The Second Year is Also Hard

After finding out we were expecting twins, so many people told us that if we survived the first year, we'd be in the clear.

Once they were born, it seemed that every other week another set of twin parents would tell us, "Hang in there, the first year is hard, but it gets better."

When we celebrated their first birthday, Tyson and I were continually congratulated for having survived.  I'm not sure who got more attention and congratulations on their first birthday...Caden and Brooklyn or Tyson and me!

But the day after their first birthday came and went, and the next week, and month, and so on.  It didn't really seem to be getting any easier, exactly.  Taking care of twins, who were rapidly developing and transitioning from infants to full-blown toddlers...well, it still seems pretty darn hard.

Everyone seemed to gloss over the fact that the second also hard.

What's Worse
  • Dealing with two evermore independent toddlers.  Having two young toddlers the same age makes it seem like someone always needs to be played with, taught, monitored, and (gulp) disciplined.  I feel like I am constantly reminding them how to share, to be patient (both them and me), and how to behave and act.  They are really starting to be full-fledged little people, full of personality and independence. 
  • Yet as independent as they are, they are still so needy.  Two sets of shoes, jackets, and hats to assist with (to varying degrees, depending on the day's mood and amount they want to "I do!").  Two sets of food to prepare and cut up (and don't forget that Caden likes to eat his strawberries whole but Brooklyn prefers hers sliced.  Caden can eat pears all day long, but Brooklyn won't touch them, and Caden won't eat anything resembling a traditional sandwich, but if you toast the bread and give him the same toppings, open-faced, he will gobble it up.)  There are two little bodies to bathe, two sets of teeth to brush, and always, always, always toys to be put away.
  • Toddlers the same age...who are also siblings.  While they are actually pretty good at sharing - certainly more so than most other toddlers I've seen - they also have to deal with always having another two-year old around who is playing with the toy they want to play with, reading the book they want to read, or sitting in the spot they want to sit.  And since they both have the same ability in communicating their frustration (aka whines, screams, total toddler meltdowns on the floor), this can cause me to feel like a referee for full days at a time.
Admittedly, there are a lot of things that are better during this second year.  I certainly don't want to go back to the twin infant stage.  Tyson and I will admit no small sigh of relief to be expecting ONE baby this time.

What's Better
  • SLEEP.   The first year - especially those first few months - are mostly a blur. Taking care of two babies round the clock, and trying to survive on such a small amount of sleep was no picnic.  Nursing two babies during the night - 3-4 times those first months, 1-2 times a night later that year - meant any and all sleep was interrupted.  And those numbers are just feedings - that's not to mention any other nighttime wakings.  It's hard to function without a long, full stretch of sleep.  (Isn't sleep deprivation actually used as a form of torture?!?)  Now most nights are uninterrupted, or interrupted minimally.  I no longer go to bed wondering if I'm just going to be woken up in an hour by a hungry baby or two.
  • Schedules that sync.  Since Caden and Brooklyn were on different, and frequently opposite, nap schedules for the first 9-10 months, most of that first year meant I was never, ever without a baby nearby.  Now that their schedules are in sync and consistent, naptime actually means I get some free time during the day.  Even cleaning bathrooms and catching up on laundry can feel like a break without toddlers around!
  • Independent play.  While they squabble with each other just like any other pair of siblings, I also see them play more and more with each other every single week.  They've started making up games together and can actually be relied upon to play together for longer and longer periods of time.  Not routinely, but still.  For all the fights that need to be broken up, there is also the advantage of having a built-in playmate.
  • Mealtime.  I was not one to mourn the passing of breastfeeding.  Two self-feeding toddlers is an amazing thing.  They can eat and use utensils by themselves, and while sometimes it seems all I do in a day is prepare, serve, or clean up after yet another meal or snack, it pales in comparison to two babies who nursed every two hours.

The takeaway is this: the second year is still hard.  It's just a different kind of hard.  What made the first year so difficult was pure sleep deprivation.  Tyson and I agree that the bare tasks of taking care of two infants weren't in and of themselves so difficult: nursing, bathing, changing diapers.  But with a lack of sleep even the simplest of tasks can seem Herculean.

The second year brings sleep (blessed, blessed sleep), but requires much more supervision. Caden and Brooklyn are at a point where they don't need such constant monitoring, but from about 12-18 months of age, (12 months not so coincidentally being about the time they learned to walk) they did need almost constant attention, whether at home, at the park, or while on a playdate.

We need to acknowledge that with everything "easier" is just replaced with something else that is hard.  Toddlers who can walk into the store - instead of being wrangled around in two infant carseats - is quite literally less of a burden.  The carseats are just replaced by holding two hands through the parking lot, meaning my hands are still full.  Independent play frees up some of my time, but still needs to be monitored to minimize attacks on each other and our home.  Self-feeding frees up even more of my time, but also requires just as much supervision to ensure that food is actually eaten, and not just thrown on the floor, at each other, or shoved experimentally into a cup of milk.

Even if the second year is still hard, I wouldn't trade it or go back for anything.  Watching two little people develop their own personalities and abilities at the same time is an amazing thing to witness on a daily basis.  But for all the twin parents out there in their first year: hold on.  It's still hard.  A good hard.  But hard.  Continue to invest in caffeine. And chocolate.  Godspeed.