Category Archives: Multiples

Q&A: twins, anger after naps, and loving your kids the way they need it

Anonymous writes:

"My twin boys are turning three, but this is not about being three -because it's been an issue all year long.  Of all the things I've
grappled with, some have gotten better, some have gotten worse, but
this one stays the same: right after nap is the worst part of my day. 

One of my boys wakes up from his nap crying incoherently, and
nothing I do soothes him.  He wants to be held, but he doesn't actually
seem to derive comfort from me: he doesn't cuddle or even relax his
body – he thrashes around, or holds himself rigidly a little away from
me.  He doesn't want me to sing, he doesn't want me to ask him what's
wrong, he doesn't want me to offer him anything.

This can go on for half an hour or more, if all I do is keep trying
to comfort him.  Meanwhile his brother is a little groggy and cranky
too, and would love to be held for a minute in any case, but certainly
gets more anxious to be held when he sees his brother hogging my lap. 
If I try to hold them at the same time, they both get angrier.  If I
try to put one down and pick up the other, they both get angrier.  Even
though I know it will be over sooner or later, it's awful for me. 

Some of my most ridiculous moments as a parent have been in this
scenario.  Like the time we were at my in-laws, and the boys were
napping upstairs but I needed to bring them downstairs when they woke
up, and neither one would walk down the stairs OR let me carry the
other one downstairs first.  So I put one on each knee and bumped down
the stairs on my tush.  It took a long time.

Anyway.  Sometimes reading a book works; at first he's still
screaming, but as the book goes on he gets interested despite himself
and quiets down.  But often he goes right back to crying when the book
is over.  The only thing that really works to distract him is to ask
him a question where he really needs to think, either to remember
something, or to work out the answer.  He immediately stops crying and
answers in a normal voice. 

So my biggest question is <i>why don't I do that
first.</i>  I mean, granted, I can't always think of a good
enough question.  But the fact is, it's also not my first instinct.  I
want to comfort him, even though I know he won't accept it from me, and
I keep trying.

On some level, I should understand all this.  He has always been
intense, very reactive to distress, just wired in general.  Sleep has
been especially tough for him, and probably he's just disoriented or
doesn't feel good when he first wakes up.  And physically he's a bit
rigid too.  He was born with torticollis, and although it's gone now,
some overall stiffness remains.  It's not just me he won't relax
against.

He also had colic and undiagnosed reflux, and I spent most of the
first year of his life knowing I was powerless to comfort him.  I
actually started to believe I was the one making him miserable, because
he would be smiling or laughing with someone else, until he saw me and
cried to be held.  He always wanted me to hold him, but he would keep
crying in my arms.  At the same time, I felt so guilty for hardly ever
being able to hold his brother.

So I know these half-hour episodes bring back a lot of that anxiety
and sadness for me.  I'm guessing, also, that I've been interpreting
his rejection of physical comfort from me as a rejection of my love,
when it's really nothing of the kind.  If that's true, then what I'm
doing is to keep on trying to make him accept my love on my terms.  Not
what I want to do at all, and yet I can't help it.  Physical comfort is
a big part of the language of love for me. 

How common is it for a child to wake up inconsolable like this? 
How do I break free of this perception of my relationship with him that
was set in infancy?  And how do I learn to give and accept love in the
language my child needs, not the one I need?

p.s. I know this problem will probably go away when he drops his nap, but I'm
really hoping that doesn't happen anytime soon.  I don't think my son
is capable of sleeping more than 10 hours in a row, so it seems to me
he still needs the nap.  And in any case, I think the underlying
emotional issues will still be there, if not so blatantly."

Yet another problem that could be solved with a Trained Monkey Assistant. I'm just saying.

Seriously, though, it sounds to me like you've always been the one he could trust. He could cry and be sad and angry at the world or his intensity or his pain and know that it was safe to be upset in your arms. So you got the release while other people got the smiles.

And, you're right that the most immediate manifestation that's causing problems for you is the nap wake-up, but the emotional issues aren't going to go away just because he drops his nap. There's the issue of why he gets so upset in the first place, and also the mismatch you feel between what you're offering and what he seems to need.

I think it's super-common in our culture to want everything to be OK. And we're really, REALLY not comfortable with expressions of anger (or distress, but mostly anger). Especially from women and children. So you combine those things and we've been trained to try to comfort babies and fix things for them.

It sounds to me like your son is angry. And that he's got a lot of that anger stored in his body, and it triggers when he wakes up, because that's kind of a groggy, pooky time before your brain engages fully. Which is also why asking him a question to engage his brain then makes him forget about crying.

I think you don't think to ask a question first every time, because you're trained to try to comfort, because we all think a crying child needs to be comforted (emotionally, but also physically).

Maybe over the long-term, though, what would give him the most comfort is working at it from the other direction by letting him be angry and helping him express and release that anger. If he's encouraged to express his anger enough, eventually he'll get it out of his system enough that it doesn't overwhelm him physically when he wakes up.

Then, if he does have more anger temporarily and go into a post-nap crying jag, you can use the deep-question technique to stop his crying and get him some space by engaging his brain, but know that he needs more release.

I would also use this as a time to think about whether you were allowed to be angry when you needed to. If you weren't, maybe you can use your son's experience to help allow yourself to be, too. Maybe it's just my own experience with this exact issue (and my second son), but it seems like sometimes feeling such a strong disconnect and not knowing how to bridge it can expose needs in ourselves that were never met, and once those become obvious the connection takes care of itself.

Are there parents of multiples or closely-spaced siblings who could talk about dealing with the feelings that you're not meeting your kids' needs because there are two (or more) of them and only one of you? I feel this way sometimes as a mom of two, but know it's nothing like having had two from the get-go. Anonymous definitely needs some support.

Q&A: four-year-old twins waking in the middle of the night

Cathy writes:

"we have 4yr old twin girls (they sleep in the same room)
within the past couple months one of them wakes up between 1:30am – 4:30 am
just to "play" with her toys
she throws a temper tantrum every time we tell her to go back to sleep
because it’s not time to wake up yet
we have even told her that it’s time to wake up when the sun comes up
but that doesn’t work
we’re all tired and frustrated…HELP!!!"

Just awful. I don’t have twins, but I have two kids who share a bedroom, and it just makes you want to yank your brain out through your ear when one of them wakes the other one up, especially on purpose.

I don’t know if there’s any way to stop your daughter (I read the question as it being one of the girls waking up consistently, not the two of them taking turns waking) from waking up, and am guessing that it’s a phase she’s going through. My suspicion is that if you stopped caring about it she’d get bored and go back to sleep, and after a few nights of this would stop waking up.

So that means the question is how you can stop her from waking her sister. If you could stop her from waking her sister, then it really wouldn’t matter if she woke up to play with her toys, because the other three of your could stay asleep. (And if the other three of you stayed asleep she might give up and go to sleep herself from boredom.)

I think there has to be another room involved in this somehow. Either you could separate them for sleep, or make the waking sister go into another room silently to play with the toys. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with switching the beds and sleep, so I’d choose to make a rule about going into another room to play. But that’s obviously me, and you might want to go the other way. I think if you did make her go into another room (assuming you feel it’s safe to do this–my older son could have been trusted not to get into any trouble in the middle of the night, but not all kids could be, and I predict his brother won’t be at that age) you’d find her asleep on the floor in the morning.

If this is making your stomach turn because you just can’t see separating them or letting her be alone in a room awake in the middle of the night, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board. As you all have figured out, I tend to look for the thing that seems the most direct, but there are often tricks that I’m just not seeing. So does anyone have any suggestions for Cathy? And if you can come up with a way to get a four-year-old to obey we’ll all send you chocolate and beer.

Q&A: triplets?!

The cats are here! A 6-month-old black boy named Alex Rodriguez and a 3 1/2-month-old calico girl named Princess Blossom Pepperdoodle Von Yum-Yum. Alex is a big sweet love and Blossom is a crazy wild girl. (I vetoed the first two name choices: Base and Ball, and Big Six and Cutebomb.) My younger son calls them B’ossom! and Awex! It’s almost too cute for me to process.

But on to a question from Meghan, mother of a 2 1/2-year-old who is the example whenever I say "unless your child has a metabolic disorder…" A few weeks ago she got the happy surprise that she was pregnant. Then she went in for the ultrasound:

"Triplets!?! How am I going to do it? Is Cole (now 2.5) going to need
years of therapy for being neglected? What about my career? My
marriage? My body? Their tiny bodies? I definitely need a pep talk from
parents who have been there with more than one."

I emailed her back something that basically said, "Holy shit." ‘Cause, yeah, holy shit. She replied:

"I know, right? Spontaneous triplets, I have learned, are less than 10% of triplets, which are also only 15% of multiples."

So she needs help from moms of triplets and twins about dealing with multiples. Special advice about dealing with triplets and an older child with special needs (the metabolic disorder) appreciated. She’s also worried that her pregnancy will be even higher-risk because of her son’s disorder and his low birth weight.

Both practical suggestions and it’s-gonna-be-all-rights welcome. All I know is that triplet mom Jody recommends Karen Gromada’s Mothering Multiples as the go-to book for triplets.