Sometimes I hate having twins. There I said it. Computer did not explode, nor did I.
Every week, while I’m enjoying my “vacation time” at work, I tell myself, this weekend, I’m going to really commit to spending quality time with my kids, rather than dreaming up ways to avoid them. The funny thing is, I really WANT to spend quality time with them. Part of me genuinely longs for them, when I’m away. So why don’t I rush home Friday night looking forward to spending a weekend in twin-toddler-land?
Let me tell you why…
This weekend, as I often do, I planned an outing with my children. I do this to avoid the inevitable consequences of staying home; including trying to impress upon them the oven is not a toy, general destruction to my home, repeated tantrums, and finally, me hiding in another part of the house with my laptop, overwhelmed, and convinced I’m a horrible mother.
After careful research, I concluded the best-timed outing this weekend would be to one of the many story-times that were being run for Dr. Suess’s birthday. After the usual lengthy period of getting ready, including pleading with them to let me get ready so that we can leave, we drive off. Mind you, by “me getting ready” I mean brushing my dirty hair, putting sneakers on, drinking a cold cup of tea that I’ve microwaved three times, and making sure my pajamas can pass for “sweats”).
The day starts off wonderfully. Truly. We are listening to music in the car and singing, one of my absolute favorite times with them. I’ve discovered that only exposing my children to music I like, guarantees pleasant car rides. I highly recommend this course of action!
Anyway, I didn’t start to get nervous until we parked. This particular library was on a steep hill, but the parking lot was at the bottom along a very busy street. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of wrangling twins in and out of a car, it’s an experience not to be missed. I went through my typical mental calculation of who is more likely to “stay by mama.” This time I took my daughter out first, knelt down, placed the diaper bag on the ground next to the car, and told her “stay by mama, put your hand on mama’s bag.” I then darted around to the other side of the car, and ripped my son out as fast as I could. The few moments where I had to take my eyes off my daughter to get him out were sheer terror during which I could visualize nothing but my daughter being crushed by those relentless, rushing cars.
Listen people, I’m not a worrier when it comes to my kids. I’m actually pretty laid back, but when you’ve been conditioned by your own children darting across parking lots, or laughing as you scream while they outrun you into the street, even the most chill mom would be frazzled.
As we were walking up the many, many concrete stairs to the library, my cell phone rang. It was a psychiatrist returning a call about a client. This was an emergency, and not answering the call was not an option. At first, while I talked, the kids played nicely on the steps. Then suddenly, all I saw was my daughter rolling at warp speed down those concrete steps. Our saving grace was that I was below her. Somehow, without sounding like a crazy person, I stopped her trajectory toward a severe head injury by blocking her fall with my leg, comforted her, and checked her for injuries all the while continuing the conversation.
When we finally got into the children’s section of the library, a very helpful librarian tried to orient me and tell me about the programs there. Meanwhile, my son entertained himself by spinning a turntable-style book shelf unit at top speed until books started flying off, becoming projectiles. He then proceeded to find the emergency exit (he always finds the emergency exit) and tried with all his might to open it (as he typically does). The librarian kept repeating, “Oh, don’t worry, we are used to kids here…” but her face was saying, “Holy shit, bitch, get your kid under control.”
When I finally got the twins into the large multipurpose room where the story-time would take place, I saw a familiar face, another twin mom I know. We sat down on the floor in front of her and her older twin boys. Almost immediately, my son set off on his never-ending, exuberant quest to 1)press the button! 2)turn on the light! and most importantly 3) open the door! Sadly, none of these activities can be done only once, and the door one usually involves repeated slamming. There were too many people standing near the door to the room, so instead, he headed for large sliding doors on a ceiling-high book shelf against the wall. Slam. Slam. Slam.
I engaged in obligatory attempts to try to stop him – showing all the people who were now staring that I was aware of my misbehaved child and had attempted to discipline him. I then left him there, knowing after many, many experiences like this one that he would be satisfied with nothing other than those doors. Eventually a male librarian walked up to him and did a “Where the hell is this kid’s parent?” scan of the room. I headed back over and listened to his concerns about my son slamming his fingers.
Finally the storytime started. In the past, my kids would both sit in my lap for at least a few minutes, but this time, noooooooo. All the better, the deputy mayor of the town was reading the book. My son immediately began writhing and attempting to escape to either exit the room or play with the doors again. We had several loud wrestling matches that annoyed (injured?) a few surrounding kids, before I dragged both my screaming kids out of the room in shame while most of the other guests looked on, shaking their heads at “that mom.” Here I thought we could enjoy stories and cake for Dr. Suess’s birthday together. Why do I bother?
When I got back into the children’s section of the library I was really in bad shape. How was I ever going to motivate to keep trying to spend quality time with my kids when I almost always end up feeling this way? I was shaky, my nerves were shot, I was about to cry and felt like I must be doing something very wrong. Why were kids of all ages, younger, same age, and older able to at least nominally able to participate in activities (even if slightly unfocused), while my son only wants to try to escape from everywhere? I MUST be doing something wrong.
I tried to calm myself down, got some books, and attempted to read to my kids. This time, my son sat right down and stayed still, and my daughter took to destroying the rest of the library, stealing toys from other kids, throwing books, and creating general mayhem. I must have looked like hell, because another mom came and sat next to me and told me she’d had to leave a ton of story-times with her daughter, “And I only have one…” How many times have I heard that “only one” comment, but somehow it never makes me feel better. She told me about some support group for pre-school moms. I wanted to tell her, “I know… I’m IN therapy… I go to all kinds of therapy. Not only that, I AM a goddamned therapist!”
I was stalling, even though leaving the library was the obvious choice, because I was dreading that parking lot. Who can enjoy an outing while the entire time imagining one’s children being run down while one looks on helplessly. When we got to the car, I took one of each child’s hands in my left hand and just squeezed, while with my right hand I unlocked the car and opened the door. I then threw both children into one back door and locked the car. It took quite a while for me to then get them both back into the back seat (the were flailing wildly throughout the car) and into their carseats, but at least I knew they couldn’t get to the 4-lane death-trap only 10 feet away.
As I drove home, my mind was drifting, as it so often does… to work, to fantasizing about when I can next get to the gym, what my next blog post should be about, how I could probably afford a massage in a few months, and most frequently, sleeping with women.
So I go home and I vent to my husband. I cry while my kids nap and I write. I will keep going to therapy, keep talking, and just keep working it through. I know that avoidance is the worst way to deal with anxiety. When I get into a cycle of avoiding my kids, they can smell my fear of them, and it terrifies them. They start to test me to see if they can truly drive me away, and I feel all the more overwhelmed and terrified that maybe they will. The only way to conquer fear is to move toward it. So I get up each day, and I try. I take my breaks, I take my time away, and then I just keep going back, hoping this day will be one where the stars align, I’m meeting their needs and they’re working with me – those magical mommy moments when that “okay, I’m not totally fucking this up” feeling comes over you.
Why do I hate having twins sometimes? I think it’s because the chances of having that feeling are cut in half. That day I just described with my son – my daughter was an angel. And believe me people, it can easily, easily, oh so easily be the other way around. The thing is when one is in that magical, make-you-feel-like-a-real-mom space with you, the other is pushing and testing or tired or teething. Maybe it’s like this for all parents with two, I really don’t know. But I feel a bit cheated. I feel cheated out of more time with each of them where I feel like I can just be with them, love them, and not feel like I’m messing up.
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