This weeks interview is a little different than our previous ones. We wanted to get a broader response to a common concern, how do you juggle multiples AND singletons? To get a this broad perspective we talked to three different MoMs (2 with twins and one with triplets). Our MoMs are, Delia Troy, Elizabeth Lyons and Jackie Keim.
Delia is the proud mom of an outgoing nine year old daughter and very energetic, funny seven year old boy/girl twins. She and her husband are thrilled to be past the half the sleep face onto twice the carpool face or three times in our case. Delia Troy not only stays organized at home with her three children, she’s a founding team member of VolunteerSpot (http://www.VolunteerSpot.com), a free online coordination tool that saves time and makes it super easy for parents to sign up to help at school, sports teams and in the community.
Elizabeth is the author of You Cannot Be Serious: and 32 Other Rules that Sustain a (Mostly) Balanced Mom. She is also the author of Ready or Not…Here We Come! and Ready or Not…There We Go!, humorous guides to the first year and toddler years with twins. She is also the mother to 5 (count ’em, 5!) kids, which include a set of twins and 3 singletons.
Jackie is the Marketing and PR Director for Home Team Marketing in Cleveland. She maintains her sanity by waking at 4:45 am daily to run before her kids wake up. Besides the kids, her greatest accomplishment is completing 2 marathons – with 5 kids (triplets and two singletons) she have a great cheerleading squad at the finish!
How do you make your singletons feel special when so much attention is paid to the multiples?
D: This has changed, as the kids have gotten older. We use to play up being the BIG SISTER. We still do some but more subtly. I tell Claire, our singleton, stories about how happy her Daddy and I were when she was born and that we would just stare at her because she was so amazing and beautiful. I tell how lucky I am to have had one little baby as my first. That she was so easy and a delight we could just go anywhere and everywhere – to lunch with my former co-workers, to the mall, playgroups.
Since we have boy/girl twins we can also divide into the girls and the boys so things are not often divide by twins and singleton. There is no denying or ignoring the twin bond. It is a beautiful thing and it certainly looks like fun to be a twin. But a big sister little sister bond is a beautiful thing as well. I tell Claire how much I wanted a big sister and how lucky Kathleen is to have her.
J: Our triplets are 8 and as they’ve gotten older less people pay attention to them. As I told you, our other children are 13 (G) and 6 (B) and the trips are (BBG). When the trips were younger and people marveled at them, we would say “Yes they are fun, and we have two others also, Allison and Brian, and Allison is a big helper.” We sort of came up with a joke that Allison and Brian were the bookends, or the trips were the 3 Stooges. At this age we’ve really gotten into more of a division between genders, more than multiples vs.. not. Ie, both the girls are swimmers and the boys play baseball and soccer. I asked our 13 year old if she felt like people paid more attention to the trips and she said not anymore. Our 6 year old agreed. I asked the triplets and one of the boys Robby, commented that a lot of people don’t know he is a triplet anymore, which surprised me! Two of the triplets (Robby and Amanda) are in one 2nd grade class together, and the other Noah, is in a class by himself. Again as they were younger I would just remind people, especially relatives, that in fact we did have 5 kids! My mother in law would always point out the trips to her friends, and I would politely say “and we have Brian and Allison too!”
E: When our twins were infants, and strangers oohed and ahhed over them while we were out and about, I made it a point to simply say, “And this is their fantastic big sister!” The truth is, those commenters rarely got my point (those who were more aware from the get-go acknowledged Grace right away on their own), but my intent was to show Grace that I was not oblivious to the fact that infant twins attract a lot of attention which gets old in a hurry for older siblings!
We made sure to surround ourselves with people we knew would make Grace feel special. None of our friends brought a gift for the babies without bringing something small for Grace – even a new box of crayons. Just in case someone didn’t think to do this (and, those who don’t yet have kids may not, which is not a criticism; they simply don’t have the same experience from which to draw), I always had some small, fun items stashed in a closet that I could pull out to ensure that Grace didn’t feel left out.
If someone is pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, what is the best way to introduce a new baby/babies to your singleton or multiples? How did you do it?
D: Our singleton, Claire, was 26 months when her twin brother and sister were born. I believe we handled it the same way most parents do when one baby is born. We talked about how great it is to be a big sister and what a big help Claire was to mommy and daddy. We also talked in terms of OUR babies – meaning daddy’s, mommy’s and Claire’s babies. My parents and brother were excellent about always hugging and showing attention to Claire before picking up the babies. We also made sure my husband and I each had one on one time with Claire.
J: When our youngest was born, the triplets were 18 month, and I think as he grew it was just the norm to him to have 3 siblings fairly close in age.. So really introducing a new baby to the multiples, in my opinion, was the same as it would have been if the trips were a singleton. In fact, the youngest Brian, for years, called himself the 4th triplet! As far as our oldest, when I delivered the triplets she was very excited, there really wasn’t any jealousy at all. She was 5 1/2 at the time and really was a huge help, holding one of the babies, or feeding them, anything she could do to help.
E: I’m sure that the best method for each family depends very much on that family. In our situation, we involved our daughter as much as possible all through the pregnancy. She was only 1 1/2, but she helped us to pick out pacifiers, burp cloths, bibs and clothing. By the time the babies were born, she considered them “her babies.” After the babies came home, we continued to involve her in their care as much as she wanted to be involved, and she was often voluntarily running for diapers, singing to them, or “reading” to them.
How do you handle comments from strangers that seem to focus on your multiples when you have all of your children with you?
D: Whenever anyone said how cute the twins were, we would say something to try to drawl the attention to Claire. You often get comments about how hard it must be to have two babies; I would respond it would be if I did not have such a great Big Sister to help me.
J: As I said earlier, I think it’s important to just remind people that you have other children as well, and point out their strengths, ie, Allison is a great swimmer, or Brian does really well in school, or Brian loves Spongebob. More often than not, the stranger will direct the attention right back to the triplets, where I will make a comment about the triplets, and then refer back to the other kids. To my husband and I, all the kids are important, and they know that. The triplets don’t think they are any more special than the others, I don’t even think they realize how unique triplets are, which is probably a good thing!
E: I quickly developed the “tunnel vision” approach. Making eye contact with anyone when you’re out and about with multiples seems an unspoken invitation to ask anything and everything a person’s wondering in that moment!. So I often simply focused on the task at hand. Most people aren’t brazen enough to flat-out physically stop you to ask you a question — certainly not an inappropriate question that could take you all day (and six diagrams) to answer. But when it did happen, I’d just say “We’re very blessed – lot of kids, but not a lot of time to shop before everyone loses it!” and then keep moving!
What advice do you have for parents in a similar situation?
D: We read the books about becoming a big sister before the babies were born. These books are about a single baby but the concepts still apply. We would just say how lucky we all were that we (as in my husband, Claire and I) were getting two babies. If you have one child then twins the older one knows no difference.
J:Follow your instincts. If you try to keep track of who is getting more attention, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Make sure to push the single kids into conversations. The fact is the multiples are special and people are more interested in them initially, not because they don’t care about the other kids but because it is something new and they are excited by it. Eventually the novelty wears off and you have a seventh-grader, three second-graders and a kindergartner as opposed to TRIPLETS!!. Explain to the non multiples why people seem so interested in their siblings and also that there will be times that sibling will be the center of attention, too.
E: Adopt an approach that you are comfortable with. If you want to chat with someone (or everyone) about your brood, do it! If you’re in a hurry, respectfully communicate that. No one can argue with your right to protect the feelings of your children!
If you have multiples and singleton(s) what advice can you offer to families thinking of, for lack of a better word, expanding?