure them with toys and play peek-a-boo around the doorways to coax them along.
I still struggle with naps on the days I have them at home. We have a great morning routine and a great evening routine, but the middle is weak. They generally take two naps, but the timing can vary a lot, and Riley really, really protests about going down. (He does not protest at night.) I've tried working on transitions with him, rocking him and singing him the same song as a signal that it's naptime, but it doesn't always work.
Wow, this post was boring! That's what happens when I start typing with no real point. I guess my points are a) that I'm not the kind of parent I thought I would be, b) I need routine and so do my kids, and c) I wish my kids took better naps. Thrilling stuff, really.