When we were expecting our first set of twins AJ and JJ years ago, many people had advice to offer us about being new parents, but very few had tips to offer new parents of twins. Raising AJ and JJ has certainly been a learning experience for both of us. We have amassed a small collection of pointers about what has worked for us over the last few years:
- Simultaneous bottle feeding of twins would be nice, but we are too clumsy for this #$%! When the twins were small, feeding them in sequence resulted in serious guilt about making one wait a few minutes for the other to finish his bottle. It was very tempting to try and feed them at the same time with a bottle in each fist, but this required a level of manual dexterity that is beyond us, especially considering our twins were preemies with feeding issues that required a special “Kung Fu Grip,” holding the baby more upright to make sure the formula went down the right way.
- In the eternal stroller debate, the true answer is “all of the above.” Front and back strollers are easier to maneuver through narrow doorways and can accommodate infant car seats. When the twins get older, they are able to maintain better seated posture and are more aware of their surroundings. At this point, side by side strollers work better. If you happen to have two parents available, two single strollers are by far the more agile experience. Our garage is littered with about half dozen strollers that have all had some good use.
- Age recommendations on toys do not consider twins. Most toys have the 3+ recommendation if they contain small parts that can be a choking hazard because this is the most common way a small singleton child may injure him or herself with a toy. When considering toys for twins, an additional safety consideration should be, “Can one of my twins somehow weaponize this and attempt fratricide?”
- Don’t ever expect either twin to “be the bigger sibling” in a conflict. Calling upon the bigger sibling to be more mature and permissive of their little siblings is an easy out that we just don’t have. Because they are at the same developmental level and equally immature, it is really unfair to call upon either twin to “be the big brother” in an argument. Mediate arguments between the twins as two equal parties.
- Don’t dress twins in identical outfits unless they are identical. I have never dressed the boys in identical outfits unless the outfits were gifts and I am trying to be polite. They are fraternal twins, so I like to dress them in similar but slightly different outfits to help differentiate them and let them develop their own personal preferences, personality and style. For this reason, I think even identical twins may want to consider not dressing identically all the time.
- Twins are acutely sensitive to the concept of equality. Get ready to start counting Cheerios. Our twins have an uncanny ability to quickly assess what they have, how that compares to their twin, and either gloat or cry foul if there is any inequality. It all happens in about two seconds, so have it all counted out before the plates come to the table… or it’s war!
- Consider placing twins in separate classes if the school is large enough. In their first year of preschool, there was only one three-year-old class. This created problems because if one twin was out sick, the other twin felt completely lost. In subsequent years of preschool and kindergarten, we have found that having them in separate classes has really helped each twin to develop better confidence and his own social circles.
- When things get out of control, divide and conquer. Our twins have a combustible dynamic where they often egg each other on, escalating and emboldened until they are displaying some pretty unruly behavior. For the sake of peace, we have sometimes each taken a twin in separate cars off in different directions and they both become timid little angels.
These tips are what have worked for us, and may not be the best advice for others. Luckily, we were given the opportunity to employ our best advice for us a second time around with our second set of twins DJ and MJ! We were excited and a little exhausted thinking about the prospect of putting it all into practice once again, but we know we have probably been somewhat more prepared than your average couple with twin babies.