The Twin Parenting Advice I Couldn’t Follow

Photo by Elissa Bean of Little Bean Photography

When my twins, now 11 months, first arrived, I was hell-bent on keeping them on the same schedule. After all, that was the sage advice everyone with multiples gave me: one up, both up; one down, both down. And so I tried. Believe me when I tell you how very hard I tried. I wanted this to work desperately, not just because I am an advice and rule-follower, but because I knew it would make my days easier. If both babies were up, and being fed at the same time, then I wouldn’t be spending every single waking hour feeding a baby or trying with all my might to soothe a baby to sleep.

Sometimes this plan worked, and on those days I was punch-drunk giddy. But most days, regardless of my desperate pleas to my baby girls to wake and sleep at the same time, they simply refused. And I cried. Hard. And felt like a total and utter twin parent failure.

This was, after all, THE thing I was supposed to do. Parents of multiples told me so, all the books told me so. How, then, could I not get this down? On rougher days of little sleep and loads of crying (from the kids and myself), I blamed the twins for sabotaging our ability to get on a solid and synchronized sleep and feeding routine. On more sane days (and believe me, there weren’t many), I began to realize that though twins, my two babies were just that: two very different, unique and individual babies with their own sets of needs.

In his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins, Marc Weissbluth, M.D. explains that fraternal twins, which my twins are, can have a more difficult time attuning their schedules than identical twins. My rational brain realizes that this makes perfect sense. The same as my brothers, sister and I are all different human beings who certainly don’t eat and sleep at the exact same times every single day, so too are my twins. They are as alike as any two siblings; in fact, twin A seems much more similar to my four-year-old than she does to her twin. Just because they simultaneously shared my womb and a birthday does not necessarily mean they are alike. And believe me when I tell you they are very, very different. Twin A is assertive and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. Twin B is more passive, quiet and sensitive. They are so dissimilar that at times I am shocked they are even related.

As the months of their first year have rolled on, I have continued to try to synchronize their schedules. Nowadays, they usually nap and eat roughly around the same times, but truly, every day is still kind of a crap shoot. The difference is, now I don’t stress (as much) if they aren’t synced up. In addition to  reminding myself often that they are individual little girls with their own needs and agendas, I’m starting to view their being on staggered schedules as somewhat of a blessing. Why? Because it allows me something exceptionally precious – something that parents of multiples don’t often get: one-on-one time with each child. When one is awake while the other is sleeping, I no longer feel defeated or angry that I am not able to enjoy a break in my day. Rather, my heart explodes with joy that I am able to play and bond with just one baby at a time.

And so to other parents of multiples I say this, don’t fret too much if, like me, you are unable to always follow the “one up, both up; one down, both down” rule (or any “rule”, for that matter!). It is just not always feasible, and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure. All the advice and books are extremely well-meaning, and often very helpful, but if something doesn’t work for you, don’t angst about it or try to force it into fruition. It is what it is, and your own routine will emerge. Trust me. And in the meantime, find enjoyment where you can, and let the rest go.

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