The Styrofoam incident…

So last Sunday morning we were quite tired after having some friends over for an end of the year-party. But as anyone with children knows, sleeping in is not likely. So when I heard one of the boys waking up, admittedly only around 8.15, I was really not ready to get up yet. I gave him his milk and tried to convince him to sleep a bit more. But he wanted to play. So I turned on the lights and the heating and told him to enjoy himself with the toys in the living room. I would be 3 meters away, in bed, if he needed anything. He seemed all right with that.
I heard him play nicely with the Duplo and my mind quickly faded into sleep. Around half an hour later I suddenly realised it was too quiet. And too quiet is never a good sign.
I got up and found my son in the hallway, very happy and surrounded by something that looked like white snow. I rubbed my eyes, what was this? The snow got thicker and thicker towards the Christmas tree in the living room and there the whole floor was covered in white stuff.

Then I realised what had happened. He had taken one of the decoration gifts from the Christmas tree and opened it. And then he had taken the Styrofoam block inside and crumbled it into a thousand pieces. I did not know whether to cry or laugh.
I managed to get the next block out of his hands just in time to prevent an even bigger mess. Of course this is when our other son woke up and wanted to play with all this cool white stuff on the floor.

Lesson learned: even the most gallant toddlers can not be trusted. And another one: the sound of the vacuum cleaner is not what you want to hear first thing in the morning, before you’ve even had your morning tea.

 

Sleeping together -twins

One of the questions that is asked most amongst twin mothers is: do you let your twins sleep together?

For me it was clear even before they were born I wanted our boys to sleep in the same bed for a while. It was not only a romantic idea about twins having a special bond (and looking so beautiful together), but also inspired by practical reasons: I wanted them to be used to each other, especially to each other’s noises and sounds.
When our boys came early and had to stay in the hospital for many weeks, we expressed this wish to the neonatal staff and as soon as it was possible they were put together in the same warming bed. Not only was it a great sight to see them cuddling up together, it also comforted me a lot to know that even when I was not with them in the hospital, they were never alone but always had each other.

When they finally could come home with us we had a beautiful twin crib waiting for them. They slept in that for many months and my theory really worked; the boys were so used to each other’s sounds that they never woke each other up. Now don’t get me wrong here: they did wake up a lot, we did not sleep through the night or anything remotely related to that. But they did not wake each other, so when one had been fed and was sleeping happily and the other one was suddenly crying his heart out, he did not wake his brother.

From the twin crib they moved on to two baby beds. The first year they were put right next to each other, but then we moved them half a meter apart as the boys started partying together and deliberately waking each other.
Soon we will move them to bigger beds, but they will continue to share the same room. I like to think it makes them bond more.

And to this day my theory is still working out, when one of them wakes up in the night for whatever reason (bad dreams, not feeling well, in need of a cuddle, need to do a pipi etc.) the other one is not woken up by his crying.

Sleeping through the night

It still happens. Those nights that I hoped to be gone forever by now.

You fall asleep at 11 pm. Only to be awakened by one of your sons at midnight. He had a bad dream and keeps crying. By 3 am he is finally asleep. In your bed.
Meanwhile your other son has started crying. You try everything, cuddles, milk, music, stories, singing, but he is sooo upset. By 6 am he is exhausted and finally falls asleep. In your bed. Somewhere in between you managed to get your other son back in his own bed.
At 7 am the alarm goes. Another night has come and gone. Yihaa! You managed to get 2 whole hours of sleep!
Somewhere in your head you hear the voices of other parents. ‘Mine slept through the night when he was only 3 months.’ ‘Our kids never had any trouble sleeping.’ Right. Great for you. Not every child is the same, thank you.
The worst one is: ‘Just let them cry, they need to learn.’  What do they need to learn I wonder? That when they are sad, afraid or hurt, no-one comes to their aid?
Even half asleep and in my grumpiest mood I will do everything I can to make my boys feel safe.Till whatever age they need me.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. There is no specific age that children will always sleep through the night. Our boys are 2,5 years old and usually fall asleep without a problem. They can sleep for 10/11 hours but that does not mean they will not wake up in between. And with more than one child that often means that every night has something in store for you…

Parent hack: record your songs!

One of the things that helps to calm down our boys when they are crying, is singing to them. I actually love doing that and it was especially nice when the boys were babies.
But honestly, I did get fed up with singing the same songs so often. So one day I decided to record myself on my smartphone.  I recorded an audio file of nearly 5 minutes of different ‘things’ that happen on that bus. The cat on the bus says meow meow meow. The bird on the bus says tweet tweet tweet. The pizza on the bus is yummy yummy yummy… whatever I could think of.

And wow, what a life saver that recording was! After we put the boys to bed I would play the song outside their door. I could clean up while they thought I was still there. It also worked great when I was home alone, had one of the boys out of bed for a feeding and the other one felt lonely. Or when I was so exhausted I could not remember the words to the song anymore.
And in the car, when they needed entertainment, I would just put my phone in the back playing my song. So much easier than singing loud enough to be heard over the combined sound of the engine and the wheels going over the crappy Belgian roads.
It worked so well I made a few more recordings so I could vary the repertoire J (row row row your boat, twinkle twinkle little star…)

Now that the twins are a bit older they like to sing along and they actually ask me to play the songs sometimes, while they are busy drawing or making puzzles. And when they are in ‘a mood’ I get a loud ‘noooo, not that song’, because they want to decide.
But the recorded songs still work at bedtime, when they are completely exhausted but don’t really want to admit that. Listening to my voice ‘usually’ calms them down. (not always of course…)

© Carien Touwen 2017

‘When I don’t sleep, nobody sleeps’

Having twins meant that we had more than two years of bad nights full of interrupted sleep. The first months with new-borns are like that for everyone with a new baby, but when they started sleeping a bit better and did not need night feedings anymore we always had one baby keeping us up or waking us for something. We managed to deal with all problems that came up in this half asleep- half awake state and always fell asleep again as soon as the problem was solved.  We were tired but learned to live with this kind of sleeping, 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep was all that we could hope for. At least our boys slept till 8 in the morning, so we did not have the early mornings some parents have.

When our boys both finally slept through the night, we started getting used to 8 hours of interrupted sleep again. It was heavenly! But it was incredible how much more exhausted we were those first months that they slept well. It seemed our body suddenly realised we had been doing everything by the skin of our teeth.

So now we are used to this rhythm and finally feel a bit more human. This has a great disadvantage though. Because when one of them wakes up at night now, we are in serious trouble. When one of them cries, we hardly manage to get up. Our brain is so fast asleep it does not seem to know what to do anymore. Console him? Feed him? Sing a song? Hug him? Change his nappy? Put him in our bed? The amount of things one can do seem endless now, but in the middle of the night we suddenly are clueless. So by the time we’ve figured it out, we are totally awake and falling asleep is not easy anymore.

Last night we had a great episode of this. A two hour ‘I-don’t-want-to-sleep-and-we-all-have-to-suffer-tantrum’. The only one that slept between 4 and 6 a.m. was our other son, he has mastered ignoring his brother’s cries so well that I am envious. I am not sure how I managed to get the boys to school this morning, but I did. When I came home I accidentally looked in the mirror. It seems I have aged ten years overnight and got some brand new wrinkles. So I think it’s back to bed for me today…

© Carien Touwen 2017

Dreams-2

My weird dreams did not stop once the boys were born. To be honest, they got more intense. At least 3 times a week I would dream there was a baby in our bed, when there wasn’t. I would start to hug or stroke my pillow or blanket, thinking it was a baby. Or I would suddenly think that the pile of clothes on the floor (that I had thrown there before diving in to bed) was a baby that had fallen out of the bed- turning on all the lights to save him… My husband suffered the most, he had many rude awakenings because I would suddenly pull his pillow away from under his head, screaming at him because I thought he was sleeping on top of a baby.

Obviously these dreams never occurred on all the other nights, when we did have one or two boys in bed, in need of consolation or milk. You have to sleep to be able to dream, right? 😉

© Carien Touwen 2017