10 May 2007

Laying Down the Law

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.


Robin J. said...

I think you sound like a brilliant parent even if it is not who you thought you'd be.

Anonymous said...

You are doing great, I wish I had had a better routine when my kids were young. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are amazing, Cindy

OTRgirl said...

I love the wisdom and connections that filled the comments after your previous post. Your honesty prompts such an amazing outpouring from other people.

I'm glad you're you, and I actually enjoyed hearing the practical level of how you're managing your life. I've been wondering how that was/is going.

B.E.C.K. said...

I think you sound like a really great mom. Truly.

scarp said...

I am inexplicably fascinated by mom's explaining how they do things. Isn't it interesting how much they can adjust and be happy with something as long as you are consistent with it? Remember that in all the assorted stages to come - consistency is key, I think.

I haven't posted in a while, but I've been keeping up, thinking of and praying for you. Sounds like, so far, things have gone pretty well considering. Hard to walk out, but no huge surprises or things you haven't come through.

Suz said...

We're pretty strick with the routines, too. The twins don't get out of bed until about 6:30am, even though they wake up earlier, for the same reasons that you list. It's great getting them to follow you, too....nothing like the sound of those crawling hands on carpet.

Yankee T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yankee T said...

To my knowledge, attachment parenting didn't exist 19 years ago, so I have no idea what it is. What I do know is, if something is guilt-inducing, it's for the birds. You are doing great! Just be aware that many kids quit the second daytime nap at right around a year, so that may be Riley's gig-two naps a day might be too much for him. I remember clearly the day my daycare provider told me that OD was down to one nap midday. It was an "aha" moment.
Routine is important for all parties concerned right now-good for you for sticking to them, and also for encouraging the crawling!
You are so strong. Sending love to all of you.
(and that deleted comment was me-it had a typo in it.)

jo(e) said...

It sounds like you are doing a good job of taking care of both yourself and the kids.

buggsmommy said...

I wasn't bored at all. Good for you. I love how we have this big picture in our minds of what we're going to do and not going to do with our kids and then when they're with us, some things go out the window. You do what you need to do and what works for your family! I am all about the structure and routine, which is okay to deviate from, but my son (who's almost 2) is a lot more manageable when he knows what's coming up. Consistency is key!

I'm very impressed. :)

Leggy said...

I'm actually glad to see that your brain is letting you begin to focus on more mundane stuff like this given all that is going on in your head right now.
I hope I can institute some routine with my twins. We had a tough time establishing a routine with The Cutie Pie, but when we stick to it, it works best. But sometimes its so easy to let things slide, particularly when you are tired. Hope I have the discipline to keep it up.

Anna said...

Not boring. Actually, very inspiring!

Kate said...

It sounds like you're doing really well. I'm so pleased you've found ways to adjust and to handle challenges.

Anonymous said...

Kids are so much happier when things are consistent. And I love reading about the lessons you are learning and how you are coping. I think you are doing a fabulous job.

laughing mommy said...

Just to let you know. I have to keep my kids on a routine too, even though everyone else in my family is more "attachment parenting" types.

It just works for us. Sounds like you are doing great. I'm going to try your mealtime stragety too.

Anonymous said...

children thrive on structure routine and predicatability.. they know what to expect and how to respond... a happy mommy makes for happy babies..... you are rising beautifully to what has been handed you.. God bless. E.

Angela said...

I'm so happy to read that you are finding a routine and schedule that works for you and the twins. I love reading about the twins and their progress. There are a lot of similarities regarding routines and schedules that I also used with my kids, especially about food in high chairs and cry-it-out,feeding schedules, etc. I completely agree with your comment re attachment parenting.

It sounds like you're doing an amazing job, so glad the first night went well.

Cathy said...

I teach preschoolers and you are doing some very important things with your little ones - that moving between rooms by crawling -- so very important in building the little muscles! routine? Children thrive on it - I teach kids that have a routine and kids that don't - and once the little ones do get a routine, they really thrive and enjoy it. You are doing all the right things! Find the sacred in the ordinary or the quotidian occasions. Wow - great post.

Sam said...

I lurk mostly but wanted to tell you that you sound like you're a great mom. Fostering independence for your kids is hard, but important, but you already know that.

I really de-lurked to say Happy Mother's Day. I hope you get to pamper yourself...you deserve it.

Rachel said...

I think you are wise to stick to a routine. It sounds like your system is working well for you, and that's what's importnat. I hear you on the guilt-inducing AP books. Aargh!

Rev Dr Mom said...

I never heard of "attachment parenting" until I started reading blogs, but I used to teach developmental psych. What I know about attachment is that the most important factor is consistent loving care, and you are certainly providing that. So don't let parenting books make you feel guilty.

DoctorMama said...

It seems like twins are pretty different than singletons, in that it's a whole different ballgame when they have each other in addition to you. When they're really tiny, they might not care, but once they recognize each other, it seems great. (Of course, I only have one, so maybe that's a grass-is-greener observation?)

Maybe YOU should write a parenting twins book ... with a long chapter on doing it on one's own!

liz said...

You're doing a phenomenal job. Children love routine and they love a mommy who is less stressed because of it.

Advice you can readily ignore if it won't work for you for naps:
Dark, heavy drapes in the napping room. And/or quiet music.

Lisa said...

You're doing great!

You know, as a for all practical purposes single mother of twins, routines have been essential for me to get through the days. In the beginning, it was diaper, eat, play a bit, sleep, every three hours 24 hours a day. If I didn't keep them both on that routine, I literally would have collapsed with exhaustion. We have used routines and systems the whole way through, and it helps the kids know what to expect and know how long they will have to wait for their turn, etc. Now that they are older, I'm trying to break from routine more on some days so that when we do have a special day, they don't freak out.

It always seem to me that a lot of that parenting advice, like attachment parenting, may be great theoretically. But only parents of privilidge can really put it into practice. (or maybe parents of singletons?). Anyway, I was not able to wear them or feed them on demand and some other things I wanted to do, and they seem no worse for the wear. They are attached.

I'm glad you are getting into your groove with things.

Anonymous said...

Good for you. You have learned much of what you need to know parenting twins after having your duo. Took me a kid first to lay down some laws to make life bearable all round! You are doing well :)

Little ones, especially twins HAVE to get on some sort of schedule or a mothers sanity is shot to hell. I admire your tenacity to do what is necessary.

I am so glad I did not buy the attatchment parenting book early on. It would have driven me mad!

I am an introvert who needs at least 2 hours a night to myself. Any less and I am a cranky woman unfit to parent. So my children go to bed accordingly, and do not wake me till they have to at 7.30.

So good on you for figuring out what YOU need early on. Because if you don't get your sleep/personal time met you aren't the mother you could be. Heh, trust me!


wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

One thing I've learned from being a parent is that children thrive on routine and consistency. It makes them feel secure when they know the shape of their day. Just remember that they have a habit of throwing curve balls every now and again that require altering the routine. You might find that when Riley starts walking, he'll need a bit more rest (or maybe not). I don't know anything about this attachment parenting crap but it sounds like it's for the birds (and even birds follow a routine with their young). Good for you.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing, amazing, amazing. My daughter (one,not two) was born June 22, 2006, I have a helpful husband and I still get lost in anxiety, but thoughts of you and the twins always guide me out.
You constantly show me how to live life right. You are a gift.

Lori said...

I saw that JC Penney ad for the first time yesterday, and it reduced me to a blubbering pool of goo.

I've also experienced the gap between the Ideal Parent I was planning to be, and the one I became (who lets the toddler watch hour upon mind-numbing hour of Noggin), and we're also very much wedded to The (Sacred) Routine (and there's only the one kid on this end).

You're doing great. I swear that kids are like a moving target.

Sunny said...

There was nothing boring about this post. I am so impressed with you and your routines. You amaze me! I want to be like you when I finally get my little miracle.

Duncan said...

"Is there anything more guilt-inducing than an attachment-parenting book"

OH god, thank you for articulating that for me, I laughed with relief when I read it. Maybe my kid won't grow up traumatized because once every two weeks or so at 5:30 am I keep sleeping and let him fuss it out for an hour or so.