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May 17, 2011

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How Do Other Twin Moms Do It? (warning: long)

My last post generated one comment that put me on the defensive. She said:

Maman d’Austin said…

I am afraid of getting flamed here (I am a NYC single mom to a 7 1/2 yr old boy) but Puffer, Puffer, Puffer. You are giving time-outs to 1 year olds? I really don’t think they understand cause & effect to that extent. I’d like to recommend a book “What’s Going On in There?” by Lise Eliot. I feel for you but at the same time I think of all these nannies that I see in my neighborhood walking around with twins. If they can do it, you can too

This led me to my Manhattan Mother of Multiples forum where I posed this question (note-I did refer to the commenter as my ‘friend’ for ease of posting the question rather than go into details about my blog, etc.). I posted on the forum with my interpretation of the comment.


Discipline/Playground w/ 16 Month Old Twins–Going Crazy!

I know this topic has been covered, but I’m getting ‘flamed’ for not being able to handle my b/b twins by myself (at the park/playground) by a ‘friend’ who is a NYC single mom of a 7 year old. Her reasoning is that “if she did it and she sees all these nannies pushing twins around doing it, that I’m doing something wrong.”

First, a singleton is completely different than twins. Second, if you saw me pushing my twins in the stroller, I would look totally confident (but very tired) and they would look totally calm. Outside of the stroller is a different world.

I even ran into another b/g twin mom yesterday who commented on how hard it looked with 2 BOYS. Our twins are exactly the same age. My boys–not to gender stereotype–are all ‘boy’. They run in two opposite directions, they are into everything, they have no fear, they go and go and go. And they don’t listen very well, because they are 16 months old.

Lately, in the last week, I have been telling them that they need to listen to me when we are outside. Whether it’s going to the gate or holding my hand, etc. I give them 3 chances and then give them a ‘time out’ of one minute in the stroller. After 3 time outs, we pack it up and leave. My “friend” also says this is inappropriate discipline. Maybe it is? I really believe that I need to be strong with the discipline in order for them to be safe.

Any wise words from other twin moms who’ve been there before? I’d particularly love to hear from those of you with rambunctious boy/boy twins.

In less than 24 hours, my post had been viewed 148 times and replied to by 15 twin moms.

Here are the responses:

The only advice I can give you is to completely ignore this so called friend. Comparing you to other mothers, singleton or twin is unfair and unsupportive. She clearly has no idea what it’s like to have twins.

I’m in the same boat and it’s incredibly challenging with two little boys (17 months) at this age. We don’t go out half as much as we should because I just can’t handle it. Discipline seems almost impossible at this stage but you have to start somewhere and I think your approach so far is good. I’m not sure what is so inappropriate about it. Sounds like you’re doing great to me.

I tend to stay away from playgrounds with lots of hazards and head for open grass space with balls and other toys. It’s so much easier. We only do playgrounds at weekends when their dad is around. Hopefully I can go back to the playgrounds alone once they are more capable of listening and understanding me.

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I don’t think you can reason with a 16 month old. Or that you can keep them from running in opposite directions just by asking them to listen to you and giving them time outs.

There is no question the playground is very, very challenging at that age, we have all been there. Not every playground will be safe for them (playgrounds with 7 year olds running wild are out of question), and not every nanny is able to handle it. Some nannies are able to take care of todder twins safely in the playground and some are not. I can attest, because when my kids were 13 months old, I had a revolving door of nannies (there was one month when I had 5 nannies), and the playground was a big, big issue.

What worked for us was safe, enclosed playgrounds, for toddlers only -there aren’t many of those, but there are some- and hiring an energetic nanny who was also very conscious about safety, had good judgment, and was experienced at handling more than one child at the playground.

Good luck!

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At this age, I found it very difficult to go to the playground by myself. I always brought a sitter. My twins are b/g and now 4 but at 16 months, they would run all over the place in opposite directions. It’s impossible to redirect two toddlers at a crowded playground too. I didn’t do time outs yet at this age, it was more about the redirection but again, hard to do at a big park when they are off doing their own thing. If I didn’t have a sitter with me, I’d go with another twin mom so there were 2 adults watching 4 and we could help each other out. I know people do it without a problem but I really think it’s highly dependent on your babies, mine were extremely active and did not listen, running away at any opportunity. I also did playspaces if I was by myself as it was a bit more contained. I also scouted out those hidden little playgrounds that were gated and more manageable. I’d put both in the swings at once. Then I’d try to have them play in the sandbox together which would keep them occupied. Sprinklers were a huge hit in the summer as they’d want to do that for awhile too. My third child (singleton) sticks with me at the park, he has never run away and listens. It totally depends on the individual child and X2 is much much harder! Hang in there, it will get better.
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I am soooooo right there with you. I just had a conversation with my nanny this morning, asking her to please let me know when it seems too difficult or unsafe for her to take them alone, because maybe I’ll try to find someone to help her for a few hours during the week for playground trips. I can’t really afford additional help, but keeping them locked in the house is not an option! They need to have fun, and to run around to tire themselves out, but its just so hard to be out with them. Even though I know its not rational, it makes me feel like such a failure.

My nanny doesn’t seem concerned or overwhelmed at this point, and I love that about her, though I might not love seeing exactly what goes on when she does take them out. I’m sure they are not in danger, but it is probably slightly less controlled than when I’m with them. I bought the monkey backpacks with tails/leashes and she has used them to go for short walks. Must be quite a sight! But she said the boys had fun. I know some people have issues with putting leashes on children, but I don’t care what people think. If they’re smart, they’ll think think, “oh, that makes sense because its safe.” And I agree with the previous poster who said DO NOT LISTEN to any disparraging remarks, especially from someone who only has 1 child. That is ridiculous and not very kind.

My guys are 17 months tomorrow and completely uncontainable, in my opinion. I mean, on one hand I love watching their joy as they explore and test their abilities, but I am overcome by the stress of trying to keep them from hurting themselves or getting too far away from me.

Anyway, clearly I have no answers for you, but I know exactly how you feel. Unfortunately I think they’re too young to understand how to behave the way we want them to, though I don’t think you’re doing the wrong thing by trying to set limits. Who knows, maybe it does help them to develop an understanding of consequences.

Good luck and remember to pat yourself on the back every now and then. I’m sure that your boys are wonderful, exactly how they are!

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I have boy/boy 27 month twins and I still can’t take them to the playground by myself. I don’t care what anyone thinks about it. My boys are wild, don’t listen, go in completely opposite directions and climb on everything they see. I will only go with another adult. Every set of twins is different and every parent is different. One does what’s safest for the child(ren) and comfortable for the parent. I am in the playground all the time and watch all the other twin nannies, many of whom do not have control of their charges or keep constant eye contact, something I insist on. In a crowded playground it is VERY difficult to keep track of two children running in completely different directions. No one has any business telling you what is possible with your children. Ignore them. You are not alone!

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I have 12 month old b/g twins and just said to my husband this weekend, “in the last 2 weeks, the playground is no longer fun.” I feel so much “better” reading your post and the replies so far as it gives me hope that a) I’m not alone b) it will get better c) there are options (wide open grass with a ball). In my case, my son is happy as can be swinging…could do it all day. My daughter, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with the swing all of a sudden and has to be “exploring” which is just not possible safely with just me. Comparing myself to my nanny is not fair because she has all the other nannies to help her if one of them needs a simple push on the swing and the other needs to explore. The “nanny network” is a very powerful thing and, unfortunantely I don’t have that same network at the playground. Unless my husband is with us, I will be sticking to the open space plan for the foreseeable future as having my daughter meltdown and then my son get short changed with a 3 minute push on the swing is a lose lose for all of us!

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I am in the same boat. My boys turned 18 months last week, and I feel like running a half-marathon is easier than 30 minutes on the playground… I was wondering if any of you would be interested in meeting up to go to the playground. We would probably still be outnumbered by our kids, but we could pool all the twin mom skills.

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I have girl/girl twins but wanted to voice support. When my girls were 18 months, I stopped taking them to the park/playground alone because they were impossible to handle, didn’t listen, & ran in separate directions (and very quickly!). Just last month, they started listening, and more actively playing with other kids, staying on the slide or the swing, turning when I call them — and I can take them to the playground by myself. But that was at 2 years, 3 months.

During the time when I couldn’t handle out-of-the-stroller trips, I hired a neighborhood teenager to work as a mother’s helper and back me up on park & playground trips. She also helped me get the girls dressed and the stroller out of the apartment. On rainy & snowy days, we stayed home. The other thing I could do on my own was our neighborhood playspace (because it’s essentially an enclosed big room).

Don’t at all let your friend’s criticism get to you — it’s simply not the same with a singleton. (I got plenty of the same from friends/acquaintances who were taking their one child on solo museum and restaurant trips and on the subway.)

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My boys are 19 months and also “all boy”. We are fortunate to live in a building with a playroom. I can not manage the park alone right now and I do not expect my Nanny to either. I know some can, good for them, and, pardon the expression, they need to shut up.

I do have a “mothers helper” who is about 12. She’s great. I give her the mellower of the two and she follows him around, keeps him off the bigger kid parts and bounces/swings/etc with him.

It’s actually gotten easier in the past couple months but I don’t expect to be able to do this alone for at least another 6 months or so.

I personally think that the time out discipline you describe is totally okay and your friends needs to shove it. People who don’t have twins have no concept.

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I so completely understand. My b/g twins will be 3 in July and this spring has been the first time I’ve felt somewhat comfortable at the playground. Previously, I would start at the swings and try to make that last a long time. Then I would strap one in the Ergo and let the other run around, then switch. Not the ideal situation, especially for my back, but better than going to the ER with a broken bone. Your “friend” isn’t helping at all by criticizing you. A real friend would try to help, not make you second guess your mothering. Jeez. I agree with a previous poster who said that it gets better when the sprinklers are turned on. I always made sure I had many different water toys and bubble makers to keep them focused on the same part of the playground. I live in Williamsburg and the waterfront was a life saver for me. It was always fairly empty and running around with a beach ball was heaven. I still went to the playground regularly because I knew they needed to climb and slide and swing. Btw, if the time out thing is working for you, continue to do it! Your friend just simply cannot grasp the stress a mother of multiples has. There really is no comparison.

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I have b/g twins and when they were that age, I experienced the same issues at the playground (my girl was, and still is, fearless). One thing I did at that age to help them learn the “rules’ of the playground and to help me stay sane while taking them to the playground was to go to a smaller, gated playground in the off hours. Like 7 in the morning before anyone else was there (or whenever the gates were opened, its been a while). When it got crowded, I’d corral them onto the swings or in the sandbox. But if it got too crowded, I’d leave with them. I was really good at the “2-armed potato sack carry” when I had to scoop up one in order to run to rescue the other. As we all got better at playing safely, I’d plan to meet my singleton mommy friends (who were helpful, unlike your “friend”) and since they had only one to look after, they were more than willing to lend an eye and a hand. Good luck!

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There have been a lot of good comments. For me, taking my boys to the playground was a necessity because there are super active and were pretty much destroying my apartment. Last spring/summer, I would take them out usually twice a day. It was quite difficult though. As posters above have mentioned the key was to pick an playground with a good gate and very simple amenities (small or no climbing structures), a sandbox, some swings and a water feature.

One of my favorite places was essentially a playground with a sandbox, a small fountain and two swings.

My nanny also did it alone with the boys (I work part time so I’m alone with them two day and she alone with them the other three days) and she is super cautious.

My boys also went through a huge hitting stage last summer which was no fun, and there were definitely days I went to playgrounds that essentially had no other kids!

The most important thing is to have a good pair of sneakers and wear clothes you don’t mind getting totally flithy, when you have to run over and retrieve one of your kids!

Now at 2 years and 4 months it is so much easier!

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My twins are 10 months old so I am not in your position yet, but just reading your post made me mad! Who is this “friend” to be judging your parenting? Would she like being judged for being a single mom, or for choices that she makes bc of her situation? I doubt it. She has not been in your shoes and has no business making such pronouncements. Women need to stop judging each other’s parenting choices, every child is different and every family is different.

In any event (not that it is any of MY business either!) I think time outs, combined with leaving the playground if the time outs don’t work, sounds completely appropriate and I can’t even imagine what anyone could think is problematic with this approach.

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Lastly, Chicken chimed in with a debut comment. If you didn’t catch it here is what she said:

This is Chicken. I never post but I’d just like to put a plug in for my wife. First of all let me say that I respect everyone’s opinion and input but in my opinion, dealing with twins is not the same as a singleton or even a singleton with another sibbling. Twins are going through the same challenging developmental milestones AT THE SAME TIME. They are both learning to walk and love their new found freedom and ability to run into TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS from their caregiver. This makes watching them outside by yourself VERY challenging to say the least.

Even our Nanny (who has 10 years of experience with twins) can no longer take them to the playground by herself SAFELY. So yes, you may see Nanny’s out pushing the twins around, but the key word there is PUSHING. If you were to watch that Nanny in the playground running after those twins, especially two boys, it would be a totally different story. And I don’t think it would be SAFE, which is really the most important thing.

Our boys are active and all over the place, and I do think that a modified version of time out can work fine on them. I think we don’t give enough credit to children and they can understand much more than what we think. This is also what our pediatrician (consistently rated one of the top pediatricians in the country) told us. The best way to deal with them at this point is to tell them “no” calmly and then put them by themselves without interaction for a few minutes. We want to keep our boys safe and putting them in the stroller alone for a few minutes to teach them to listen to their mommies seems like a fair tradeoff to me.

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And finally, the original commenter left another clarifying comment this morning that read:

Maman d’Austin said…

I reread my post & see how the last sentence fails to convey my intent. FWIW it is meant in the spirit of encouragement and my strong belief that barring exceptions a mother will do better by her kids than a nanny who comes to work to pay her bills. So Puffer, I know you can do it!

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Thank you all for the encouragement. From others who have gone before me, it looks like we are in for a long and bumpy ride ahead!