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Out of sync
When my twins 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. So I tried.
Believe me when I tell you how very hard I tried.
I desperately wanted this to work, not just because I’m an advice- and rule-follower, but also 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 hour, feeding, waking and soothing each child one at a time.
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.
I cried. Hard. I 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 right? On rougher days of little sleep and loads of crying (by the kids and me), I blamed the twins for sabotaging our ability to get on a solid and synchronized routine.
On saner days (there weren’t many), I began to realize that though they’re twins, my two babies were just that — two very different and unique babies with individual sets of needs.
Fraternal verses identical
In his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins, Dr. Marc Weissbluth explains that fraternal twins, which my twins are, can have a more difficult time matching their schedules than identical twins.
This made perfect sense to me. Just as my brothers, sister and I are all unique human beings — who certainly don’t eat and sleep at the same times every single day — so too are my twins.
Twin A is more similar to my 4-year-old than she is to her twin. Just because they simultaneously shared my womb and a birthday doesn’t necessarily mean they’re alike.
They are, in fact, 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’re so dissimilar that, at times, I’m shocked that they’re even related.
As the months of their first year rolled on, I continued to try to synchronize their schedules. Gradually, they started to nap and eat roughly around the same times, but truly, every day was still kind of a crap shoot. The difference was, I stopped stressing so much about them not being in sync.
In addition to reminding myself often that they’re special little girls with their own needs and agendas, I started to view their staggered schedules as somewhat of a blessing. Why? Because it allowed me something exceptionally precious — something that parents of multiples don’t often get — one-on-one time with each child.
When one was awake while the other was sleeping, I no longer felt defeated or angry that I wasn’t able to enjoy a break in my day. Rather, my heart swelled with joy that I could play and bond with just one baby at a time.
To other parents of multiples, I say this: Don’t fret too much if, like me, you’re unable to always follow the “one up, both up; one down, both down” rule — or any “rule” for that matter!
It’s just not always feasible, and it certainly doesn’t make you a failure if it doesn’t work out.
Two years later
An update: I wrote the above back in 2017 when my twins were itty bitty. Now the girls are just shy of 4 (!!!), and my one-on-one time with them is even more precious to me than it was back then.
Twin A actually dropped her nap when she was 2½, while Twin B would take marathon afternoon naps. This afforded me so much quality time with A — time playing games, doing puzzles, playing Barbies — that I never would’ve had otherwise.
And then, because Twin A didn’t nap, I’d put her to bed slightly earlier than her sister, and nab some quality one-on-one time with Twin B.
As of last month, neither of them nap anymore (waaaahhh!), and it’s definitely difficult. I miss that special time with each kiddo.
But the upside is that now we get to enjoy many more activities together — as a family — as well as the two of them playing more with each other.
Their bond has grown exponentially, and it’s really beautiful to see.
And even better? We’re making memories — lots and lots of them. Sure, some of them are tantrum-filled, but they’re memories nonetheless.
So I suppose the moral is this: 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 routine will emerge. Trust me.
And in the meantime, find enjoyment where you can, and let the rest go.
Marissa Bader resides in Minneapolis with her husband and their three daughters (twins and their adoring big sis). When she’s not kissing owies, playing dress-up or mediating sister squabbles, she serves as the twins editor at Lucie’s List: A Survival Guide for Parents.
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