Comfort and joy in extra measures
Even celebrity twins are taking a backseat to the media frenzy surrounding the reality series family that has been dismantled in front of America.
While Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's twins were bumped quickly to celebrity status in 2008, the birth of twin boys by Charlie Sheen's wife made little or no splash in 2009.
But the truth is that regardless of how the gossip columns respond, twins are born every day to parents with oodles of fanfare from those who matter most. The aunts, uncles and grandparents (a.k.a. the relative paparazzi) bring with them every digital recording device known to mankind - from camera phones to digital video recorders and everything in between.
And perhaps during the holidays more than ever, families with multiples are reminded of how very blessed they are. The memories of that special buzz surrounding the hospital waiting room when the twins or triplets were born come to life again when scrapbooks are dusted off and opened up during holiday gatherings.
The tiny infants, much anticipated by family and friends, were exalted upon their arrival. The "oohs" and "ahhs" over those multiple arrivals are more than double or triple those experienced by their singleton counterparts - all captured for posterity by countless camera flashes.
Most parents of multiples join in the delight over the arrival of their special miracles, and agree that with the birth of twins or triplets (or more), come comfort and joy in extra measures, along with an astonishing number of trials and tribulations.
"I knew that twins would be more work, but I never thought about how many sleepless nights we would have with one or the other sick.
They don't get ear infections together just because they are twins," remarked one dad. Another dad remembered, "Together they could wreak havoc in a matter of seconds. What one didn't think of the other would. One might push the ottoman across the room. When he ran into an obstacle like, say, the counter, he turned and walked away. And then his twin gets the bright idea to use the new ottoman positioning as a boost up onto the counter, where the Christmas candy is. Now we're having some fun!"
His wife added, "Remember how we tried to get a decent Christmas picture that year? We couldn't make both of them happy at the same time. We have this whole collection of pictures with one smiling and one sad, or one mad and the other laughing. 'Never again,' we said. But of course we did."
Other moms also recalled the fun and frivolity during the holidays. "When my twins were younger, I loved doing what I called 'holiday laundry' with them. We visited several relatives for the holidays who expected that they would be cute and adorably dressed alike. That meant twice as many clothes as we would normally need because if one twin messed up an outfit, we had to change both of them into new outfits. So about a week before our trip, I would wash and iron all of their outfits. They would entertain me the entire time. While I ironed and folded clothes, they would pull each other and their stuffed animals in suitcases tied together like a choo-choo train, or one would be a wild lion and the other would catch her with the laundry basket upside down. It was quite fun."
Another mom remembered hearing a screech and a flush as she was trying to get everyone out the door. "I walked into the bathroom to find one in tears and the other holding an empty goldfish bowl, explaining that when fishies die, the way they get to heaven is through the toilet. How do you respond to that one as you're heading out to the Christmas Eve service?"
Though the days may feel long, the years are most definitely short. And when those precocious preschoolers head off to kindergarten, the feeling of having the house completely empty all at once can be a bit overwhelming for a mother of multiples.
"I know that other moms go through this too, but it seems like they get to experience it in stages - one at a time," said one mother of triplets. "When my kids went to school I went from a full house to an empty house very fast."
The woosh of the school bus door was the beginning of a new era for her. "With only two classrooms in the elementary school, we had to decide whether they should all stay together in one room or split them into two with one by herself. These aren't decisions that regular parents have to make."
Because parents of multiples have challenges that are different from other parents, they often seek out other experienced parents for advice. Numerous clubs and organizations around Columbus, as well as online communities, offer encouragement, support and advice.
Once in school, siblings of twins (called singletons) enjoy a bit of celebrity status themselves.
"Most kids think it's cool that my brother and sister are twins," said one older sister. "Mostly it's okay and kind of fun to be their sister, but sometimes it's annoying." Another sibling added, "It's kind of no big deal. Mostly they are just regular kids and since neither one of them is really weird, it's okay with me if people know that I am their sister."
As twins and triplets get older, each develops his or her identity and the novelty wears off a bit for those around them. Dressing alike is much less common. While identical and fraternal twins will often share clothes, most don't care to dress alike except for a special occasion or to appease the relative paparazzi at family or holiday gatherings.
Some share friends, while others hang with completely different groups at school. Fraternal twins and triplets have a few different friendship challenges. "Because my brother is the same age as me, sometimes my friends start to 'like' him. And so sometimes when they come over to my house I'm not sure if they are here because they are my friends or because they think my brother is cute. That's kind of creepy," said a sibling.
Of course parents agree that the bountiful blessings that multiples bring definitely outweigh all of the extra work. And a trip to the mall with the double stroller will quickly bring back fond memories of the relative paparazzi of those newborn days, as fellow shoppers stare in awe of her ability to bring the double darlings out in public. They may not carry flashy cameras, but mothers of singletons generally display high regard for mothers of multiples - as they should.
We're all busier than ever, especially families with multiples! In order to maintain a balanced life we need to stay organized.
For Busy Parents, a new entrepreneurial company, has developed The Infant and Toddler Guide by New Albany resident Sheila Phillips with us in mind. The guide is a cross between an organizational tool and a valuable resource that allows parents to collect and store critical information about their families and households. Track the thousands of details that are part of daily life, from dealing with medical needs to keeping kids on a schedule. For more information, log on to forbusyparents.com.
Marsha Zimmerman is a freelance marketer, writer and mother of fraternal twins. She lives in Dublin.
- The Columbus Mothers of Twins Club offers support and information.
- TwinParents.com is an online support community.
- Many parents subscribe to Twins Magazine for stories about other families like them, as well as find helpful tips and suggestions for raising multiples.
- TwinsHelp.com is another online resource for informational articles as well as clothing and gift items.