When I found out my wife was pregnant with twins, I asked as many people as I could for their advice on parenting. What I usually got was real sentimental stuff about how I should “cherish every minute” because “before you know it, they’re grown.” Now that’s nice, and it’s probably true, but it wasn’t very helpful at 4am with I was rocking a frantic baby for the millionth time, or when I was alone with the kids and poop was freaking everywhere.
So. After some collaboration with my wife, I present to you a list of practical advice specifically geared toward future and current fathers of young twins. I note that I’m not an expert on twins, parenting, or pretty much anything. But I can change two diapers in less than 30 seconds, and dang it, that should count for something. With credentials established, here it goes:
1. Don’t bother buying two of everything.
Ahh twins, so cute. Matching outfits, matching cribs, and matching toys are an obvious necessity, right? Umm, wrong. First off, matching clothes is something I pretty much never do because our children are actual people with unique personalities and not some public freak show. Furthermore, the “get-two-of-everything” approach is a big mistake because twins would rather steal from each other than each have their own. If you really wanna plan ahead, get extra diapers and coffee instead.
2. Don’t plan on vacationing for, like, a really long time.
Oh gosh. Flashbacks. Jamaica. Our kids were seven months old. Between the flight, subsequent ear infection, lack of sleep, and lack of sanity, they pretty much cried the whole time. And come to think of it, I did too. Trips to visit new grandparents are much different because, to the glory of God, many of them don’t mind holding fussy babies. To recap: trips to visit family, decent idea; trips to a hotel in “paradise” with ultra thin walls and no room for a bouncy seat, terrible idea.
3. When people offer to hold your children, accept immediately and enjoy every last second of glorious freedom.
If someone wants to hold a baby, THEN FOR GOODNESS SAKE LET THEM! Social functions with lots of young single women or empty nesters are great for this, and church seems to be a place where both are in abundance. So if you’re a nonbeliever with twins, go to church and be saved in more ways than one.
4. Don’t *EVER* do the shopping.
T.W.I.N.S. is an acronym for They Will Immediately Nullify your Savings. A double dose of diapers, wipes, formula, clothes, more diapers, more wipes, and more formula is a formula for near bankruptcy, and its best you remain blissfully ignorant of how much all of this is costing you. Now stop asking questions and fork over the platinum!
5. Don’t out-complain your friends dealing with “just one” baby.
Twins provide an endless arsenal of complaints about pretty much everything. Nothing will make you lick your chops more than a friend who complains about how they had to change one poopy diaper the other day when you literally just changed, like, five of them. My advice: constantly remind yourself that raising children is really tough– even for new parents of “just one.” And then be amazed by the dads of triplets out there who think you have it easy with “just two!”
6. Go out on a date every once in a while.
It’s probably not gonna happen every week, or even every two weeks. But hopefully at least once a month you can pull your wife out of the combat zone and take her to dinner – with no kids. While you’re there, let the most stress-inducing topic of conversation be what you’ll be having for dessert. And whatever you do, don’t let your wife call to check up on the little ones. She doesn’t want to know what’s really going on…
7. Give mom a decent night of sleep at least once every week.
On Friday nights, I was in charge. I got up with the kids, fed them, rocked them, and took care of them from 11pm to 9am. My wife slept alone those nights, and in return, she ensured that I had relatively-good sleep for the rest of the week. She was also just overall nicer to me. Those mornings were tough, but trust me: the best wife is a rested wife.
8. Take tons of pictures.
Chances are mom will be too occupied to take the pictures that are truly magical, like the ones where they’re throwing a fit for no reason, or stuck in the dryer, or split seconds away from having a hand bitten by a pig. Also, digital cameras put the cost of each picture at $0.00, so there’s literally nothing to lose. Instagram that baby!
9. Don’t compare your kids to others who seem to be developing much faster.
Odds are your twins will communicate with the non-verbal language they developed as POWs in the womb. So as much as they would love to shout out their letters, numbers and colors, you may have to settle for “moo” or “da-da” for a while – a looooong while. Also, twins are born ridiculously early. So while my son is in the bottom percentile for weight, height and other measurable indicators of whether he’ll be a star quarterback one day, I take delight in knowing he’ll make an amazing prom date one day.
10. Find one-on-one time for both children.
My son wakes up early and loves to play catch, so we get a lot of time together. Unfortunately, my daughter does neither, and her affection is much harder to come by. So, every now and then I will take her out – just us – and pay for whatever she can hold onto at the dollar store, or treat her to some delicious McDonald’s soft serve. The result: she likes me for a little while.
11. Teach those babies how to sleep!
At around four or five months, just start plopping your babies in their cribs for a nap at the same time every day and don’t feel guilty when they scream bloody murder for the next 30 minutes – it’s all just part of the learning process. And when your bachelor friends make fun of you for leaving a party early because it’s “way past their naptime” and the kids are “all off today,” just know I was right there with you, brother. Now hurry home before bedtime gets screwed up too!
12. Master the art of something helpful, like giving baths or taking long walks.
Apparently my wife isn’t a big fan of showering while two infants scream just yards away. To keep my wife sane (and sanitary), I would occasionally strap the kids in the stroller and walk them for a solid 30 minutes while I chatted with whoever was willing to help me kill the time (thanks mom!). As for me, well, I just pretty much stopped showering altogether…
13. Pray. Like, all the time.
Pray with them and pray for them. Pray that ear infections go away, pray that they eat better, and pray for two successive days without some new sickness they will soon share. Seriously, just pray. And when they’re answered, you’ll know better than to take them for granted. Amen?
14. Actually play with your kids for a few minutes every single day.
Stop everything you’re doing and roughhouse with the kids. You should see my daughter’s face when I playfully declare “TICKLE TIME!”, or the look of excitement my son gets when I grab a whiffle ball and head outside. My wife would much rather I help make a few frowns dissapear than help make a few dishes disappear… and frankly so would I.
I’ve never really cared about a little dust on the headboard or toothpaste in the sink. Heck, if I put the toilet seat down I’m having a good day. But my wife cares about these things and had absolutely no time to clean. So, we had a maid come over every other week and it really seemed to help my wife calm down about the house. Usually by the time I got home there were already clothes, toys and crackers all over the place… but the floor sure did smell like Pine-Sol!
16. Just survive the first 9 months or so. You got this!
For months I found myself thanking God it was Monday. Weekends and holidays were a grind, and I was a ticking time bomb when holding the babies so my wife could go to the bathroom. Perhaps it didn’t help that I was working full time and going to law school at night during the worst of it. But somewhere around 9 or 10 months, they started sleeping a bit more regularly, getting sick less, and playing more – which was amazing. Now they’re two, and they absolutely adore each other… except when they fight over a toy.
If only we had two of everything…