Disclaimer: Everything I’m about to say about raising twins is just an assumption. For those of you with twins, I apologize if I misspeak. And for those of you with triplets and up, I’m sure you’re far too busy to read this drivel anyway.
To those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mike’s older brother Steve. Like Mike and Chris, I too am a father twice over. But I took an unconventional approach to parenthood…we had our kids one at a time. So I’ll never know the pain and mental anguish that comes with trying to feed two screaming babies at once. I can’t fathom calming two colicky cries or addressing simultaneous blow-outs with the hand and foot dexterity of a moderately-trained chimp.
But on the flip side, just as I will never get to experience any of those “joys”, they won’t know what it’s like to get dragged back into 3am wake-ups after you’ve already suffered through the slings and arrows of sleep training. They won’t get to utter things like, “I don’t remember this much meconium the first time around”. And they will hopefully never have to apply equal focus on wiping up spit-up from your sweatshirt while also answering the question “What do ninjas eat for breakfast?” We’re on equally beautiful/challenging/maddening journeys, but the roads we travel are pocked by so many of these small differences.
And that brings us to the biggest difference between having twins and having kids separated in age….regret. With twins, you’re learning on the go. Both mistakes and victories are doled out to both of your kids equally. Get it right and you’ve got two front-runners for valedictorian. Get it wrong and you’ve got the makings of a kick-ass special on the ID channel. But when you’ve been down the path once or more already, you tend to take an altered approach to child rearing.
I want to believe the first time through it is roughly the same for everyone. You want to be the perfect parent. You want to instill all of the goodness and wonder and wisdom you’ve gathered from this crazy blue marble called Earth into your little one and have them want for nothing. And then life punches you in the face and you realize there is no perfect. Do the best you can, and your kids will still turn out pretty damn good. So when you throw your hat back into the ring a second time, some of those early ideals might be a little tarnished. Don’t get me wrong…the stuff that matters…the love, attention, and unwavering devotion is all there. It’s the little things that suffer. And with that, below is a list of small regrets. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to say sorry to my awesome little baby boy, Jordan. I hope he can one day forgive me for:
- Toys – You will never possess a toy that has all of its original pieces. Where’s Batman’s other leg, you ask? Tragic BatMobile hit-and-run. You will never own a book with all of its pages intact (bright spot…we get to make up our own ending to Three Little Pigs, and I’m guessing the Wolf might be having pork loin for dinner). You will never really own anything. Your brother’s only letting you borrow it. Show even the slightest bit of enjoyment in something even as basic as a rattle and you’d better believe your 3-year-old sibling will have a sudden and irresistible urge to use it. Better work on your poker face now.
- Clothes – I’m sorry that you don’t own any garments that could pass a black light test. But let’s be honest, you were going to shit and puke on anything nice and new anyway. It’s what you do best.
- Photos – The casual visitor to our home/office/social media sites might be under the false assumption that we have an only child. For 2+ years, our older guy was the apple of our eye. And as first time parents, we documented everything: monthly milestones; holiday pics; a parade of new or funny outfits; meal time, bath time, tummy time, Hammer time. You name it. There were (and are) pictures of him everywhere. With #2…eh, not so much. We’re trying to remedy the situation now, but we’ve got a long road to hoe. For now, he’s like one of those young kids writers slip into season 6 of a sit-com. You’re just left going “Who the f@#& is the new guy?”
- Car Seat – Every manual we read said the middle of the back seat is the safest place for your child’s car seat. And in fine print, they said “For those of you too lazy to reach halfway across your seat to strap your child in, the rear seat behind the passenger is the safest place”. So that’s where #1 wound up. And they say that you want to make the arrival of a new sibling as non-disruptive as possible for the older brothers and sisters, so he was staying put. So the new guy’s chilling behind me in the car now. Um, welcome to the death seat I guess.
- Safety – Our first-born snacked on hot dog pieces invisible to the naked eye and finely minced grapes that bordered on the consistency of jelly. Gates were installed before he could sit. His every move was watched with the vigilance of a hawk on Adderall. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself saying “Put down the knife, Jordan. Or at least butter some toast for me while you’ve got it.”
- Name – No one ever tells you just how hard coming up with a child’s name will be. So many names sound great until you realize that this will be his or her moniker for the rest of time. It literally took us months to choose our oldest’s name (Jude), and that was after countless brainstorming sessions, family polls, and a spreadsheet that examined first, last, and middle name combinations, initials, and any possible rhyming words within a grade school kid’s vocabulary. And we loved it. He’s a Jude. With Jordan? Our criterion was pretty much “starts with a J”. In all seriousness, we instantly ruled out any name that we considered the first time around to avoid any awkward conversations down the line that would begin with “Well, it wasn’t good enough for him, but…”. And you know what? He’s a Jordan. It fits. How we arrived at it, though, just wasn’t quite the same.
So son, I hope when you read this (presuming you don’t have triplets or more), you can forgive your old man. I’m sure by then I’ll have plenty more things to apologize for anyway and the list above will seem like small potatoes.