18 February 2011

One, Not So Lonely

I wonder, sometimes, what life would be like with one child. I can't imagine which one it would be, of course. Maybe it would be neither Maddie nor Riley, given that I don't think either of them would or could be who they are without the other.

When John and I found out I was pregnant with twins, the doctor told us at the very first ultrasound (six weeks?) that it was quite likely that one of the two babies would be gone by the eight-week visit, a vanishing twin. One embryo had a disturbingly low heart rate, a seemingly likely indicator of demise. But no, whichever one of them it was came back with a vengeance, and by eight weeks everyone was right on track and stayed there until the scheduled c-section.

I don't want to imply that I wish I didn't have twins. I have them, and I can't imagine my life without them. But I do wonder, sometimes, if I would be a better parent if I had only one child. Would I be more patient, more loving? If I had half as many questions coming my way, half as many demands, a way to always be one-on-one? There are times when I would love to crawl in bed with Maddie or Riley when I tuck them in, snuggle them to sleep, maybe doze off myself, but I know that whoever I didn't get in bed with would fret, feel less than, cry, whine, unconsoled by the idea that he or she would get a turn tomorrow. I wanted to be the parent whose kids had stamps in their passports before they could talk; traveling on my own with two kids is just now getting to a point where a passport-required trip could be considered. I rarely eat out with Maddie and Riley alone as there is too much logistical crazy and too little enjoyment. I can only take so many hours of having two people talk to me nonstop at the same time while I try to make dinner before I lose my temper and snap at someone.

Of course I'd sometimes lose my temper if I only had one kid. And yes, having kids makes things like travel and eating out harder whether you have one or multiples. That logistical stuff is what it is; what I find troublesome is how much being outnumbered seems to affect my parenting. It's so hard to give Maddie and Riley the individual focus they deserve. I often feel bad about how poorly I handle it. I need to find time to spend with Maddie and Riley as individuals, for all of our sake.


Jody said...

I have two kids (my older one is 5, the younger 20 months) and I am most definitely a different parent with two (and usually not in a good way) than I was with one. My kids are fairly easy and good-natured, and it's still hard! I have really been struggling lately because I feel like I never used to yell when I just had one. We used to do so much fun stuff and really just enjoy each other. Now I feel like I snap at them all the time, and life is a whirlwind of rushing to school, rushing home for the little one to nap, navigating all of the challenges of age 5 and age 20 months, but not having as much time to enjoy the pleasures of those ages. It is hard and frustrating. The thing is, they adore each other beyond measure. I wonder sometimes if I would be a better parent (I'd certainly be a more sane one!) with only one child, but all of our lives would be missing such an important "something". (Not to say that those who choose to have only one child are missing something. Just that for my family, having more than one was the right choice. Seeing my older child as a big brother has been the most amazing part of parenting for me.)

That said, I'd actually love to have more kids. The thought of a house full of kids who are all over the age of 4 sounds like fun. But I don't think I would do well to be stretched thinner than I am now. =0)

I hope you find a way to spend some individual time with M&R; you have mentioned it on and off for quite a while and it seems to be something very important to you. Individually or together, they are lucky to have you!

Janine (txmomx6) said...

As a mother of 6, and one set of twins in there, let me assure you, you doing great job. Every good mother asks these same questions. Especially mothers of multiples. ESPECIALLY widowed mothers.
My personal opinion is that most things are easier with more than one child. They have each other to play with, to talk to, and yes, to fight with. But an only child would have only you to turn to for these things. And they are quickly approaching the age where traveling with them won't be very difficult at all.
Yes, it's good to spend one on one time with them, when you can. But they are also learning that the world does not revolve around them. Or at least, only them.
Try not to worry. They will do more than survive. They will flourish. You love them. Very much. They love each other. You are a family.
Focus on enjoying ... alone or together .... each moment, more than worrying about them.
You will be (& are now) very blessed.

Jen said...

I think you are doing a fantastic job with two. I'm grumpy and short with my one, and I also worry that there's a danger of too much intensity when it's just the two of us all the time. Will she learn how to interact with a variety of people? Will she be able to bond with more than one other?

Tina said...

As a usually silent reader, I want to assure you, that you are doing a wonderful and great job in raising your children. Sometimes losing your temper is what all of us are struggling with. You gave them a brother / a sister, a family that is more than just me and mommy, and the brother/sister relationship will be the longest in their entire life. Someone, who will remember them and times as a kid, when mommy is long gone; someone who will be there, when partners leave and marriages break and who will travel towards aging with them. Having brothers/sisters, is wonderful and is the real gift.

Gina said...

My first son, now four, was one of a set of twins - the other twin "vanished" at around 7 weeks. I have thought often what it would have been like with two babies at the same time. Certainly, I would have loved them both, but I know that I wouldn't have been able to do the things that I did with him (nurse him to sleep for every nap and nighttime for 2+ years, for example) with twins. I simultaneously feel sad for the baby that was lost and happy that I had over two years to enjoy my little boy without any other children. I now have a second son, almost two years old, and it is certainly harder with two kids. I yell more, my dinners are a whole lot simpler, I get less sleep, and I am constantly craving alone time with each of them. That said, the younger one adores his big brother and often seems a bit sad when he isn't around. The older one actually told me last week "Thank you for having a brother for me." so clearly all the neglect can't have ruined them completely.

Is there any way you can alternate picking one up from school or home early once month and have a couple hours of special mom/kid time? I sometimes do that on Friday afternoons with my boys and I love it.

kathleen999 said...

I have thought a lot about that too, and I think that while the baby years would have been so much easier with just one, from about 5 years old, two is much better, even though there are double the demands on you. The reason why? They start being each other's built0in playmates. I see parents with only children who have to entertain their kids constantly. Ours are now pretty good at playing together or playing by themselves and that is a blessing. Since they are the same age, they are very much suited to play together rather than if they were 3 years apart.

I'm wondering if you can enlist your mom and dad to help you get some more one on one time with each child. Maybe every week an afternoon with Grandma or Grandpa for one child, and then the other with you? So your parents would each help out 2 weekend afternoons per month. Might be nice for everyone.

BTW, I think you are doing an awesome job. It's hard to never lose your temper, and you have very long stretches of caring for the kids by yourself with no one else to jump in and relieve the stress.

Peg said...

You're doing a great job. As a mom to five (3 sons, and 2 adopted nieces) my fuse has shortened with each kid (especially with the recent addition of the girls). I try to remind myself each day that it would be impossible to give each kid the exact same amount of attention each day (althugh they do their best to make me try). I try to rememeber that over the long haul I'm doing the best I can with each of them. It's hard though and I regularly beat myself up for not giving them my 100%, non-yelling, self every day. Hang in there!!

Lyndsay said...

I hear what you're saying, but the gift of a sibling is priceless.
My only-child 6-year old daughter was in tears a couple of days ago when she realized she'd never be anybody's aunt. It broke my heart.

(Basically, as a mother I guess your heart will be broken a million times in a million different ways no matter WHAT your situation!!)

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

As someone who had one child three years before her twin siblings came along, I can vouch for the fact that one child is infinitely easier than a pair. Twins bring their own unique set of challenges and probably triple the stress. I feel lucky that I was able to experience parenting one but I also couldn't be happier that I have three girls who will always have each other.

You're doing great!

Wabi said...

To Lyndsay, whose only child is sad about not ever being an aunt: Did you mention that if her future spouse has siblings she could still end up an aunt? And even if that doesn't happen, she can always be an "auntie" to the children of her grown-up friends. If she really wants to be an aunt, lack of a sibling shouldn't stop her.

Mariella said...

My son was an only until I remarried and had his half siblings when he was 7.

I can handle the logistic with my two younger ones, but where I ran into trouble with was my mother. By the time my two youngest came along, she was needing help too, and the logistics for that were totally impossible. How do you have 2 energetic little ones on the beach, with grandma up on the boardwalk suddenly needing to use the bathroom, and needing help to get there? And being impatient and hard of hearing, to boot.

Sam said...

My mom didn't have twins, but she did have twice as many kids as you. She made it a point to give us private time each week and she had a bunch of ways of making us all feel special. So maybe she took my baby sister out for a walk just the two of them. But she'd let my sister wear a special necklace, and she'd give me the love plate for dinner. If you need more ideas I can try to think up what else she did.

Anonymous said...

We have 3 girls and have recently started doing date nights with each of them. Once a month they each get to pick where they'd like to go and they get that special one on one time. It really makes a huge difference in attitude and they look forward to it all month. Maybe you could work that out with your au pair? When my girls get to do all of the planning and decision making, it makes them feel so special. ( no trying to sneak in a quick errand I found out all to fast)

amy said...

You are the same person, regardless of how many children you have. I have two children, born four years apart and I have to work on being the best mother I can be every single day. We get burnt out by the same demands regardless of if it's one child (which I dealt with for four years before no.2), or more. It's the age(s) of the children that will increase the ease in which you wear the role of Mother.

kyouell said...

I'd like to add to Janine's list of "Especially mothers of multiples. ESPECIALLY widowed mothers." The mothers of kids with special needs are feeling the same too. I didn't know my son had Down syndrome until he was 3 days old. I still am very much in touch with feeling that the cardiologist who came into my room to tell us about his heart defect and that they'd called a geneticist because they suspected Down syndrome had just murdered my perfect son. Crazy post-partum hormones, I know, but in that moment it took all my self-control not to physically attack him like a mama bear and demand that my son be brought to me, not sent to the NICU.

I know it's nothing like actually losing my son, believe me. But I worry when I'm spending time saying the alphabet or counting with his 3yo sister, because he is not self-motivated to learn these things like she is. If we hadn't had her I would have so much more time to spend with him. Would he be talking at 5 instead of just grunting, making some sounds and signing a little bit? Maybe, maybe not.

I'm a bit hesitant to post this comment as I remember how I felt when the Special Ed teacher brightly told me during a meeting, "The other parents can't believe that their kids are 5 years old too!" No, lady. When I say I can't believe my son is 5 I mean that the cardiologist told us that without surgery kids with his defect live to an average age of 4, maximum life-span of 7. Then the pediatric cardiac surgeon mentioned that it wasn't that long ago that a child with Down syndrome wouldn't be offered the surgery to correct that defect. When I say I don't believe he's 5 I don't mean it like another parent might. Made me livid. I don't mean to slight what you are doing and make it sound like I completely understand, but I am empathetic.

Anyway, I have my fears & worries too. Not the same, but not totally different either. Mamas with worries unite!

Jennie said...

I think that people do not realize how easy it is to have one kid until they have more than one, if that makes any sense. So, if you had only one child, it might BE easier, but it probably wouldn't SEEM easy. And, as someone else said, with one child, they are always talking to you, demanding your attention, etc. With two, they are often demanding your attention, but sometimes they are talking/playing together.

Vanessa said...

I have an only child, and I love having a very close relationship with her and being able to do special things with/for her that I couldn't if I had more than one. But, the downside is that all the togetherness of the one parent/one child combo can be very intense, almost to the point of being stifling. When my husband first died, she was only seven and it was very, very hard to be the only person in the house for her to play and talk and interact with--I would be completely drained at the end of a weekend. Now that she's almost a teenager, she's self-entertaining, but we get on each other's nerves at times and there's no one else here to serve as a buffer. I love her like crazy, but there are definitely moments when I wish she had a sibling, if only to serve as a distraction. :-)

Janine (txmomx6) said...

Even though you say you didn't lose your son, you did suffer a loss, which was grieved. You lost your future hopes and plans. You didn't just have them for 3 days .... you had them for 9 months. And, in my opinion, you did suffer the loss of your son ... the son you thought you had for three days. And I'm sorry for that.
No, it's not the same, but no loss is. Ever.
Grief is grief.
And the fact that you grieved and maybe still grieve that loss doesn't take away one drop of the love that you have for him and for who he is today. Not one iota.
And even though you didn't even ask for one, I'm going to give you another opinion .... I think it's probably helped your son to have his sister. There's certainly more stimulation in the house with her there, and he can learn things from her, too .... as she learns them.
You sound like a great mom to me.
In my opinion.

Loz said...

Jennie, amen - our 3yo was an only until the twins came along when she was 2.5. The twins are both much easier babies than she was, BUT THERE ARE TWO OF THEM. It does seem in hindsight that we should have realised how easy it was to have only one. But gosh she was hard work (severe food intolerances, not diagnosed til 18months+ - and she did not sleep until we had them sorted out).

Whoever said the sibling relationship is the longest they will have - how beautiful. I am an only child and it's really hard for me sometimes to see the payoff my 3 kids will have from these early years of more or less constant low-level neglect, when I was the centre of attention of about 6 adults all the time (my mum, her childless sisters, my nanna). I will hang on to the idea of their long lives together when things seem to be getting rough now. actually, even now all the kids are just beautiful with each other. the twins gaze at each other adoringly at 5.5 months. I doubt it will last!


abernier said...

All of these comments are great! My offering:
When my twins were 5, I took them on the train from Ann Arbor to Chicago, visited friends for a few days, and then returned. The train trip lasted about 5 hours each way. It was a HUGE milestone. We ate hot dogs in the cafe car, and I taught them how to play Go Fish, but the best thing about it was the sense that we could travel together and have fun - and they were EXCELLENT company! It sounds as if M and R will soon be ready to take that kind of trip with you, and when it happens, you'll feel the change profoundly.

spoiledonlychild said...

If you had one (as I do) you would wonder what they are missing out on by not having a sibling. If, without a father or a sibling, they are too alone in the world. Whether you've shortchanged them. Whether your house would be more fun with another kid. Etc, etc. Grass is always greener, you know. But I do hear what you are saying. Two on one as a permanent situation would have its challenges.

CV said...

Jennie, et al:

As a parent of a singleton, I actually do appreciate how much easier I have it!

When I talk with friends who are on to number two and I look at my 4 year old and contemplate giving her a sibling, the resounding response from the other parents is, "you've got a *good* thing going, why mess with it?!"

Moving from one child to two seems to be a huge shift for my friends. I can't speak to having two show up at once, but I'm pretty sure it is way harder than one.

Anonymous said...

of course each individual child is unique, but my opinion (and I am not a parent, just an auntie to three, all extremely close in age) is that two children are at least three times the work of one child. two children *together* (i.e. twins) are way, way more work than the "usual" two.

...and: I am a twin. to a mom who worked mother's hours, while my father traveled approximately 6 months out of the year for business. and my sister and I were *not* friends. and we double-teamed our mom, who (honestly) did the best she could, but we so overwhelmed her. I can see this now more clearly looking back. and, ahem, after therapy, too.

you, dear snick, are doing the best you can. and kids are extremely adaptable. would it be easier with one? probably. but then again, my favorite thing about having a sibling is that, no matter what, she understands our family. and that is more than a little important.

Julie said...

Hi there,
As a mom of twins (5), I understand. One thing I've begun to do with the twins is have "special mommy time" with them. I'm a teacher, and the psychologist at my school once told me that quality time can be only 5 or 10 minutes- it's the 1:1 that they will value and remember, no how long it lasted. I have a chart where they can move their picture next to a game, book, or some other project. We set the timer for how ever long seems realistic that day or evening, and we go do it. The other twin is occupied with something, be it TV or a toy. (let's face it - TV works best!) The same could work for cuddling in bed- use a chart, point out to them whose turn it is tonight and whose turn it will be tomorrow. For us, there is sometimes frustration of it not being their turn, but turn-taking is good to learn, and knowing that their turn is coming up they will not truly feel "less than." I also think as they get just a little older, going out to eat and traveling, even on your own with them, will seem a lot more doable. Good luck!

Jane said...

I wonder this all the time, and yet, like you, I can't imagine not having twins.

If I had only had one child at first, I would have tried to have another, so I would theoretically have experienced the two kids thing eventually. But it's not the same as twins.

I wish all the time that I spent more one-on-one time with my girls. And I have a spouse that can help make that happen more easily -- and still, it's hard. So don't be too tough on yourself for that.

You're being the best mother you can be, and from what I can tell, it's pretty damned good.

Leah said...


I haven't commented as often as I should have, but I did want to tell you that I have been reading your blog for four years, and have been grateful for it.

I am an RPCV, and so is my husband. We are now living in a very foreign country with an almost-two-year-old and a just-turned-three-year-old. They aren't twins, and there are two of us, but even though this was always how we planned to do it, and we are happy we have, it is HARD. And so, last night, I told my husband that I hoped he knew that when the kids are out of the nest, we are really going to travel, and have adventures. Because despite loving life generally, this isn't what we had imagined when we planned living an international life. We got the stamps in the passports, but we have discovered that it means less. Just in case you were wondering what you miss by waiting until it's manageable.

Also, I think you are doing a fantastic job. Just in case I fail to comment for another year.

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Lee Shin

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