Q&A: How to deal with a demanding almost-5-year-old when you’re chronically sleep deprived

Amy writes:

I'm a 38 year old mom of a nearly five year old girl and 10.5 month
fraternal twins. The twins wake at least two times a night each (to
nurse), sometimes more. So I am not getting my REM sleep and besides
being plain tired, I am clinically chronically sleep deprived. This is
what my doctor told me when I was fishing around for him to give me
something to help me with my proneness to feel depressed, my
irritability, my short temper, my poor memory, etc.

I think I could cope with all this if it weren't for the fact that I
have to parent my very demanding nearly-five year old daughter. While
she isn't outright jealous of her baby siblings (she is very happy to
have them, having asked for baby sister/brother for ages, and she is
very loving to them, "helps" me with them, cuddles & kisses them,
plays with them etc.) she is extremely demanding of me, my energy,
attention and time. I have to do everything–fix her meals, help her get
ready for school/dance class/etc., read her bedtime stories, give her a
bath (so it has to be ME, not her father, not the sitter). And she is
constantly demanding my attention. She whines. She calls for me every
minute. Every little bump and scratch is a crisis. She doesn't do what I
tell her unless I threaten to punish her (I really can't stand that.)
You get the picture.

Our relationship has devolved to a situation where she gets me
angry, I shout at her, then I feel guilty, and say to her something
like, "Mommy doesn't want to shout but she gets upset when you don't
listen, etc." And she says, "I don't like it when you shout at me." And I
say, "well why do I shout?" And she says, "because I don't listen." And
we kiss and make up and then the same thing happens all over again a
few minutes later.

I am tired of being so angry at her all the time. I feel like a
rotten parent because I am so impatient with her. I feel guilty that she
is getting the short end of my chronic sleep deprivation. (I know I
would be a much calmer more patient person if I wasn't about to short
circuit all the time.)

Is there anything you can suggest to help me get through this with
my sanity intact, and without irreparably damaging her and our

Wow, what a rough situation. 10 months is a horrible time for a lot of kids, and almost-5 seems to be really hard, too.

Did any of the rest of you notice an increase in clinginess and neediness in the 3-5 months right before your child turned 5? I didn't notice it with my first, but I also had a 19-month-old and had just asked my husband for a divorce, so I wasn't in any frame of mind to be making big-picture observations. With my younger son, though, there was a very distinct period in the months before he turned 5 in which he seemed to want to be inside my skin with me.

At the time it felt like one last hurrah of neediness and babyhood before her turned 5 and became a kid, independent from me. And that is what happened. Over the course of about two days within a few weeks of turning 5 he just got fluid and independent and competent. And he still wants to interact with me, but it's not a constant need to be with me and only me.

So I'm hoping that when your daughter turns 5 her intense need for you to be physically present at all times (and only you) diminishes.

I will also bet cash money that when your younger children turn a year things will start to ease and that by the time the turn 15 months they'll be completley different kids, sleepwise.

So at this point it's just survival for a few months, and knowing that everyone's doing appropriate things developmentally and you haven't done anything wrong. But that you do need some help help help.

Is it possible for you to get a break from the nighttime duty for a few days in a row? If you could get 2-3 nights of decent sleep you'd be fortified for the next few months. If your partner or a relative or friend could take an overnight shift with them it would make an enormous difference. Honestly, your doctor's kind of an ass for not taking this more seriously and suggesting HELP for you so you can make it through this really tough period without losing it completely. You need sleep.

I also wonder if you could get some help during the day for a few hours a couple of times a week so that you could get some more intense time in with your daughter or just feel like you can catch up with yourself a little.

We are NOT meant to be doing this all alone, on duty all the time, no respite. And giving our kids what they need developmentally doesn't mean that we stand back and watch while we sink into PPD because it's just not physically or emotionally viable.

Maybe your partner could read this, or your mom or friend, and the seriousness of the situation would hit and they'd offer to give you the support you need to make it through the nextx few months until your kids need (a little) less from you. I hope that's the case. I'm betting many of us reading this remember that feeling of thinking we were about to break. we're here with you.

Support? Especially from twin moms? (I can't even imagine. One at a time almost did me in at 10 months.)

55 thoughts on “Q&A: How to deal with a demanding almost-5-year-old when you’re chronically sleep deprived”

  1. Amy, I empathize with your situation and agree totally with Moxie – you need help. This is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Your spouse, relatives, and friends need to step up. I truly believe that most people want to help, and will.As to your interactions with your five year old, I am sure that situation would probably change immediately if you had some extra help. She’s five, she wants a lot of parental attention (normal), and probably senses you are having a tough time. She *might* want to be around you all of the time because she is worried about you (*I emphasize this is a guess*).
    If you get some help with the twins, maybe you could set aside a few hours each week to spend one-on-one time with your daughter. This might give her some of the focused attention she is looking for.

  2. I don’t have any twin expertise, however I do find that my nearly 5-year-old is very needy, almost wanting to retreat into babyhood for fear of the next big step, although she’s outwardly all gung-ho. (She’ll start school two weeks after her fifth birthday.) We have been scheduling lots of one-on-one duaghter-mummy time, which she enjoys massively, while Dad looks after her 2-yo brother.

  3. “she is extremely demanding of me, my energy, attention and time. I have to do everything–fix her meals, help her get ready for school/dance class/etc., read her bedtime stories, give her a bath (so it has to be ME, not her father, not the sitter). And she is constantly demanding my attention. She whines. She calls for me every minute. Every little bump and scratch is a crisis. “Oh yes, it sounds familiar. But you have to push past the “It has to be me.” No. It doesn’t. The only thing you can do that her father can’t is lactate.
    Other than that, you need to carve out some time that is just the two of you, having a good time together, and you need to get some sleep. Be sympathetic, but be matter of fact about things: “That hurts, huh? You want to get yourself an ice pack?” (We are breaking out the ice packs for *everything* around these parts.)
    But “Daddy is going to give you a bath while I get ready for bed, and if you’re ready in time, we can read and have a snuggle.” “Daddy is making lunch and I am having a nap.”
    Put on your oxygen mask first.

  4. I can’t imagine and have an almost-5 year old and am in a pregnancy with high hgc levels waiting for the 12 week ultrasound to see if it’s twins so…you are freaking me out, woman!Ahem. On to you and not me.
    I agree that it sounds like help would be – helpful. And also, that scheduling some one-on-one with her might help.
    But another thing is all the things she’s refusing to do – are there any you could let slide for a few weeks? Like if you’re not going out does she have to get dressed? Serve finger food for a few meals? Let the playroom be messy for a few days? I’m grasping at straws but I think it must be hard all around…this is a hard age for kids; it seems like they’re driven to be a bit mean, but then they feel so bad after.
    It just might help for a wee break.

  5. I have twins but not the extra singleton and I remember the first year with the twins as being exceptionally rough. Take these suggestions with a grain of salt – I know some of them aren’t for everyone…I’d focus on getting better sleep first as I think it would make a HUGE difference. I think by 10 months, the twins (at least one of them) should be able to sleep through the night or get up just once. Maybe you could stomach some sleep training? We had one twin that was an amazing sleeper and sleep training really worked on him… the other one, not so much. BUT, it was amazing what a huge difference it was getting up and dealing with just one, one time during the night. And, many nights, my husband did that one feeding so I could sleep.
    Once you get a sleep plan, maybe you could schedule one-on-one time with your daughter at least once a week and ideally a couple times a week. Have your husband do solo duty with the twins – maybe for breakfast on the weekends and one time in the late afternoon during the week for a park/library date with your daughter. It would surve double duty in that your daughter will get her special time and you will also get a break from the twins.
    While your daughter probably does love her siblings, it probably is a hard transition for her in that she probably feels less and less of your attention just because as the twins have beome a little older they are demanding more of your time and attention. Since it sounds like you are the primary care taker, it is most noticable with you so she might be pushing back through wanting you to do everything (and that is probably combined with the fact that that neediness is also typically present around this time).
    Sorry, this is so long… also if you are not inclined for sleep training, another suggestion is a night nanny. This person comes to your house around 10PM and stays until 6AM (or later if you want) and does the night duty. It is the most AMAZING thing around. It isn’t a full time thing – you can arrange it to happen a couple nights in a row, or a random night here and there, etc. From what I can tell from discussions in the twins’ club, the use of a night nanny seems much more common than for those with a singleton.
    I will tell you that things with my twins got SOOO much easier once they started walking/around a year and each month after that was better and better.
    Good luck!

  6. Wow – rough situation! I really feel for you.You don’t say much about your twins’ personalities/neediness/sleep abilities, but I’m wondering if it might be easier to “fix” them instead of trying to fix things with your daughter? It sounds like the main thing that will help with your older child is patience and time. But perhaps your babies are easier to mold? Perhaps someone can take over night duty with them for a few nights. I don’t know how you feel about night weaning, but it might be worth a shot. I night weaned my son around 6 months when he started waking up every 30 minutes. I hated to do it, but it only took 3 or 4 nights of me sleeping elsewhere and my husband soothing him (without picking him up) for him to start sleeping straight through until 5 am. He’s not the most strong-willed kid in the world, so maybe that won’t work with your babes. But on the other hand, if you’re not philosphically opposed, it might be worth a shot.
    (And for what it’s worth, other than the night-time stuff, I let my son self-wean and he nursed until he was 28 months. Night weaning didn’t seem to have any negative affects on our daytime relationship.)

  7. I’ve no experience bar the sleep deprivation one and my advice would also be to get some sleep anyway the OP can at all. Help is badly needed, and help is most of all needed to help the OP rest and get sleep.I really feel so much for her and the situation she’s in. And admiration too. Sincerely. What a tough situation to be in. But she shouldn’t be in it alone. More help needed for sure.

  8. I think kids are so perceptive and intuitive – especially at almost 5. Your daughter probably senses how you are feeling, and it might be worrying her, which makes her cling to you even harder. Some consistent 1-1 time with her might help ease her worry a bit and ultimately give you some breathing room. I also agree with Slim that while we want to avoid the DRAMA of a tantrum when the preferred adult is not readily available to assist, it IS okay to dictate to her who is available to help her. First make a list of a few things the two of you could do together as special Mommy-daughter time and let her pick one. THEN, make a list together of the things that she has previously insisted that you help her with, and let her choose THREE of them that your husband can help with instead. If she refuses, let her know that then you will be choosing the three. And then just hunker down and deal until it becomes the new normal. Yes, also get more sleep….but figuring out how to do that seems difficult and if you knew how to do it it seems you would have done it by now. Good luck.

  9. I know it is taboo to say this, but I would night wean the little suckers pronto.I say this as a strong believer in nursing, fan of cosleeping, and resister of our culture’s tendency to wean early (I nursed my first daughter through & beyond my second pregnancy, and am still nursing my almost-3-year-old).
    My oldest daughter nursed 3 to 6 times a night until the age of 20 months, at which point I more or less lost my effing mind from sleep deprivation. At that point, I began sleeping on the couch and letting my husband rub her back while she screamed for milk. That lasted a week, she finally relented, and after I started getting half-decent sleep again our life as a family began to be bearable for the first time in months and months. We did the same thing with our younger daughter at 12 months, although she always had an easier time sleeping than our first.
    Sleep: it is really, really, really important. More important than whether your babies scream for a few hours one week.

  10. @shandra, omg wow!For the OP…am going to recruit my friend whose twins were born when her son was just under 5. (It’s 13 months later; they’re all still alive!)

  11. I certainly don’t have the experience with twins, but I agree with other posters that getting some help/sleep and scheduling some 1-on-1 time with the 5 year old as well as phasing Daddy in as a “equal” care-giver might help.My 4 year old was 100% all about his dad this past year (probably because Daddy was able to play better while I was pregnant with his little brother) and it got to the point that Daddy was overloaded. We decided that a few of the “Daddy-only” activities would become things we alternated – so now I do bath one night and he does it the next. He used to only lay down with his Dad to fall asleep and now I do it some nights – he complains and asks for Daddy when I go in there, but we get through it by singing songs about Daddy and what he’s doing. Though there were protests at first, now I feel like we have got closer again – the snuggle time at night seems to really help – and so he asks for me again now, though he still prefers his Daddy. This may not work for the OP, but just thought I’d share our experience.

  12. I totally agree about getting the other parent involved. I think one of the things that we sometimes forget (I know we did for a LONG time) is that we’re the parents, and it’s our place to create the rules and frameworks for our children, not the other way way around.I’m all for empowering our kids, but ultimately I don’t think it’s her choice who gives her a bath, puts her to bed, etc., and while the transition to bringing dad in may be a bit painful at first, the 5-year-old will get used to it and not hold it against you.
    We went through a similar situation with my son, who at 2 years old insisted that I (the dad) put him to sleep, read him books, etc.. He didn’t want his mom in the room. We explained to him that his mom and his dad are both equal parents, and even though he complained at first, things smoothed over and he has no problems with either of us putting him to bed.

  13. I only have one baby, Petunia, who is almost 10 months old, and one older child, Pumpkin, who is a little over 3.And, still, the original question resonates with me! This is a HARD time for babies. You’re just coming out of the major separation anxiety period. I don’t know about you, but my baby cries right now if I have her to Hubby. If I put her down, she crawls over and pulls on my pant legs until I pick her up. And she is an easy-going baby! That much need of YOU YOU YOU is hard to handle even without the older kid’s simultaneous demands.
    I like @Julie’s advice for how to get some breathing room with the older kid. I was going to suggest something similar. Pumpkin has had to adjust to the fact that sometimes Daddy has to give her a bath even if it is Mommy’s turn (we usually alternate nights), because the baby needs to nurse and only Mommy can do that. We had a couple whopping tantrums over that, but now it is no problem. She always gets her special Mommy snuggle time before she goes to sleep.
    But I also agree with everyone who says that you need to find a way to get some sleep! I mostly nightweaned Pumpkin at about this age- in fact, I am eagerly waiting for Petunia to show signs that the intense separation anxiety is easing so that we can try to nightwean her. With Pumpkin, I got her down to one night feeding (mostly- it crept back up during difficult periods) and didn’t fully wean her until she was almost 2. I have hopes that I can nighwean Petunia completely, and I plan to keep nursing her until she’s 2, as well. So nightweaning definitely doesn’t mean the end of nursing.
    If you go to my blog and search on “nightwean” you’ll find the posts about the ups and downs we had with this. Nightweaning Pumpin was WAY easier than I expected.
    However- nightweaning is going to require some extra effort, even if that effort is just ignoring some crying while your husband gets the babies down without food.
    So… I’d say, first find some way to get enough sleep to get back to feeling human. Right now, my baby eats 2x/night, and Hubby does the first shift with a bottle. Can you do something like that? I don’t care if he has to go to work in the morning. So do you, really. Unless he’s a brain surgeon or an air traffic controller or something like that, he can have a couple of fuzzy days.
    You can also consider some nap time- if you can find a way to get a good 1.5 to 2 hour nap, it might be very restorative. I used to need to do this when Pumpkin was little. She was a fantastically poor sleeper (she sleeps great now, btw). I got it by sending Hubby out for long walks on the weekends. I could only really nap well when the baby was out of the house.

  14. OK, two things jumped out at me as I was reading this post. (I will come back later to read comments, so maybe this has been addressed.)First, the not listening – angry shouting – apology cycle sounds very familiar. I found this works with my demanding daughter when I yell at her: once I’ve calmed down I simply apologize. I don’t tell her why I was yelling (“If you would just xyz, then I wouldn’t have to shout”); I just say “I’m sorry I yelled at you. Mama shouldn’t yell, and I’m sorry.” Many, many times, she will turn around and apologize for what she had done that ended up causing me to yell. She already knows what she is doing is wrong; if I remind her of that during my “apology,” it usually prolongs her anger/resentment.
    Second, you said your daughter asked for a baby brother/sister for a long time and isn’t outright jealous. I think we’d all agree that kids have NO idea what they’re asking for when they ask for a sibling! Especially with twins, your energies are SO depleted and stretched, and your daughter must be feeling the effects of that!
    I really feel for you and hope you get some encouraging words today!!! 🙂

  15. My daughters are almost exactly 5 years apart. There was a big adjustment for the older one to not be the only little kid around. I think it was frustrating for both of us.I thought it was similar to when you’re talking on the phone and then they have a Crisis (like wanting a handful of M&Ms or to have the TV Channel changed, an urgent question about what’s for dinner, etc.) right then [FWIW, they do not seem to grow out of this phenomenon quickly. The teenager still does it.]
    They still kind of have their crises all at once, but it’s toned down so that it’s just that they both have either a question or an important announcement at the same time. And when you say “what?” to get one of them to repeat it, they both repeat their entreaties together. (Now they’re 7 1/2 and 2 1/2).
    For time with your older daughter, I think you need both time together without the twins AND time where she is with someone else (e.g. dad/sitter) and you are not around. She can see that other people really can make lunch for her, bathe her, etc. Then you can come back with, “I know you like it when I do …. but, let Dad help you with it this time.” Also, 5 year olds are big into fairness. You might be able to suggest that this time it’s “Dad’s turn” to make her breakfast and that you’ll do it tomorrow.
    I’m not sure what to suggest about the sleep situation. You totally have my sympathy. When you’re sleep deprived it’s even harder to figure out how to fix the situation.

  16. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, so please forgive me if I repeat something someone else has said.I have a 3 1/2 year old girl and 15 mo old twin boys. Things were…. rough in the sleep department at around 10 months- 12 months. For my boys, it turned out to be at least partly due to fluid in the ears causing night wakings and they ended up having tubes put in. Their sleep got so much better at a year and I don’t think it was only because of the tubes, but just that developmentally they were in a better place for sleeping.
    You, however, need sleep now. For me, having my husband start to handle the night wakings really helped. He was working out of town at the time, but would take over on weekends when he was at home so I could recover a bit from the long weeks alone with the kids. At the age your twins are now, I would guess that the night wakings/feedings are more for comfort vs. hunger, so I would suggest letting someone else handle those feedings. My guess is that if the twins don’t get Mom, they may drop the wakings after a few days.
    As for your daughter, oh, I feel you. I found (find) myself so short tempered when I am tired and that is just not the Mom I want to be. I think working with someone to help you get more sleep will certainly help with how you react to your daughter. I know that I am much more able to deal with mine like I want to when I am rested. I also have found that inviting her to do things with me helps with some of the clingyness, even if it is helping me clean while the twins nap or running to the grocery store with me while the twins are with grandma or dad.
    I know I am lucky to have family willing to travel to help me when my husband is gone for an extended time, but if I didn’t, I think I would look into having a mother’s helper of some sort just so I could have some time to rest. A teenager could watch your kids while you nap (or read, or browse the internet- whatever helps you recharge a bit).

  17. Wow – that hit home. I don’t have twins. I don’t have daughters. I don’t have a 5 year old. I’m not sleep deprived.But sibling dynamic and your older one taking it out on you is totally familiar. So is your reaction. I *never* yelled at Boo before LG’s arrival. Boo (almost never) gets grumpy-physical with LG. But man, does he manipulate me to the hilt. And I’ve had that exact same conversation.
    Some things have gotten easier – I just insisted, through the hysterics that sometimes it’s just not me. I’ve even gone to bed some nights when Boo is still awake I’m so tired. And it works. Most of the time.

  18. As a mother of 13 month old b/g fraternal twins and a 6 year old, it’s taken a few hours from me reading this to responding!!About the twins’ sleeping: I PROMISE you that once they hit 12 months, they start sleeping so much better!!! (check out the bed timing site, too, which also has info on this bad stage of sleeping)
    our twins are actually starting to sleep through the night so we are thrilled.
    I really don’t have any advice except that I started drinking coffee in the afternoon about this time. I don’t mean to be flippant, but it really helped. We also co-sleep which means that there are more wakeups each night, but less duration and effort. I also work full time and had some help coming in during the day. This gave me a little break, but not as much as you would think.
    Honestly, I can’t remember too much of this last year except that I know it’s getting better. Also, I know how expensive help is, but you can pay for therapy or you can pay for a sitter for quite a few hours. (That is how we are framing most of our decisions about paying for help lately). Sitters are much cheaper per hour than even the co-pay to a doctor.
    Other things that might help with the twins: I usually wear one during a nap (daughter naps worse on her own and great on my back). It frees me up to interact with my son. We don’t watch TV during the day here…or we didn’t. Let’s just leave at that and suggest that might help with your older daughter. (Seriously, how can Word Girl be bad?)
    I have to tell you though: Twins are tough. Singleton parents do not get just exactly how hard it is. TWINS ARE REALLY REALLY HARD. We have a very messy house. I rarely shower during the week. Or weekend. hang in there and whatever gets you through today is the right thing for you to do.

  19. I don’t have a five year old — just a 2.5 year old little boy who’s very verbal, who prefers to answer in a rhymed version or gobbledygook version of English when he answers at all (example: his Nordic Berry vitamins are permanently “Cordic Kerries,” but some words get further changed, beyond recognition). And I don’t have twins, but I do have major back problems that have kept me from being available to my son. So some of this really resonated. OP has my sympathy and then some, and my respect for parenting twins, which I think isn’t double anything, but more like difficult squared.The part about the five year old not doing what she’s told unless she’s threatened with punishment resonates in particular, and I’ve been hoping for some responses to that. DS does it too, and it’s driving me batty. Sometimes I skip the threatening part and just enact the punishment (usually something immediate like turning off the TV. TV’s really a double edged sword.) We’ve had some success with the single-word command from How to Talk so Kids Will Listen . . . (“Stephen, Table, Now!”) It still feels a little mean, but it often gets things done, and GTD matters very often. It’s also something I have to repeat for every step, which itself drives me batty. There are infinite steps in a diaper change or getting dressed, beginning with “Come here. No, all the way here. Lie down. On your back, and not ‘diaper-head.'”
    The anger-shouting-guilt-apology dynamic sounds rotten. We’re in something like it right now, and it sucks. We’re doing a lot of do-overs, DS is having a lot of time outs to get control, and I’m making up and enforcing a lot of rules, one or two at a time. (Example: when Mommy asks you a question, you have to answer. And if she can’t translate, you have to speak English.) It seems to be helping, but it’s early days. It sounds like this might be too much for OP to take on right now, but it’s something to consider. My philosophy is that any time there’s a bad dynamic, the best thing to do is really anything different that can shake the dynamic up. But in addition to that, my sense is also that when kids are asking for extra anything, they are often asking for reassurance that things are okay, and that usually translates (in part) to firming up boundaries and asking a little more of them. Sometimes it translates to more loving, cuddling, tickling time, too. (Come to think of it, the balance of those is probably personal.)
    Lastly, I agree that help is a necessity not a luxury, and that if the OP is at all inclined to night wean, sleep train, or do anything at all to make her own situation easier, she should do it guilt-free. It doesn’t so much matter what OP does or does first, just that it’s something to take the pressure off the whole situation and take the pressure off herself. Good luck and best wishes.

  20. Wow. I don’t have twins, but I have three children and I can completely sympathise with what you describe. First, re: your twins, one thing that’s helped with my almost 10 month old is to wake her before I go to bed (around 11 pm) and feed her. She’ll take about six ounces, and then I don’t hear from her again until 7 am. Usually, she’ll fall back to sleep pretty quickly– sometimes, she’ll be up for over an hour, but usually she’s just yaking or moderately protesting and I don’t intervene and she just goes back to bed. If I don’t wake her, she will wake up on her own b/twn 2-3 am to eat.Re: your five year old, I have a 6.5 year old boy who is EXACTLY the way you describe. He is my most demanding child BY FAR- more than the 10 month old and more than the almost three year old. He constantly wants my attention, is incredibly demanding and bossy, etc. etc. And, re: the suggestions to spend more alone time w/your daughter? I’m not really sure that will work because we spend plenty of alone time with my son and he remains just as demanding. I think it’s just who he is– also that he is a first child and had attention lavished completely on him until the second one came along (she was born when he was 3.5 years old). Also, the cycle you describe of yell, apology, only responds if you punish? I SO go through that with my son on a daily basis. It is really hard. I have no idea what advice to provide other than to maintain firm boundaries and to not allow her to manipulate you. In addition, I am working on not allowing my tone to be really angry, frustrated, etc. because I find that engaging in a power struggle only feeds the attention-seeking, negative behavior. I am trying to be more matter-of-fact and impose a natural consequence right away, and if he is rude I will walk away and will not talk with/engage with him until he changes his tone. Looking forward to seeing if anyone has other ideas about this.
    Good luck! You are not alone 🙂

  21. I think you have to help yourself and your daughter by drawing a line here – whenever I hear someone say that their partner “can’t” do something because her child will only let the mother do it, I have a hard time believing it is that simple. If the partner is truly not engaged or doesn’t care to step up to the plate, that is another story. However, you are both the parents, and your husband needs to share in your daughter’s care more.It may be true that your daughter will insist that you do bathtime, bedtime, meals, etc., but I would really recommend that you start telling her no. It will probably be hard at times, but she has to learn that their are limits, that you call the shots sometimes, and that Daddy can do everything she needs, too. She may cry or have a tantrum, but as long as she is doing so in the loving arms of another parent, she will eventually accept it, and it will soon feel more possible/doable for all of you to have someone else attend to her needs when necessary.
    I don’t want to sound harsh or anything, but you did ask for advice, and I really think you need to relieve some of your burdens in this scenario on someone else, and I am always genuinely shocked when someone says their kid “won’t let” anyone else take care of their needs. It just seems more like a mental hang-up than reality.
    Best of luck. I am truly in awe of anyone who is raising twins.

  22. Lots of sympathy here (and no help, alas). I just sent Moxie a plea for help with my own 5.5-year-old a few days ago, ’cause he’s driving me NUTS.And Schwa de Vivre? That rhyming/made-up gobbledy-gook answer thing? More NUTS.
    I cannot even imagine adding twins to the mix.

  23. “We are NOT meant to be doing this all alone, on duty all the time, no respite. And giving our kids what they need developmentally doesn’t mean that we stand back and watch while we sink into PPD because it’s just not physically or emotionally viable.”This is exactly what happened to me! No family to help…friends didn’t get it…no money to hire extra help and YEP…PPD that impacted me and my marriage to this day…
    My family doctor said, “throw every resource you have at this problem….” and I get it now.
    Get that sleep at any cost..put the cost of an overnight doula on a credit card if you have to (I wish I had)…network the crap out of your friends to find someone who can help a few days a week so you can spend some time with your daughter…then you’ll feel less guilty when you have to say, “not now.”
    Hang in there…you are doing a VERY difficult job. Take care of you…the kids are resilient and the dynamic will change. Put your “oxygen mask” on first…then help them!! Cause without that..you’re no good to anyone!

  24. I am waiting on that burst of independence!! He is 5 years and 2 weeks….c’mon the clingy and the 100 degree heat is PURE hell.Hang in there. Get rest whenever however you can!!

  25. @Schwa de Vivre- I’m so glad to hear that we aren’t the only ones living with a kid bent on making up her own language. She thinks it is hilarious. It is driving me crazy. I’m assuming it is developmentally normal and related to her recent fascination with rhyming… but oh my god. It is like living with a pint-sized Cockney.On the suggestion to ask friends for help: yes, do this. Anyone who has been through the sleep deprivation trenches will help you if you ask. I know I would. To the point of calling in brownie points with my husband to get some time so that I could come take your kids while you napped.

  26. Gah. I have nothing. But I hope Moxie will do something about the disobey/ignore-shout-cry-apologize dynamic because my 6 year old and I? Are TRAPPED TRAPPED TRAPPED in it and I hate it with a capital HATE.

  27. Lots of good advice so far. Is there a parents of multiples community in your area you could connect with during this rough patch? Might be a good, practical resource? Also agree with others who said have your husband do the twins’ nighttime care until you start feeling like yourself again.If that doesn’t help immediately, check into a hotel by yourself for a couple of nights. Hire some help just so you can have a few precious hours of alone time a week. That combination did wonders for me recently, and I only have 2 children total (ages 2.75yrs & 9mos) Much cheaper than alternatives like in-patient therapy and/or divorce, I keep telling myself! 😉
    Waking up at least 4 times a night to feed TWO adorable 10-month-olds sounds like HELL. In fact, it sounds terribly depressing, and I can tell you have noted the connection between how you feel in your body without sleep and how that is playing out in the dynamic with your eldest child. I’m sure to offend somebody somewhere by encouraging you to stop breast feeding. I know, it is a deeply political, deeply personal issue these days, and an area of such unnecessary judgment. But let it go. Give yourself permission to at least consider ALL of the various strategies out there for getting through the night, including formula, and cry-it-out sleep techniques. Hugs to you!

  28. Oh, there is some GREAT advice here already! I don’t have twins, so I’m not even going to pretend to commiserate there. But let me share a couple things that have helped in other areas.Dd1 was 3.5 when Dd2 was born 5 months ago, and I’m definitely noticing some of that same emotional regression as the 4th birthday looms! Requests for bottles, lots of baby whining, etc. from the kid who was until just recently very excited to be “a big girl.”
    One of the things we did that was supremely helpful when Dd2 was still deigning to sleep until 7am, was to get Dd1’s breakfast ready to go in the fridge the night before. A tiny tupperware pitcher of milk, a bowl of cereal with PB smeared on the edge, and a small bowl of fruit.
    That way, even when Dd1 woke up before the rest of us (as she always does!), she could take care of her own breakfast (the most pressing morning need) and grant me at least another 15 minutes of precious sleep.
    I even went so far, a couple times, as to set up a DVD for her in my laptop, ready for her to hit Play when she had cleared her breakfast dishes!
    Others have said it, and I totally agree: Daddy, or the sitter, or SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOU absolutely CAN help her with the things she needs. It’s really easy to get into Survival Mode and just knuckle down and do everything ourselves. Please get someone to help. You may have to wear ear plus to drown out your daughter’s objections, but it’s not going to kill her; it is going to save your relationship with her!
    For the ignore/shout/cry cycle, let me offer what works for me: Verbal Modeling. It goes like this:
    “Dd1, will you please put your shoes on so we can go?”
    “Yes, Mommy, I’m putting them on RIGHT NOW!” (said in the cheerful tone I want to hear from her)
    “Yes, Mommy….”
    It’s amazing how effective this gets to be, when the only response they get from you is this cheerful parroting of what they’re expected to say.
    They just say it. And in saying it, they start doing it.
    It’s magic. It might take time and at first it might take some hands-on physical modeling as well: helping her stand up from where she’s playing, walking her (hands gently under the armpits) to her shoes, putting them on. But after a while, it really does get better.

  29. I can’t read all the comments right now so sorry if this is a repeat. As a mom of twins (9 months today!) I have two things to say: 1) Start working on getting them to sleep through the night – I am sure they are capable unless they have specific medical needs. 2) consider hiring a night nanny 3-4 days a week for a month or so. It is expensive but so worth it. And truthfully, my kids have been sleeping through the night since about 4.5 months but it us BECAUSE of the might nannies. The nanny has the patience to help make it happen while you just need to feed those kids an get back to sleep. It’s very difficult to do it on your own, with twins, while so sleep deprived. (I agree that it would be great if your family/friends could step up — but it is easier to ask someone who you are paying to stay up all night and deal with stuff.) Plus a good one will do laundry, clean the kitchen while you sleep – leaving you more time during the day to enjoy your kids. Not sure where you live but your local parents of multiples club should have some recommendations.

  30. I am expecting twins, and my son will be almost 4 when they arrive. I had been thinking this was clever spacing (as a pop psychology way to help me recover from the total shock of the twins diagnosis)… now I learn that it ain’t so!I actually found the Ask Moxie site a few weeks ago while searching for “preventing PPD” because I have such vivid, horrible memories of just about losing my mind from sleep deprivation when my son was 10 months old. After reading the OP and the comments, my new plan is to get night nannies on speed dial. (and spend the college fund if required – based on the comments on the Nurture Shock discussion, several people have become articulate adults while paying for their own college.)

  31. I’m with the other posters — you need help at night. My twin girls just turned 3, and frankly the majority of the first year is a bit fuzzy, but I know they were sleeping through the night in their own cribs by then. My girls self-weaned around 7 months. If it were me (and you’re not me!), I would have DH give the twins a bottle of formula when they wake up in the middle of the night, with the ultimate goal of weaning them from the night feeding. The benefits they get from breast milk are far outweighed by the negative influences of the stress you’re feeling right now.Get others involved — people WILL help if you ask! It’s just a transitional phase, and it WILL get easier! I love the idea of spending some one-on-one time with your older child — a special mommy date she can look forward to every few days (or even every day)
    What does your DH do during all the time you’re tending to the kiddos? Is he pulling his weight with the kids, with the home? If not, talk frankly with him. If you need to, get your doctor (maybe even a different doctor, if necessary) to back you, and have the doctor sit with the two of you to help get the point across. Hopefully he’s already highly-involved though, and you can ask him to trade some time in for you to help you get solid sleep at night. Good luck!

  32. Mother of twins here who are now 2 1/2 and awesome sleepers. First ten months were HELL. Hell. I am so thankful that I didn’t have any other children before I had them. I would have become neglectful or abusive, I’m sure. Anyway, things improved dramatically around 12 months. I am hopeful that will be the case for you. Once they each slept through the first time, I never nursed them again before 5:30 am. Husband would go and pat/shush/rock them by their little tushes without taking them out of bed (does that make sense?). At 10.5 months I thought I could not do this ANY. MORE. And then it got better. Good luck.

  33. So sorry to the original poster. Your daughter sounds a lot like mine at 2.5 when her baby brother was born. It was 2 months of HORRIBLE behavior but for the last month, things have finally gotten a bit better. Of course, I have no idea what I’m saying because the boy is 3 months and still feeding several times a night, and I’m tired tired but I won’t complain because at least he does not have a twin! One suggestion as far as her not allowing dad to do anything is to introduce “dad jobs,” as someone already suggested. We started doing this gradually and now she finally “allows” her dad to do everything except put her down to sleep.To the poster who doesn’t understand how kids can run the show and how they can dictate who does what: it’s not the dynamic you are imagining. I took no offense to your comment at all, but now that I have an amazingly demanding toddler, I do see things differently. When you have a choice between doing something your kid wants or refusing and enduring an hour long tantrum, it’s a hell of a lot easier to just do the job. I spend so much time enforcing the basics, like no hitting, being a good listener, etc, (often just saying no to something results in a tantrum) when it comes to my daughter wanting me to do certain things, I just can’t fight! I’m TOO tired to be in the house while a raging tantrum ensues, if I can avoid it. And that poor OP certainly can’t deal out that kind of “tough love” in the midst of caring for her 2 others . . .
    Advice to people expecting a second: start getting your child used to “allowing” your spouse to do many things. We did some of this and it helped the transition somewhat.

  34. @ Laura — thank you. I am going to try verbal modeling. It sounds like something that might work with mine. (We have good success with “do-overs”.)@ Cloud, Kate: I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one living with a miniature Cockney. I figured language play just ran in the family. Weird.

  35. @Schwa de Vivre: my son, also about 2.5 is obsessed with the rhyming stuff too. He’s highly verbal also, like never stops talking unless he’s asleep or sucking down some milk. He went from being a kid that everyone remarked about, “wow, he’s so easy to understand for how young he is,” to being a kid that his parents can’t even understand sometimes.

  36. I think that @Slim, @Julie, and others that Dad can and should take over a lot of the parenting responsibilities that your 5 year old insists that you do… we have the same struggles in our house with my 3 year old daughter, but we’re pretty firm with her that Daddy can do bath tonight, Mommy will do it next time. We often compromise that Mommy will give the final tuck-in and goodnight cuddles.I also echo the comments of others of night weaning… though I’m not really one to talk as I have the same problem, but I only have one baby and she’s 6 months old not 10. So easier said than done. But wouldn’t that make all the difference if you could do it? Worth trying.
    And one last thought… you say “I feel guilty that she is getting the short end of my chronic sleep deprivation.” I so get this. I too feel like I just don’t have the patience, tolerance, understanding, and just plain good parenting sense when I’m sleep deprived. My 3 year old suffers because my 6 month old keeps me up all night. Its not fair to the older child. The only way to resolve this is to resolve the sleep deprivation. Its so hard, I know. Actually I don’t know, because I don’t have twins and what you’re doing is harder than what I’m doing. But hey look, you’re doing it! Good job mama.

  37. At ten months, we started cosleeping with the girls, because I just could NOT stomach getting up with them one more damned time. I just couldn’t.And I started sleeping. Really well. Reeeeally well. My mood improved tremendously, because I was finally sleeping.
    I realize cosleeping isn’t for everybody, but boy, when it works, it’s pure uncut awesome in a pretty gift box.
    The whole first year with twins is pretty much disaster control, but after a year, the sun comes out. People told me that for a long time, and I didn’t believe them until the girls were 366 days old and it happened.
    I’d like to second Slim’s thing about telling your daughter that yes, her father CAN help her/take care of her/meet her needs. We humor our girls’ (crazy strong) parental preferences around here up to a point, but they both know that if their parent of choice is not available or it’s not convenient for us, the second runner up WILL assume all the duties and responsibilities of the crown, whether they like it or not.

  38. another mother of twins here, who are now 3. For me 10-11 months was also my low point in terms of sleep. I look at the few photos we managed to snap at that time and can’t believe how crappy I looked. Like akeeyu, that’s when we started sleeping with them. I had been getting up every hour. Actually my husband was against the idea, but then he had to travel for 7 weeks, so I just did it. It helped a lot. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Things didn’t really improve sleep-wise until they were close to 15 months, but maybe that was because they were late walkers- I also hear from many parents of twins that 12 months is the magic mark. I can’t imagine throwing in a clingy 5 year old in the mix. Sending you big hugs and a few good nights sleep (make this a priority in the short term).

  39. 3.5 year old twins here- I almost lost it around 10 months and I didn’t have another child to worry about. You are my hero. Sleep deprivation is hell and there just isn’t a whole lot you can do to find your happy place when you haven’t had more than 2 hours of sleep in a row for a year. I think sleep really is the answer to feeling like a better parent all around.With that said- the advice about night weaning/night nanny/dad feeding sounds great if it is viable for you but (if your little spawn are anything like mine were)if it isn’t, please don’t beat yourself up. Mine would never take a bottle so having someone else help wasn’t an option and I felt very ashamed of my own inablility to problem solve. I didn’t ever really night wean, it just sort of happened once I did some sleep training. Which, consequently, is another thing than non-twin mom’s don’t always understand about us: the rules are different when you are doing it twice. I hadn’t been sucessful (again guilt and shame were a big part of my life during those days) because the no cry sleep solution has exactly one page about multiples, Ferber doesn’t know twins exist, weissbluth…don’t even get me started. The ONLY thing that worked for us was “the sleep lady shuffle” (kim west). It worked really well for twins in the same room and it eliminated the need for a straight jacket for me. In the mean time, farm out the stuff you can…wash and fold service for your laundry, grocery delivery, house keeper. It all sounds expensive (and it is) but well worht it if you can smile a few times a day. Best of luck to you!

  40. Sounds like you have a lot of ideas! I can’t imagine how tough it must be with twins and a needy 5-year-old. Parenting is so hard and it’s even harder when we are trying to hard to do everything and feel like we can’t, and like we aren’t living up to our own (or anyone else’s)expectations.I just want to offer a few ideas in the hopes that it’s helpful, even though maybe it will be hard to hear, so I do hope it comes across as I am intending. From your message it seemed like you didn’t just want support, you also wanted ideas and insight to help you break this cycle, so I hope the following gives you even a tiny piece of what you are needing.
    I won’t echo all the suggestions you’ve already received, but wanted to add something about the yelling-guilt-apology cycle. From reading your question, it sounds like you feel really out-of-control and like your 5-year-old is controlling you and how can you get her to stop controlling you.
    I think the answer lies somewhere in 1) giving yourself permission to say “no” to her–which a lot of people mentioned so I won’t rehash it and 2) taking responsibility for your own reactions/emotions (and, obviously 3) getting more sleep).
    I want to focus on 2. I’m not saying that you have total control over your emotions and reactions, I mean, who of us does! All of us act in ways we later (or even in the moment) regret because we just get to the point where we are losing our self-control. But, it is still true that your daughter isn’t in control of your emotions/reactions either and how you react is your responsibility, not hers.
    She isn’t “making” or “causing” or whatever, you to yell. She may be doing something you don’t like, and you might be angry about it, and you might be so tired and frustrated that you yell because you don’t feel like you can help it, or you are desperate and want her to do what you ask no matter what, or whatever. But, she isn’t responsible for you yelling.
    If you look at it from another perspective, say your husband came home from work, super hungry, but you didn’t have supper ready and he started yelling at you about it. Then, later, he apologizes and says, “I’m sorry I shouted at you, I don’t want to shout, but I was really hungry and I got really upset when you didn’t have supper ready.” Then you say, “I don’t like it when you shout,” and he says, “I don’t like it when I shout either, but why do I shout?” and you say, “Because I didn’t have supper ready.”
    I think, looking at it like that, we all know we’d want to throw a book or something at Mr. Husband! The implication he would be making is that you are responsible for him shouting and if only you were doing a better job he wouldn’t shout. But, we’d all want to say, “It isn’t my fault you were shouting!”
    The truth is, he is responsible for his own actions, he shouted, and it isn’t your responsibility. Sure, it was precipitated by something you did, but that doesn’t really matter, it was still him acting inappropriately and disrespectfully towards you.
    So, I just wonder if it’s a lot of pressure for your daughter to feel like she’s the one “making” you yell at her. When you apologize, and I know how bad it feels to have hurt our kids, it seems like she is getting blamed and I wonder if she realizes it. I’ve read some Alice Miller (and others) and I think there is truth to the idea that children are going to love and think their parents are great no matter what. When something bad happens, they are going to take the bad into themselves and since “mom can’t possibly be bad” they feel that they are bad.
    I know you don’t want this for your daughter! It’s clear how much you love your kids and how hard you are working to care for them!
    So, I guess my suggestion would be to own what you have done, and leave it at that. Say, “Honey, I’m really sorry I shouted at you. I was angry and I’m really tired, but that doesn’t give me an excuse for shouting. I’m working on responding more calmly even when I’m upset. I want you to know that it isn’t your fault that I yelled. People make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be yelled at.” Or something along those lines.
    I think truly asking for forgiveness (and taking the responsibility completely) may help ease some of the pain she probably feels when you yell, and gives her a great example to follow when it comes to asking for forgiveness when she has done something wrong. It may also ease some of the bad feelings she is feeling (she must be feeling bad that she keeps “making” you do these things that are hurting her) and free her up a bit which may help with the neediness, one hopes!
    And, for you, ironically, perhaps it will help you to feel more in control in that you don’t have to depend on your daughter to change or act better for you to stop yelling, you have to work on your own life circumstances (getting more sleep, more help, etc) and your own reactions.
    Again, I worry this comes across as harsh, and I don’t want it to! It’s so much easier for a stranger to look in on a situation and see something that could be changed than it is when you are living the circumstance. No parent is perfect and we all do things that wound our children. I just hope maybe this is an observation that might help change the perspective a bit to help you navigate this with as little hurt as possible. Maybe right now you can’t always keep yourself from shouting, but you can really apologize and take responsibility and I think that is the next best thing.
    Best wishes!

  41. @Katherine – what a kindly-worded summary. I know I always feel better when I can own my own actions (and reactions!!), even when it is painful to know that I am not living up to my own expectations.But I also know what deep wounds can be healed when someone offers me a spontaneous, deep and unqualified apology that takes 100% of the responsibility for their bad behavior.
    The OP may be relieved to know that she can offer this to her daughter (and herself!)

  42. Dropping in to make a book recommendation; Stay at home survival guide, often mentioned here on this site, was written by a mom who had a 3-yo and twins. So her tips might be helpful here. Apologies if someone’s already mentioned this; I am going to read through the posts now!

  43. Wow, Katherine, thank you. That helps me in our family situation, totally different from the poster’s, and I appreciate the insight.

  44. Hmmm, well, I think I have an idea of what you are going through. I’m a single mom to an (almost…2 more weeks) 5 year old boy and just (June) 2 year old (29 week preemie) boy/girl twins who works full time. The first year was hard. One twin was in the NICU for 6 weeks, the other 12 in a hospital about an hour from the house. Both had hospital re admittance the first year. My cousin (THANK YOU GOD!) came out about a week after the twins were born and stayed the summer until just before my daughter was released and she was able to come back and help when daughter (who went septic too many times in NICU got meningitis and hydrocephalus/water on the brain) and needed surgery to have an shunt to help. I was having the nanny come 7 a – 7 p m-f, my mom came for a few hours Saturday afternoon, and the first year I had a sitter come Sunday nights from 3 – 6 or 7. But, other than that I had little extra help. The first year was HARD.Enough about me, but I just wanted to let you know that I get it and stress level was HIGH.
    I found myself at about the 8 – 10 month mark (I think, really the first year is a bit of a blur) really, really, really angry with my oldest son. In part, because he was a germ machine and a boy and think that spitting and sneezing and wiping snot or not washing his hands was funny. The twins getting sick could (and did) hospitalize them and could have (and didn’t) kill them.
    Here is what helped me, in really no particular order.
    1) Forgive myself. Acknowledge that I was doing the best I could and I would not be perfect. My children did not need perfect. They needed to feel important to and feel loved.
    2) Self talk. Which took several forms. Sometimes it was repeating to myself…a) you are the parent, not the child. Don’t get sucked in. you are the parent, not the child. Don’t get sucked in. b) swear at them in my head as in please shut the f up I just can’t take it anymore while actually saying much more appropriate stuff to the children. c) remind myself that this is a phase (probably a too long of one), that the time goes by fast, and to try as much as possible to not wish today away.
    3) Smile at him/them and Fake it till I make it (fake a good mood even if I wasn’t feeling it). I made a conscious effort to stop, look at my children and smile at them. Give them hugs. Tell them how much I love them. As often as I could, instead of yelling, hug him, tell him how much I love him and that there was nothing he could do or not do that would change that.
    4) Put myself in time out. There were a few times where I just needed to put/leave the twins in their crib to cry. Tell oldest that mommy needs a time out, set the timer for 5 or 10 min, and close myself in my room explaining that when the timer goes off. My time out will be over. It was rare, but effective. We were both able to regroup and move on. I was able to take the 5 min. to do some self talk. “Calm down. Let the anger go. Let the anger go.”
    5) Actually let the anger go. Don’t hold a grudge.
    6) Be consistent. No matter how tired I was, as hard as it was, be consistent. Remind myself that it isn’t fair to child to let things go sometimes and not others. Since I couldn’t tackle everything, take the top 1 – 5 items of importance to me and never ever not once back off on that item. Then, let the rest go.
    7) Took a parenting class. The preschool offered a free parenting class by the director called STEP Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. It was one morning a week for about 2 months. Hard to make the time (working full time and needed to make up the time), but so glad I did.
    8) Make extra time for older kid. He could count on at least 30 min. at night before his bed after I put the twins down and during twins nap time on the weekends where he had my full (mostly) attention which was so hard since so often I just wanted a nap myself. Sometimes, when something else had to be done, I would tell him what it was and ask him if he wanted time first (then set the timer for 30 minutes) give him his time and when timer went off, do what I needed. Or, if he wanted to go second (set the time) and do what I needed. Then, when timer went off give him his time. Sometimes, it was all I could do to lay/doze next to him while he watched TV or played on the computer. The house, especially on weekends when I am solo gets trashed so fast. As much as possible, I let it and focus on the kids. Also, I have spent a few hours a month in his classroom with him for a “project”. We plan it together and he gets final choice. Last month we did bee feeders (pine cones with flowers from garden attached with honey, cookies, a balloon segment, read a book to class, etc. We both like it and it makes him happy/feel important.
    9) Be firm when it can’t be you. I would try to do as much as possible for older. If he didn’t want the nanny to do it, which he didn’t for the first 1 – 1.5 years–at all, explain that I understand that he wants me to do it, but I can’t. Then, let the tantrum happen, don’t get sucked in, be consistent, and let it go.
    10) Survive. Just do whatever I had to do to survive. Then, forgive myself it fell short of the type of parent I wanted to be in that moment.
    Really, it is only recently that things are getting easier and I often when I think back to the first year I get anxious and symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome.
    I hope all this makes sense (a few hard nights in a row, need to be out the door early for a flight out for work) and some of it helps at least a little. Good luck, hang in there, and it really will all get better.

  45. Thanks @grrr and @Laura for the encouragement! I’m always reluctant to comment on blogs for some reason and I almost didn’t this time, but I’m so glad you thought my words appropriate and helpful!

  46. I agree that we can’t make other people responsible for our behavior, but I do think discussing what happens can be useful for children of this age. So no “I’m sorry but” apologies immediately after a blowup, but pointing out that a child doesn’t like to be yelled at but doesn’t listen until Mommy yells so what can we do about that is, I think, legit.When my kids were younger, I spent a lot of time reminding myself that Penelope Leach told me to expect to have to repeat myself. But eventually they reached an age when I could add “And I want you to do it the first time I ask” to instructions. Now that is shortened to “the first time, please” when they keep doing something other than what they need to be doing.

  47. Another bit o’ praise for Katherine. Rock on sister!Also, for the OP…have you considered chiroractic adjutsment for the twins? There’s quite a bit of reasearch pointing to the fact that twins are more prone to spinal misalignment due to prenatal crowding in the womb. Just a thought that I didn’t mention before. It helped mine tremendously.

  48. I know I’m posting late, but I just wanted to say @slim, I see what you are saying about the importance of discussing and emphasizing listening the first time with your kids. I definitely think it’s important to teach our kids to do that for everyone’s sake! I like the “first time please” reminder, I’m going to use that!However, in the scenario you gave about the yelling, it still seems the same to me, it’s just using slightly different words. Parent is putting the responsibility of the yelling on the child (if you would listen first, I wouldn’t yell–if you wouldn’t do x, I wouldn’t do y) so I think it still comes across as holding the child responsible for a parent’s actions.
    I can see some scenarios where this might be appropriate and effective, in cases where you truly don’t have another option (I know you want to play with the blocks, but you keep throwing them, so I have to put them away (move you to another room, whatever)to keep your sister and the windows safe…). I just don’t think that treating yelling like that is quite the same because it may feel like an automatic reaction, and it may feel like the only possible solution, but it really isn’t.
    I think the responsibility is on the parent to really get the child’s attention and find effective ways of getting information across without yelling. As I said before, sometimes I yell, but I do see that as a failing of mine.
    I think more effective would be to truly apologize for yelling, explain the frustration and problem solve or explain the boundary.
    Example: Sometimes it seems like you only listen when I yell, but yelling at someone when you are angry isn’t ok, and I’m going to work on not yelling even when I am frustrated. But, I still need you to listen the first time I ask. What do you think would help?
    This also sets and example for the kids because they soak up everything we do! I think it’s hard for a kid to see the difference between you yelling when they don’t listen about turning of the tv and them yelling at you because you didn’t respond when they wanted something and you were on the phone.
    Hope this makes sense!

  49. I had fraternal girl twins when my singleton girl was almost 3 years old. It was a very rocky start… I met many moms of twins who told me, “You couldn’t PAY me to go back to before they were 3 years old,” and now that my twins are 3, I completely agree with that. Please realize that what you are doing is an ENORMOUS feat, and the fact that you are all still alive is *wonderful*! That is the goal!Here is my story: I nursed my twins til they were 14 months old, and didn’t supplement with formula… I felt like a freak show by the end, since they were so big and I almost always nursed them simultaneously (though not out in public). But we did some sleep training, and so I was never up with them at night from about 6 months on. We swaddled them like maniacs, with the Miracle Blanket on top of a sleep sack (and cranked the AC if it was summer, since that was the combo they couldn’t escape out of), and they were down from about 7 pm til 7 am every night. I really think I would’ve killed myself if I hadn’t had that reprieve. In terms of keeping the milk supply up for two babies, I would nurse them upon waking, and nurse them before putting them down for a nap. Again and again. (So twice each for each waking segment). And they took 2-3 naps for a LONG time. They weren’t necessarily sleeping all that time, but they babbled to each other and were mainly quiet. I feel guilty about it now, since their language development is way behind where our oldest’s was at this age. But twins are SO HARD, and you can’t beat yourself up for the choices that you need to make to stay sane.
    My relationship with our older daughter was the hardest part of this. I really felt that it shifted radically, from being the sweetest, sunniest relationship ever, to being one of much emotional hurt. She felt such frustration and even rage at times for the way the twins occupied me, and the way they were TWO new girls taking the limelight in our home. What I wish I had from the beginning was to set aside even a small amount of time just with her… even 15 minutes, if that was all I had energy for, to snuggle and talk and play quietly — and to *really* make eye contact. I’m sure with all those naps that I got time with just her, but I remember it being stressed-out time, time when I either wanted to be completely alone, or I wanted to multitask and get the dishes done or dinner cooked or to talk on the phone with another adult. But I think that I got to a place of such exhaustion (and I was sleeping full nights of sleep!! I guess just exhaustion from making lots of milk and caring for three needy little ones all day) and feeling burned out from lack of alone time (I’m an introvert) — that I stopped making good eye contact with my oldest throughout the day. I know that might sound strange… I guess it was my way of getting emotional space. But I think now it was really damaging to her, and sent a subtle message of not caring for her… I feel that just this past year (she’s six years old now) have we finally been through a lot of necessary healing in our relationship. I have stopped feeling so resentful of her and her needs (and worked to forgive myself for feeling that way for so long), and she has had her needs met in an honest, healthy way once again.
    I hope this rambling story is helpful to you in some way. You need to take care of yourself! I let a back pain issue go and go and go… it began when the twins were about 6 months old. And now I’m spending three weeks in NYC seeing a specialist, because I still have awful pain. (And psychologically, getting such a sustained break from the kids has been amazing! difficult, but wonderful, too).
    Do you have any family members that can be leaned on at all during this time? A special weekend away at Grandma’s has always been lovely for my oldest. We’ve only just started taking advantage of that, but I wish we’d done it sooner. It will refresh you, too.
    Best wishes to you!

  50. Katherine, wow! Your comment really hit home for me. I feel like I have had a real problem with yelling at my daughter (who is now 3.5) since my son was born 14 months ago. It was awful in the first 6 months and has decreased tremendously, but it still happens and I always feel ashamed after. I always swear to myself that I won’t to do it again, but it inevitably always happens again. I feel like you really just made me aware of how my daughter must feel and I have never put myself in her shoes in that way. I have blamed her for my yelling on several occasions even though I know deep down I shouldn’t have to yell-I need to find a way to be patient. If it were someone else’s child I were babysitting or something, I would never yell like that…so why do I do it to my own daughter? And now she has started yelling at me in the same exact tone and I know she has learned it from me. It’s just awful. I am definitely going to take your advice about apologizing without placing blame and hopefully eliminating the yelling altogether.Recently someone suggested putting marbles in a jar for good behavior and taking them out for bad. Then earning a very special prize for filling the jar. I felt like my daughter had no incentive for doing what I asked of her other than to avoid the eventual yelling. So, I give her marbles for doing something the first time, like letting me get her dressed, her teeth brushed, her hair brushed, her shoes on, etc. Also, for acts of kindness, like sharing with her brother or being very polite to me or another adult and saying please instead of just demanding something. I have been trying to find A LOT of positive behaviors lately because I want to really make her WANT to behave well and to make her feel better about herself. I have just felt like we were in a downward spiral much like the OP. Katherine, thanks again for your insight!!

  51. Your daughter sounds like she is feeling left out, which of course she is in comparison to before. So, offer your daughter a space once a week that is hers alone – for example, on a Tuesday night you take her out for something to eat, just you and her and she tells you all her news. And stick to it. I think you will then find that she feels special and cuts out the attention seeking. Good luck.

  52. I wanted to write a follow up to my question and to all the amazing replies that I got. I read each and every suggestion, many of them quite a few times. In fact I have the page open on firefox and I go over to it all the time.This was the best thing I ever did and the advice I got here has been invaluable and I have taken a lot of it to heart and made a lot of changes.
    I also want to say that aside from the useful advice, I felt so much better hearing from others that they had/have similar issues. I had really been feeling very isolated, and the responses really ameliorated that fear and loneliness that were contributing to my darkness.
    So here’s the follow up:
    I decided to night wean the babies and made arrangements for two weeks of night help. I also decided that since I was going to night wean them I’d start getting them used to formula so I stopped pumping for them so they no longer had BM if I went out in the days. At this point they were 11 months old. I had wanted to EBF them up until they turned one but I realized, in large part thanks to all your input, that I just could not do it. Not without having some sort of breakdown, which is where I was headed. I also accepted that 11 months of exclusive breast feeding for twins isn’t exactly a failure, so I cut myself a little slack.
    My little girl pretty much weaned herself from that point. She had never been a good nurser–she had a tiny mouth and a weak latch and pulled a couple of nursing strikes on me, but I had persisted (and she had thrived). But by this point she was so mobile and active (she walked the day after she turned 10 months) that she just refused to remain still to nurse unless I caught her as soon as she woke up or when she was really tired before a nap or going down for the night. (Which is the case now–she nurses once a day, when she wakes up.)
    When the time came for the night person to start, my daughter was waking up 2-3 times a night (she would still nurse at night) and my son every 60-90 minutes, a habit he had formed when he had six teeth come in at once at 9.5 months and he just hadn’t dropped it. I think it was that habit that actually drove me over the brink and led me to write to Moxie, because it meant I was waking up like every hour all night.
    For the first week with night help, they continued like that. My daughter took a little water and/or formula when she woke up, while my son refused both most of the times they were offered to him. (He was and still is avidly nursing in the day, many times during the day.) When the night person asked me, incredulously, “he wakes up this often all the time?” I nearly broke down crying. I don’t think I felt like anyone believed me up to that point.
    I suggested she not pick him up right away to see if he’d settle back down on his own, but she said she tried that and he just fussed and fussed. (That had been my experience too.) And there was the risk of him waking his sister. (They sleep in the same room; we don’t have space for them to do otherwise.)
    By the way, I didn’t try sleep training because I had tried it with my first child, and found it very stressful (for me), plus I wasn’t convinced it worked. Also, between having my first and my twins I discovered the book “Our Babies, Ourselves” and Kellymom.com (which is how I found Moxie in the first place) and was pretty much converted, so philosophically sleep training is/was not an option for me.
    By the end of week 2 my daughter was waking up once and having formula and my son was waking up once and not having anything.
    So I decided to keep the night help for one more week and… the waking up once per night didn’t stick and they reverted to waking up multiple times per night. By midway through the third week I was in a quandary. How would I go back to waking at night with them? I was feeling so much better, like a normal person again, and here they were, basically unchanged. I couldn’t keep the night help forever (mainly because of cost) but I couldn’t go back to how things were before.
    I managed to convince my husband that, for the sake of my sanity, to keep on the night help for a while longer. We are now in week seven of night help and they sleep through once in a while, but most nights at least one baby wakes up at least once. If they get anything it’s water. Sometimes they settle themselves back down, but sometimes they really holler (and I hear them and feel really guilty… but then go back to sleep, most of the time.) They’re now coming up to 13 months old.
    My nearly-5-year old is another story. Before I go into that, I just want to say to Katherine: thank you. You changed my life. You are absolutely right and I am so glad you came along and so politely and gently showed me that.
    From the babies were born my older daughter got lots and lots of one-on-one time with me, and with my husband and me. Very few of the threesome activities that we used to do were affected by the twins’ arrival. In fact my husband often says I cater to her demands too much, and that she should learn to share me more and learn that the babies’ arrival means less time and attention for her.
    She is a very demanding, very intense child. Sometimes I feel like she has sucked everything out of me. Around the time my letter was published, my sister was spending time with us and after two days she told me that understood why I was so exhausted (referring to my older daughter.) (Again, very welcome validation.) My daughter is very bright and very talkative and asks a million questions and wants to be a part of every conversation and always wants to do things and create things and go places and read stories… and most of the time I’m the one who has to be a part of it.
    She actually will do things with other people, but the truth is that there just isn’t any one out there who can be there for her the way that I, her mother, can and must be. I can “farm her out” to her aunt for a few hours, but then the aunt has her own life to live. Her father works very long hours (he has to, we have no choice; the recession hit his business BADLY, and I am not working now) and so his time and energy are very limited. When I have help in the days, the help is needed in many other areas–the twins, the dinner, the laundry, etc. And she is all consuming.
    All this is to say that even though I am better rested–and after just a couple of nights, even though I wasn’t sleeping very well at first (go figure), I felt so much more like a human being again, it was incredible–I am still having difficulty being patient and tolerant with her. And now I feel even guiltier because I no longer have the chronic sleep deprivation excuse to fall back on. I really have to catch myself from not blowing up at her over the tiniest thing. And I’m sure that most of the time she’s not “being annoying”, she’s just being her little self. I really identified with Sarah and what she said about her relationship with her daughter after her twins came along. But Sarah’s story also scared me a bit because I don’t want our relationship to be one of emotional hurt, and I don’t want her to bear the brunt of my exhaustion, be it physical or emotional.
    My sister also said, at the end of our time together, that aside from/in spite of her being intense and emotionally draining, she is a very delightful child. So she doesn’t deserve me being such an ogre. I’m no longer blaming her for my inability to control myself (thank you again Katherine), but I am still far from the calm, equanimous and loving mother that I would like to be, and that she deserves.
    Now she is back in school with a routine, and after school activities and she is away from home for a few hours each day and mostly occupied in the afternoons, so I get a break. So things are better. I’ve also been able to squeeze some exercise for myself which is sure to put me in a better position to manage and control my mood, once I can get that going as a regular thing.
    But I am still diffident about how I am raising her. I find that so much of getting her to do what I want requires threats of one sort or another. Sometimes it’s just a general, “get here on the count of three or I’m going to punish you.” Sometimes it’s more specific, “you won’t get any telly later if you don’t go wash your hands now.” But most of the time I have to repeat myself over and over again to get her to do something, and then I have to threaten. I hate that. I never wanted to be that parent. And I have no idea how to figure this out. I wish I could have someone I trusted spend the day with me, like an observer, and show me where I’m going wrong and how I can do things differently.
    A lot, I know, and I could go on and on. But that’s my story. Thank you all again, from the bottom of my heart. You might have just saved someone from going over the edge. In fact, not might; you did.

  53. Michelle – Tara Thank you again for taking these puirctes. They are absolutely beautiful. I absolutely love the picture of Autumn on the bed and us blurred in the background. I am so excited to show these puirctes to the twins and I cannot wait for you to meet them. I cannot believe that they could be here as early as another 2 weeks.

  54. You don’t know what he is like with his other kids. Do you stalk him? He has joined costudy of his other kids.All the bitter haters out in force. Lets pray karma doesn’t bite you soon.

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