Raising multiples is challenging on so many levels. In the newborn stage, parents must reach superhuman status to keep up with the feedings, diaper changes, and laundry.
During the toddler years, many moms and dads of twins and triplets envy octopuses with their eight arms, because it always seems like you are pulling one child or another out of trouble.
When multiples hit school age, your patience and fortitude are tested. Any assignment – homework, Valentine’s Day boxes, or the dreaded science fair project – is more difficult when it is compounded by two, three or more.
But these challenges pale in comparison to what comes during the tween years. There is something that no book or expert can prepare you to understand or provide enough coping mechanisms in which to deal with the situation.
I’m talking about puberty, hormones, and angst. Multiplied.
Twelve years ago, I gave birth to two beautiful fraternal twin girls. Sixteen months later, another daughter blessed our family. That means there are three tweens living under my roof.
Each day is a roller coaster ride of emotions, a manic episode that never seems to end.
One moment my heart soars when someone grabs my hand on the way into the grocery store, the next it’s crushed because they don’t want a goodbye kiss in the middle school drop off line. Sometimes I am reminded of how small each girl is when they snuggle up to me on the couch to tell me about their day, and in the next moment, they look like a young woman wearing my clothes. The range of emotions is vast and moves at the speed of light, both theirs and mine. I try to keep an open line of communication, but in most cases, my conversation starter is, “Why are you crying?”
The standard response: “I don’t know.”
I did not anticipate the tears that would flow because I asked one of my daughters to change her clothes before we went out to dinner or because I offered to help her with a math problem or because I told her I made the cupcakes with the cream cheese in the middle for a party we were attending together.
I was not prepared for the eye rolls that would accompany requests to clean their rooms or hang up their coats, or that maybe they could wait to respond to that smiley face emoji text until after dinner.
I did not realize that the word “fine” does not, in fact, mean fine anymore. Instead, I think it is tween code for the middle finger.
And all this is multiplied. Times three.
It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I was a tween girl once too. They didn’t call us tweens back then when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but I remember the feeling of wishing to be treated like a grown-up while still having my mommy take care of me. I get it.
But there are three of them, which means the odds of at least one being “in a mood” is far greater than what any mother can endure. I’m only human.
How do I manage? I try not to minimize their feelings, although sometimes it’s a challenge. While it is hard for me to grasp the reality that asking someone to take a shower could incite an emotional outburst, I know the suffering is real. I attempt to take each of their issues – regardless of how ridiculous I believe it to be – seriously. I listen first and only give my opinion when asked. I choose my battles, so when it’s important, they will know it.
I wish I could offer some sage advice or a glimmer of hope that your experience may be better, but I have yet to meet another parent of multiples who doesn’t agree that combating puberty squared is one of the toughest phases.
Then they respond with, “But wait until you have to teach them how to drive.”
Just kill me now.
This post is part of a series of essays by the contributors to our second anthology, Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Twin Years. Subscribe to get new posts on your favorite reader as and when they’re published.
Whitney Fleming is a writer and social media/marketing consultant who enjoys life in the burbs of Chicago. When not working or chauffeuring her children to various activities, she enjoys traveling with her friends and family, cooking and wine tasting. When she can do all three at the same time, it is a perfect day. You can follow her on Facebook or her blog.