People simply cannot stop themselves from offering parenting advice when they hear you are expecting your first baby. Expecting twins only increases the amount of helpful tips one receives, as you now get the typical parenting strategies that everyone gets, along with advice about how to manage multiple newborns at once. Much of this advice is hard to connect with until you are living it; however, my pediatrician offered a suggestion that proved to be invaluable for my family. She said the most meaningful gift that we could give our twins would be an individual bond with each caregiver and the best way to achieve that is through guardian-and-me time. She was conveying to us the importance of seeing and treating our twins as unique individuals. She went on to suggest that we intentionally plan one-on-one time with each baby. One-on-one time between a baby and a caregiver promotes the development of meaningful bonds and helps avoid viewing twins as a unit. It is through one-on-one time that we get to know each babies’ personality, strengths, sense of humor, and needs.
My partner and I did not employ this advice right away. In the beginning, bringing two newborns home was really just about survival; however, that passed soon enough. We fell into a routine and our new life as parents began to fall into place. I was a stay-at-home and my partner worked…before long we had one year olds twins. For the most part, I took care of our children during the week and the four of us spent time together on the weekends. This felt right until I realized that my son only relied on me for support. If he was very upset, I was the only person who could sooth him. My pediatrician reminded me of the importance of guardian-and-me time when I was expressing this concern to her at their one-year checkup.
The next weekend, my partner took my son on a train ride into the city and I took my daughter to the park. We learned so much that day. For starters, twins behave differently when they are not together. My son, who tends to let his sister lead the way, engaged more. Both of them listened much better and were so happy. They loved having our undivided attention and we loved not having to juggle so much at once. This was a win-win for all involved. It was also sweet to see that they think about the other when they were not together. My daughter and I were leaving a store once and the cashier offered her a piece of candy. She looked at the cashier and said, “I need two.” I was a little embarrassed in the moment. Later, when we arrived home, she pulled a piece of candy out of her pocket and gave it to her brother. She wasn’t being greedy; she didn’t want to leave him out.
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My partner and I agreed to commit to doing this twice a month, one week I spent time with our daughter and few weekends later I spent time with our son. It didn’t take long for these outings to increase the bond between my son and partner. My pediatrician explained, when a caregiver takes a child out into the world that child will look to the caregiver for security. The caregiver is home, their source of support. So trips on the train, to the park, staying home to bake cookies eventually lead to my partner being able to calm my son when he was upset, even if I was in the room.
It’s worth it
Life gets busy and it is not always easy to prioritize this time with each child, but it is worth it. It can be helpful to avoid thinking of guardian-and-me time as special. When it is viewed as special, we fall into the trap of thinking the time together needs to be something unique, or something out of our typical routine. While that can be fun at times, guardian and me time can also simply be a trip to the bank, a walk through the woods, or going to visit a friend. Of course, there is always room to make the most mundane task cool. You’re at the bank with a two-year-old, go for it, take the extra time to ask the teller for a $2.00 bill and watch the delight of your child.
About the author
Shari Crandall is TLC’s Westchester Associate and the mother of fraternal girl/boy twins. Shari coordinated trainings, speaking engagements, and reading groups to support parents as they transitioned into the world of multiples through her local multiples club. She is passionate about helping expecting parents anticipate all the ways their lives will change once their babies arrive and how to negotiate all the decisions that parents of multiples make before, or shortly after, the babies arrive (what gear, how much gear, to breastfeed or not, if and when to go back to work, etc.). She was as stay-at-home parent until her twins were 3, when she returned to work full-time. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our Westchester services.