“I’m the mother of twin toddlers” is a phrase I use often when writing. It’s a true statement, but it’s also the ultimate parenting get-out-of-jail-free card. People tend to give me a pass on things when I mention I have twins. Whether the topic is sleep training, breast feeding, discipline issues, or potty training- I get an understanding nod where one might otherwise receive a sideways glance.
While everyone is busy setting up their parenting and discipline camps, I’ve resided rather comfortably in the between. While carting my children through an airport, store or gym- I am often the recipient of understanding looks and comments in the form of “twins?”, “wow, you’ve got your work cut out for you”, or “you must be a super-mom”.
Being a parent of multiples can be a strange and isolating experience at times, but I’m convinced it’s also more relaxed in a way as well. While many parents of singletons are out there fretting over whether little Jimmy or Jenny is on target for his or her milestones; and wondering if they are watching too much television, getting enough mental and physical stimulation for their age group, or developing into well adjusted adolescents- I’m just happy I showered and brushed my teeth. You’re wondering if you’ve found the right parenting method; and I’m happy I made it to the grocery store and back in a day. I’m not claiming to have it harder when it comes to parenting by the way; I’ve just adjusted my expectations to what I call the “twin parenting paradigm”. This paradigm can be summed up as “keep them alive and manage personal hygiene; all other accomplishments are icing on the cake”.
While other parents get caught up in the usual first-world, 21st century concerns about raising children; I’ve been in survival mode. But let’s be honest here for a minute, aren’t we all in survival mode? It doesn’t matter if you are the parent of a newborn, twins, triplets; or if you’re crazy enough to have 10 kids. We all bring our own struggles to the table. Every family is different. Every child is unique. And while one family can handle five children in a healthy and balanced way, some can barely handle one. I’m not here to judge. We happen to live in an age of parenting perfectionism, over-achievement, and advice overload. Sometimes I’ve looked at it as a blessing, other days a curse. Lately, I’ve become convinced it’s crushing our spirits.
Which brings me to my greater point. Why do I even need a get-out-of-jail-free-card? Why do I feel the need to explain or even excuse my parenting decisions to another? Why does having multiples account for more grace from others? How have we allowed ourselves to get to this point? Parent camps. Mommy wars. Are you a stay-at-home parent or do you work outside the home? Attachment parent or cry-it-out parent?
I’m afraid we’ve lost our hearts, minds, and souls in our pursuit of parenting methods. We’ve gotten to a point where we are quicker to lend our critiques than our helping hands; our judgments than our words of encouragement.
Why does it matter if I work outside the home or inside the home? Who cares if I’m a picture perfect Pinterest mommy or a can’t-wait-until-the-kids-go to-bed-so-I-can crack-open-a-beer-mommy? I have read so much lately about these “parenting divides”. One side criticizing the other. One side lauding their method over another. And yet, we’re all here (most of us anyway) just trying to figure out how best to love our children and raise them into responsible caring adults.
If there are two things I’ve learned in my brief years as a parent- one is that I do better when I have the support of other parents. You’ll notice I didn’t say I do better with philosophical like-mindedness or similar parenting philosophies. Nope. I said I do better when I have the support of other parents- relational support. Lives overlapping. People to talk to, relate to, share stories and burdens with.
The second thing I’ve learned in my short journey; and the ironic part of this whole thing- is that my children are watching and learning from what I model. They’re watching us. You, me, and everyone around them. They’re taking notes on a cellular level. If we’re really seeking to raise children who are connected, compassionate, responsible and engaged adults- shouldn’t we lead that charge with how we treat one another as fellow parents?
I think it’s time we step over the deeply drawn lines, put down our bully sticks, and take a collective deep breath. People have after all, been raising children since the beginning of time. I think we can all agree that this parenting gig is difficult enough on its own; and that we’d be far better off with a little less judgment and a whole lot more grace and support.