12 February 2008

Have Patience, Have Patience

Riley is really trying my patience these days.

Poor little man. He's sick. He's got a head cold, and he's been coughing a lot at night. It's not waking him up, but it's waking me up, and it's keeping him from sleeping soundly. So neither he nor I have been well rested in the morning for the past few days. Plus, he's got his hand in his mouth all the time and I'm starting to think that he's getting two-year molars on the early side. Add to that my stress related to starting a new job, and it's been hard for me to find my parenting Zen.

Over the weekend I:

threw a board book against a door so hard that I broke the spine.*
gave a lot of time-outs
yelled more than was justified, by a long shot
turned an indifferent ear on an upset little boy

It's the last one that really gets me. I get to a point where I get so tired and overwhelmed that I just stop being able to give. Riley is a really sensitive little boy. He responds to cuddling and sympathy and support. I know that when he's tired or not feeling well, it's not worth fighting battles with him over whether or not he says "please" or helps to pick up toys in the playroom. What I should do when he's out of sorts is give him an extra hug and let the details slide. He's only nineteen months old, plus he's not feeling well and he's tired--I need to let things go. But when I'm at the end of my reserves, it's so hard for me to keep giving and giving and giving. It's all too easy for me to slip into being dogmatic and rules-bound and frustrated. Then when the poor little man does not himself have the reserves to do what I'm demanding, we all end up upset and out of sorts.

It doesn't help that Maddie has been a perfect, angelic delight lately. Well, it does help in that when I find it in me to give Riley what he needs, Maddie is OK with not getting as much attention. She's just so funny lately. She's talking so much, laughing all the time, making jokes and entertaining herself when needed. I don't like to compare Maddie and Riley; they are unique individuals and I can't expect them to have the same needs and personalities. It's just really difficult right now to have one twin who is such a challenge and one who is so easy by comparison.

What's more is that this is an ongoing problem. It's more apparent right now than usual because Riley's sick and sleepy. But frankly, it's all too simple for me to think of Maddie as "the easy one" and Riley as "the difficult one." I hate it when people ask me "Which one is the leader? Which one is the emotional one? Which one has the temper?" I find that people either expect them to be exactly the same or polar opposites. I hate categorizing them like that, especially as they are now old enough to understand so much of what is said in front of them. I always decline to answer those kinds of questions, but I have to confess that in my mind, Maddie is easier and Riley is more of a challenge. Riley has such highs and such lows. He has a one-thousand watt smile, and his laugh is from the depths of his soul. But he's quick to cry and quick to have his feelings hurt. He's always struggled with sleeping and he can be a picky eater. It's somehow not surprising to me that he's the one allergic to peanuts.

Maddie is more even-keel. She loves to test limits, but she responds to time-outs so well that it almost feels like cheating to give her one. She sleeps well and eats everything. I can explain things to her, and she listens and responds. She's emotionally and intellectually mature for her age.

They are just different, unique little people and I know I need to find individual ways to parent them. Frankly, it's exhausting to me that this is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Parenting Maddie comes naturally to me--that's a lot of the reason she feels "easy." Parenting Riley is a real test. I have a lot to learn about patience, a lot to learn from my sweet little coughing man.

*Maddie has been running around saying, "Mama FireFire broken. Mama FireFire broken." The book is about a fire truck, and they call it FireFire. And yes, I broke FireFire. But why don't I get any credit for fixing it with packing tape?


thrice said...

Have you thought of having Riley evaluated for sensory issues through EI. It doesn't cost anything. In my case, the dept of education (because my kids aged out of EI) pays for each of my twins to go to a sensory gym 2 x 30.

Sensory issues can be very subtle, but have a big impact, exactly the way you are describing.

Big W said...

The fact that you are sensitive enough to your children's needs/differences and introspective enough to look at your own parenting through this lens is a huge testament to the fact that you are simply a great parent.

It also seems like you are doing a good job of balancing your ideal world, in which blanket categories aren't applied to them, with the real fact that at this time, one actually is challenging you more than the other. Who knows, those tables could turn in the future.

You aren't doing either of them a disservice in giving Riley what he needs, even if it is a little bit "more" at times, when Maddie's needs are clearly being met too.

Rev Dr Mom said...


I think every parent with more than one child deals with those feelings about one child being easier or more difficult from time to time, and it must be magnified when they are twins.

And I empathize with the loss of patience and the becoming dogmatic and rule-bound. I know I acted the same way at times when my kids were little and I felt overwhelmed.

Hope Riley feels better soon.

Megan said...

Snickollet, I think (with the greatest respect) that you HAVE found the way to parent two entirely different people. You described it perfectly and I applaud you for knowing your children so well. Maddie and Riley are wonderful kids and you are the perfect parent for them. Now cut yourself some slack; we ALL have a rough patch sometimes.

Shannon said...

You might pick up the book, Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax. Fascinating and scientific look at how boys and girls are different. It was really powerful in helping me understand and better empathize with my boys.
You're doing great. Hang in there!

glove said...

Right - I was also thinking that it may have something to do with their gender. You can never simplify human behavior that easily, but that may have something to do with it.

You're doing a great job, mama. Keep on truckin.

halfmama said...

This sounds exactly like Bean and Buddy at Maddie and Riley's age. Now? The tables have turned and we are amazed, quite honestly. We are now constantly trying to figure out how to interact with Bean during her difficult moments. We're just thankful that they at least take turns with their difficult stages!

It is stressful to be two different parents to two different kids and to turn it on and off. It's mentally exhausting. Give yourself a break! You are doing an incredible job with both of them by not comparing them and by just knowing that they are different people with different needs. You and Riley will both figure out how best to work through it and be better for it.

What A Card said...

First, let me say that it sounds like you're doing great. It's never easy, and we all wish we could do things differently sometimes, so I try to look at the big picture :)

Second, let me say that you've described my twins perfectly! N-man has always been "easy" while B-Man is more challenging, in exactly the ways you described about Riley. Hey, B-Man is my nut-allergy guy, too!

Anyway, if it's any consolation, just a few weeks ago, at 2.5 years, my boys decided to switch personalities :) So now B-Man gets to be the "easy" one for a while!

Hang in there, it does just keep getting easier and more fun. Hope Riley feels better soon!

cc said...

As a mom to b/g twins who are now almost 7 (which I can't believe), I feel your pain on the differences in parenting. I also had much fewer "battles" with my daughter than my son. What I am finding now at their age is that he is actually becoming easier to parent and she is getting more challenging, so it very well might change for you as well.

AND, you are doing a great job. Parenting twins is not an easy task, especially when you are doing it by yourself, with a very sad heart.

You are frequently in my prayers,

Anonymous said...

You're doing a good job. I believe strongly in the 80-20 rule: as long as we are doing things well 80% of the time, people find it easy to forgive us the other 20% of the time when things are going to hell in a handbasket.

As a (bad) example: Last week I had a horrible day at work and then got caught in rush hour traffic in a snowstorm. A commute that normally takes me 15 minutes took nearly an hour and a half. About two miles from our house I decided to try a shortcut through a neighborhood I had never driven through before, that turned out NOT to be on a grid system. I got lost--two miles from my house. I finally lost it, yelling and screaming "FUCK!" at the top of my lungs and banging the steering wheel for a good two minutes. This would have been fine except my 13 month old daughter was in the back seat. She had been whiny prior to my meltdown, but became very, very quiet during. I know I traumatized her. Once I calmed down, I reached back to apologize and hold her hand, and she gripped my finger tightly and wouldn't let it go until we got home. As bad as I feel about that incident, I also tell myself that it only happens very rarely, and that mostly I am able to keep my cool.

We're all human, parenting is a tough gig, and it's very clear that you are a good one (parent that is, not a gig!)

Angela said...

My little boy, definitely tested my patience (and still does) way more than his older sister ever did. They're just different. I really try not to compare but it's so hard not to when one definitely seems like the "easier" of the two. I am so very sorry it's so tough for you and Riley right now. There were so many times when I would go into another room, stamp my feet, throw things and yell, I would just lose it because I felt so helpless and like a failure as a parent. I hated when I would yell at my son or felt I had no more energy to keep on giving. You are not alone and as trite as it sounds it does get better.
I know when I would ask for advice from other parents they would say those words and though they sounded hollow, it gave me a very small glimmer of hope to hang onto. Please know that it really and truly does get better. And I know it's awful and horrible when you are living it at the time. I wish I could do or say something to make you feel better. Please know that I am sending you good thoughts and big hugs, please take care. I know you are an awesome person and Mom,your warmth,positive energy and caring shines through so clearly.

mames said...

i hear you on the difference in twins..it is hard not to compare them and lean towards categorizing them as one vs. the other. i have noticed with our boys that their challenges come at different times, right now mace is our 'difficult' baby and i have spent many days/nights in tears, frustrated with him and myself for not being better at this. and thinking i wish he were more like o. it makes me feel guilty...but then i try to think a thought about his smile or laugh and it helps. it helps to hear about other twin mama's experience too. thanks for writing so honestly.

Mama Nabi said...

(I was hoping halfmama would pipe in - because this reminded me of stuff she's talked about her twins - and there's her comment up there! YAY!)

FYI - I've done something similar to #1 a few times, #2 happened quite a bit lately, and #3 rears its ugly head when I'm exhausted, which is often. Have I mentioned that I have only 1 toddler?

I do remember before LN turned 2, there were a lot of adjustments as she and I were figuring out how to "work with each other", what to expect and whether consequences were necessary.

Hang in there - I wish we lived closer so I could lend a hand... *hugs*

Julia said...

I know it's easier said than done, but give yourself a break. You understand your children, and you are working very hard to give each what they need. It's a tough job, especially when they are so young, even for two parents. In the meantime you are dealing with the very heavy grief, with the fact that John isn't getting to see and participate in all these wondrous transformations. You and your grief need TLC too, and sometimes there just isn't enough of you too go around. Give yourself a break, ok?

Driving With the Brakes On said...

I never really bought into the whole theory that boys and girls are inherently different at such a young age, but see everyday with mine that that is certainly the case. My son has some characteristics similar to Riley, while my daughter is much like Maddie - and I hate to compare them in my head, but the fact of the matter is, my daughter really is an easier child . . . she eats everything put infront of her, she goes to bed without a fight, she plays independently without the need for a lot of encouragement or direction from me. You are not alone in being incredibly frustrated by it! I agree with everyone else in saying that the fact that you know your children and their temperaments so well speaks volumes about your abilities as a parent, even if you don't feel like 'Mom of the Year'.

On a side note, try rubbing Baby Vicks on Riley's feet before bed and then putting socks on him - I don't know why it works, but it seems to do wonders for nighttime coughing.

winecat said...

Not being a parent I can't comment on the issue except to say you've done a wonderful job of realizing that Maddie and Riley are 2 individuals.

Also second the Vicks on the feet suggestion from driving with the brakes on.

Yankee T said...

Hang in there. As I'm sure I said before they arrived, "parenting is not for the faint of heart." They'll probably switch roles back and forth several times in the next few years.