toddler

Being 3, Summed Up In One Sentence

Owen, crying: “Can you figure out what I need?”

“You know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers.” —John J. Plomp

Mother/Daughter Day

Sophie spent the night with her cousin Colleen at Nini and Pop Pop’s house over Christmas. So tonight, it was James and Owen’s turn to spend the night at Nini and Pop Pop’s. My parents asked the boys if they wanted to spend the night together or separate and they said together (everything is together these days, including their clothes, which they love to match).

This worked out well, as Andy was in Columbus all day and Sophie and I had a baby shower to attend.

Lovely Danielle is due in March!

Sophie’s next request: the aquarium.

Once back outside, we watched the snow fall on the Ohio River.

And then: Dinner at Bravo. All she really wanted for dinner was to sit in a high chair (bar stool). (Halfway through talking about it, she realized, with hilarity, that “high chair” sounded an awful lot like she wanted to sit in a “highchair.” We used the phrase “tall chair” then on after.) She got her wish and so much more. Newport’s Bravo does have tall chairs, which overlook the kitchen. We got to watch everything being cooked. And (I had no idea they did this) she was given a small ball of dough to form into any shape she wanted (she chose five “snowballs,” one for everyone in the family). Marissa (at least I think that was her name, it was loud when I asked her) was in charge of making and cooking all the bruschettas, pizzas, etc. She cooked Sophie’s snowballs, in the wood-fired pizza oven. Sophie watched them rise and brown, and was thrilled.

We drove home slowly, in the snow. Once home I discovered my parents had my house key (we switched vehicles). And both our front door and back door were (for once) locked. So I tried the cellar door—thankfully, the basement door at the bottom of the steps was unlocked, and Sophie laughed with great joy at the oddity of entering our house this way. Once inside, and having fed Tucker, both on our own, we immediately put on comfy clothes. I started a fire and she curled up on her new bean bag couch, a gift from Grandma, and we watched “The Little Mermaid,” which I had ordered online earlier in the week and which she had been waiting patiently for, as she had never seen it.

My mom just emailed me. “They went to bed at 8:00 and fell asleep before I hit the bottom step. They were on their best behavior all day.”

Today was so nice.

I could spend a paragraph writing about how much I love Owen and James but truly, I feel it’s unnecessary. I love them.

But I also love and crave one-on-one time, with all my children, too.

And this has been a tough year for me, with two three year olds. It’s, well, chaos. I don’t think even the sleep-deprived nonstop first six months was chaotic as this has been. There was more control to their infancy—there was a schedule and when they cried it was OK because that’s what babies do and everything—they and all their things—stayed put, unless I moved them.

Now. Now it’s just chaos.

And today, I could have fixed that chaos a bit. A bit more, I should say, as we’ve deemed the year 2014 as the year we put our house (and lives) back in order. But instead, I spent it looking at fish. And making dough snowballs. And breaking into my own house. And remembering how sweet and funny and kind my little almost 6-year-old is, and how much she shines when, every once in awhile, the wonderful, beautiful chaos of being a big sister to two 3-year-olds is removed.

I’m so good at seeing the beauty in the chaos once removed. Now, I just need to learn how to recognize the grace while in the thick of it.

“If chaos is a necessary step in the organization of one’s universe, then I was well on my way.” —Wendelin Van Draanen

We Were That Family

It’s summer. Not technically, but the pool at the Y is now open so really, it’s summer.

We’ve been twice. The first time I took all three kids by myself, to meet my friend Angel and her daughters, Zoey and Mya.

It was so much easier than last year. The kids played in the children’s pool for more than an hour. I sat for much of the time. And talked to Angel. James went down the water slide over and over and over. Sophie dipped her naked Barbie in and out of the pool. Owen, well Owen spent much of the time on my lap but still, when he did get in the water, he had fun.

I envisioned a glorious summer made up of afternoons at the pool, in the sun, happy.

So naturally our next visit to the Y was a disaster.

Andy and I took all three kids Sunday. Everything was great—until we had to leave.

All three lost it. We immediately stopped, got down on our knees at their level and sternly told them how inappropriate their behavior was and how there were going to be consequences as soon as we got home.

James listened to us and stopped.

Sophie (Sophie! Who is 5!) and Owen drew stares.

It was if their bodies had been taken over by demons. They screamed and kicked and carried on in a way we have never seen before. I took Owen. Andy took Sophie. There was no talking to them at this point. We carried them, our heads down and lips tight.

The walk to gather our towels and then exit the Y was so long. So very long. It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone took notice. Some people had half-smiles on their faces, with I’ve-been-there looks. Some had frowns, with why-can’t-you-control-your-children looks. Some were bewildered, with dear-God-is-that-what-it’s-like-to-have-kids looks.

I wanted to disappear. I still get red-faced thinking about.

Once home, once calm, we had a long discussion about leaving, kicking, hitting, screaming and appropriate behavior. Owen and Sophie lost all dessert and treats for three days (which, for them, is a very. big. deal.). And we’ve told them that from now on we’re not going to put up with even a hint of whining when it’s time to leave—and that if something even close to that happens again, stricter consequences will occur.

So far, everyone has been incredibly well-behaved today. Sweet, even. So much so that I’m half-tempted to drag them all to the pool just to say, “See! They’re not always possessed by demons! Most of the time they’re actually wonderful, kind, incredibly-pleasant-to-be-with children!”

Tell me: Worst public tantrum (if only to make me feel better).

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.” —Lemony Snicket

The Bear-Hug Timeout

I’m typing this while sitting on the floor in James and Owen’s bedroom. Every minute or so I look up and look them in the eyes—they’re looking at me, waiting. Waiting for me to spend too long looking at my computer. Waiting for me to get up and help Sophie with something. Waiting for their chance to get out of bed.

I promised them a trip to the library but only if naptime goes well. I’m worried about this, because Sophie deserves a trip to the library regardless of how Owen and James nap. But after yesterday, I had to try something new. Because yesterday, I was ready to quit my job as parent, at least during naptime. (Can you hire someone to do naps for you?)

I used to let Owen and James have whatever they wanted in bed during naptime (rookie move). Now they get one small toy (like a train engine), their stuffed bear and one book.

Yesterday they each lost all of those things, one by one, in about 10 minutes.

And still, they jumped up and down in bed. They got out of bed. While I was “super nanny-ing” one right back into bed the other would get out, run around the room, grab another toy, laugh.

They had turned it into a game.

Short of taking away their sheets and blankets, I wasn’t sure what to do next—until James swiped a toy from the bedroom floor, while I was putting Owen back in bed.

“Next time one of you gets out of bed, I’m taking every single toy out of your room.”

They both got out of bed.

I’m not always great about following through. This time, I did. They watched me, mouths open, as I picked up every single toy in their room and placed everything in the hall—including their tracks on their train table.

I won.

Or so I thought.

With all the tracks off the train table, they decided it was the perfect stage to dance on. Cue the jumping out of bed, running to the train table, climbing up on it and dancing. While I was putting one back in bed, the other one got out.

There was no “next time” this time.

We were going on a good 40 minutes at this point and I was beyond frustrated.

I told them it was naptime. I told them they were not listening. I explained (for the upteenth time) the naptime rules. And then I picked up—picked up—the train table and carried it out the door. Adrenaline kicked in, I suppose. The train table is heavy. But I was a mom determined to get my 2-1/2-year-old twin boys to nap.

They were clearly upset. For a moment, I felt successful.

And then I realized I was a fool.

I had no place to put the train table. I couldn’t leave it propped up against a wall, for fear it would fall on someone. And although I carried it out their bedroom door, I certainly couldn’t carry it down the stairs by myself.

My only other option was to carry it back in.

So I sighed.

And did.

The boys cheered.

And started jumping up and down on their beds again.

My eyes welled up.

Why can’t I do this? I thought. It shouldn’t be this hard.

The train table game began again.

I took the two boards that cover the train table off, and carried them out to the hall.

And then I gave up. I went outside their room and closed the door.

They can just run, I thought. There was nothing in their room to play with at this point except for their beds and their imaginations.

Well, and the door.

They opened the door. Then they slammed the door. They ran, giggled, repeated.

We don’t have a lock on their door. So I held it shut. I stood in the hall pulling the doorknob from one side while they tried to pull it from the other. My eyes welled up again as I had no idea what to do (and this, certainly, was not something that would be recommended in a parenting book).

I knew from the few books I have read that immediate consequences are best. But I was out of immediate consequences. I had taken everything away. Time-outs weren’t working either (I had tried, multiple times, throughout the hour.) Like their beds, they kept running out of them, laughing, as if it were a game, while I was putting the other one back in.

Out of immediate consequences I took away TV, for the rest of the day.

They didn’t care.

I took away dessert after dinner.

They didn’t care.

I tried a traditional time-out, again.

They didn’t care.

So I grabbed them both, sat down with my legs crossed and put them on my lap. I hugged them to me, their arms pinned down.

“This is your new time-out,” I said. It was the only way I could put them in a timeout together and remain in control of the situation.

They squirmed and couldn’t move. I held on. They got upset. I held on. They squirmed some more and kicked their legs. “No kicking,” I said. I held on. They put up a fight. I held on. I held on and on and on, all the time wondering if this was right, if this was appropriate, if this was OK.

In about two minutes, their bodies relaxed. They calmed down. They asked to go to bed.

I released them from my bear hug.

The effect wasn’t immediate. I had to do bear-hug timeouts several more times before they realized they couldn’t get out of bed without getting a timeout in this new fashion.

But then:

I’ve since learned that this bear-hug technique is a real thing and that, for some children, it’s one of the only things that will calm them. Owen and James weren’t out-of-control screaming. They weren’t even throwing tantrums. But they weren’t listening. They were laughing at me, which I find more difficult to deal with than tantrums. And none of the consequences they received for their actions made a difference—except the bear-hug timeout.

Today James quickly lost his toy, book and bear. Owen lost his toy and bear, and then threw his book out of the bed before I had a chance to take it from him (sigh). They’ve both had a couple bear-hug timeouts and they’re still awake, although James is lying down and his eyes are heavy-lidded.

But at least I have another tool. Another technique. It’s not magic, it’s not perfect, but it helps.

An online search revealed little in terms of books on disciplining twin toddlers. If you have one to recommend, or techniques to recommend, I’m all ears.

“I will not play at tug o’ war
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs.” —Shel Silverstein

A Win?

I don’t often write about the details of potty training because, no one, honestly, wants to read about the details of potty training. But I do want to share this short story today.

James followed Sophie into the bathroom this afternoon, as he often does. While Sophie did her thing on the adult toilet he took off his pants and diaper and sat on the training potty chair. Usually, nothing happens. (We haven’t really started the training process yet.) So I was surprised when Sophie started screaming “James went in the potty! James went in the potty!”

I looked.

He did.

So I joined in with Sophie, clapping my hands, giving James kisses on the cheeks, telling him what a good job he did. Owen joined in, too. James was beyond excited. I wrangled him just long enough to get a new diaper and pants on and then all four of us were being silly, running around the first floor of the house, clapping, yelling and cheering for James. He was loving it.

So much so that he threw up.

All over himself and the entry floor rug.

Apparently we all got a little too excited about this milestone.

A bath, change of clothes and carpet cleaning followed.

I know messes are to be anticipated when potty training. I just didn’t expect that kind of mess.

“I know how sobering and exhausting parenthood is. But the reality is that our children’s future depends on us as parents. Because we know that the first years truly last forever.” —Rob Reiner

Sophie-isms

Me: “Sophie, at preschool your teacher said you’re learning about winter celebrations and traditions, like Los Posados, St. Lucia Day, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.”
Sophie: “Uh huh.”
Me: “Tell me about them! What’s Kwanzaa?”
Sophie, scrunching up her face: “A planet?”

Sophie: “Daddy, is it cold out today?”
Andy: “Yes.”
Sophie: “On that case, I will wear my hood.”

(in Great Grandma’s bathroom)
Sophie: “Mommy, look at the shower curtain!”
Me: “It’s very pretty. I like the birds and the vines.”
Sophie: “Look at the top part. It’s glorious!”

(on showing her some purchases I made at Target the night before)
Me: “I bought you some new socks, that actually fit!”
Sophie: “Oh!”
Me: “And 4T jeans—with sparkles!—and a 4T shirt. You’re getting bigger!”
Sophie: “Oh!”
Me: “What do you say?” (We’re trying to teach her to say thank you unprompted.)
Sophie: “That you forgot new shoes?”

(on telling her she has to put the iPod away)
Me: “You’ve been playing games on it for too long. It’s time to put it away.”
Sophie: (some type of whining response)
Me: “Read a book! Play with your dollhouse! Dress-up! Color a picture!”
Sophie: (some type of whining response)
Me: “Seriously, put your iPod away. And actually, it’s not even yours. It’s mine.”
Sophie: “I just love it so much more than you do, Mommy.”
Me: “Well, you can’t play it all day long. It’s not healthy.”
Sophie: “I’m going to be the girl who plays the iPod all the time.”
Me: “I don’t want you to be the girl who plays the iPod all the time.”
Sophie: “But that’s who I am! I’m going to be that girl!”

“Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.” —Dr. Haim Ginott

Some Mornings Are Longer Than Others

This morning, after the boys were dressed and Sophie was dressed and we were about to make our way downstairs, Sophie flipped out and started to frantically take her underwear off.

Why?

Because they had cupcakes on them.

And she said she didn’t know anyone who has a birthday today.

(Of course.)

“If we would listen to our kids, we’d discover that they are largely self-explanatory.” —Robert Braul