8 things that happen when you have Irish twins

I know that the term Irish twins is not exactly the most PC term in the world but as I’m half Irish myself and have daughters just 11 months apart I’ve decided to ‘own it’ and use it anyway. It was my youngest’s birthday two days ago and the other half and I are now, for the next four weeks, parent’s to two two-year-olds! So I thought I should do a post about the things that happen when you have Irish twins:

1. You will be asked if they are twins. A lot. I get this all the time. People often stare at the girls for a while and you can see them trying to work it out before they even ask you. even though I’m usually sure by that stage that they know they are not, but just want to check anyway. At this time of year, when they are the same age, the ensuing conversation usually goes something like this:

Random person: “Are the girls twins?”

Me: “No, just sisters.”

Random person: “Oh, how old are they?”

Me: “They’re both two.”

Random person: “Oh. What’s their age gap?”

Me: “11 months.”

Random person: “Oh.”

2. People will judge you. This usually follows the conversation above. I’ve talked on this blog before about most new people I meet not realising that I am gay if it’s just me and the girls. So after asking if they are twins and me telling them that they are 11 months apart I usually get a ‘look’.

I’ve even had one mum (and it’s always the mums) say to me “oh, your poor wife”, as if this imaginary person would have had no choice in the matter! Although I think it’s probably worse if you are a woman as I imagine you’d probably be asked all sorts of personal questions that I wouldn’t.

3. It’s really hard sometimes not to treat them as if they are twins. Maybe it’s because of our situation – we got the girls only four weeks apart, with the youngest actually coming first (long story, which one day I’ll write about), so we’ve kind of always had the two of them. Sometimes I find myself treating the girls the same to make life easier and have to remind myself that they are different ages. It’s made harder by the fact that the youngest always wants to do what the eldest does. We have managed to do the big milestones separately though e.g. moving to a big bed and potty training.

4. Your youngest will probably appear quite advanced early on. People are often astounded when I tell them how old my youngest is. Her speech and sentence formation is often more developed than children quite a bit older than her. As my eldest learns new words or phrases my youngest usually picks them up within a few weeks.

5. Your children will probably be close. The girls, even though they had never really met until we adopted them, have such a lovely bond. Yes, they can fight like cats and dogs at times but other times they are so adorable together it brings a tear to my eyes. When my youngest started at nursery she was in the baby room but left to join the bigger kids after just three weeks because she spent the whole time wanting to be where big sister was.

6. Getting out and about can be hard. We have a double-buggy, which was fine for a while when the youngest wasn’t walking. Then we added a buggy-board for the eldest, which was fine too and meant the youngest could move to the front of the push-chair which kept her happy. Now my youngest is no longer happy sitting in the seat and wants to be on the buggy board. However, my eldest still struggles with walking any great distances. Either that or they both want to walk and I end up pushing a double-buggy whilst trying to herd two toddlers, capable of running at different speeds, along the street. Not easy.

7. You can re-use a lot of things. As one child stops using/playing with something the other is pretty much ready to start using/playing with it straight away. In our case, with 11 months apart, and the fact we have two girls the seasons even match; so something my eldest wears one summer my youngest can usually wear the following year. Yay for saving some money, because…

8. You’ll need two of all the expensive stuff. Just like with twins there is no escaping the fact that you’ll need two of pretty much all of the big stuff like cots/cot-beds, car-seats, high-chairs, travel cots. The oldest won’t have finished using these things before the youngest requires them and that can make things pretty expensive.

Why I’m forcing myself to become an early riser

I have never been a morning person. I’ve always felt like I should be getting up earlier but have never been able to achieve it. The result of this conflict is that I usually set my weekday alarm clock on my iPhone for 6am and then snooze until at least 7am. Sometimes 7.20 if its my partners turn to get the girls up. So snoozing every 9 minutes for an hour and 20 minutes. Crazy right?

In a bid to claw-back some time for myself to do things that I never have the energy to do by the end of the day, such as blogging – which I’ve been seriously bad at since starting this blog; progress with my novel – which still stands at around 6,000 words; exercise (I don’t even want to think about what I weigh) and practice meditation (I’m a recent convert and loving it) I’ve been trying out some of the tips on rising early in Leo Babauta’s brilliant blog Zen Habits.

So I’m currently on day four of waking up at 6am, which has been hard. Especially considering it has included New Years Day (gosh I remember the days I’d only be rolling in at 6am on New Years Day, not waking up!). I’ve had to leave my phone on the other side of the room and really battle with myself and resist the urge to crawl back into bed once I’ve scrambled across the room to turn it off. But oh has it been worth the effort. The amount I’ve done in these four days has been amazing. I’ve meditated every morning, written two blog posts, 500 words of my novel and done a new finance plan so that I can better manage my money in 2016. The only thing I haven’t done yet is exercise but I’m about to go for a run so that’ll be taken care of too.

By the time the girls and my partner wake up I already feel like I’ve achieved something and this puts me in a positive mood to tackle the rest of the day, free from the nagging thoughts of things I should have done or should be doing. This means that I can spend more quality time with my partner and the girls. If you’re struggling with time to do the things you want to do, I’d recommend trying getting up earlier too.

The next hurdle is pushing it back to 5.30am, as once I’m back at work I’ll need at least half hour to get myself showered and dressed before the girls wake at 7am, and I want a whole uninterrupted, blissful and peaceful hour to myself. I won’t even attempt this for about three weeks though. I’ve read it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so I’ve got to nail 6am first. I’ll let you know how I am getting on in a few weeks time.

Image ‘Sunrise Over Cape Yamu Phuket Thailand Panorama’ by Kim Seng

12 reflections of parenthood

In the spirit of being at the very end of the final month of the year and looking to the year ahead, I thought I’d look back on my first full year as a father with my twelve reflections of parenthood. So here they are…

1.  It’s been an amazing. It’s important to get this one in first because it best sums up my year. The girls have enriched my life beyond measure and brought me countless moments of joy. I’ve laughed and cried (tears of happiness) at things I never thought I would; such as as hearing “I need a cuddle daddy”; or when watching them try and experience something new for the first time. Parenthood is wonderful!

2. I cannot imagine life without my children. I’ve only been a parent for fourteen months but I cannot imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have the girls. Having children has caused my world to grow immensely and i’ve tried and experienced lots of new things that were just not on my radar, as a result of having them.

3. It’s hard work. As amazing as my girls are, parenthood is hard. Bloody hard in fact. There are times when I’ve wondered what the hell I’ve gotten into, feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing and that I am merely muddling my way through. At times like these it’s been great to talk to other parent’s, to hear that I’m not the only one and that we’re all just trying to do the best we can, for our children.

4. Being a stay-at-home-dad was not for me. I’ve only fully realised this now that I am back at work but being a stay-at-home parent was tough. It’s not something I’d ever change – I’m eternally grateful for the time I got to spend bonding with the girls, getting to know them, having fun with them and providing them (hopefully) with a nurturing and stable environment. However, by the end I felt like I struggled being at home all day. Work by comparison seems surprisingly easier now that I’ve returned. Maybe it’s because I cannot invest as much of myself and I’ve now got the balance right. The girls are thriving at nursery and I still get to have my ‘fabulous Friday’s’ with just them and me.

5. The tiredness does get better. Suddenly having two small people to look after – to feed, bathe, nurture and play with; coupled with reduced sleep meant that exhaustion levels at the beginning were high. However, I’m pleased to reflect that it does get better. Well either that or you just get used to it. I’m writing this post at 6.30am, having decided that this time is one of the few moments in the day when I can have some quiet time to myself. I, someone who would normally stay in bed until the latest possible time each day, have chosen to rise early. I couldn’t have imagined doing so 9 months ago as I’d have been too wiped out.

6. Your instincts count. There are so many books, guides and websites out there with conflicting information about how to do this, that and the other. The advice seems to change from week to week but you are a sensible person and you know you’re child best. So sometimes you just need to listen to your instincts. The decision to take my youngest to A&E, despite two visits to the GP in the previous two days both resulting in no diagnosis or prescription, was vindicated when it was confirmed that she had a bad chest infection and a raised heart-rate. Sometimes you just know.

7. Your children do not sound as loud in a restaurant as you might think. I’ve spent many occasions over the last year sat in restaurants cringing and thinking that my children have been causing my fellow diners to be put off their meals. In fairness this probably did happen on at least a few occasions, one memorable one being as my youngest projectile vomited across the floor. In most cases though it probably wasn’t as loud or disturbing as I thought. Not once have we had any evil stares, or tut-tuts from other diners. Please don’t be put off going to restaurants out of fear of your child having a melt-down. It happens and most people are reasonable. I’ve heard lots of people over the last year say “oh we never really go to restaurants”, which I think is sad.

8. My partner and I have very different parenting styles. And actually that’s okay. During the adoption process we talked at length about our parenting styles and how we would unite and align to be a consistent presence in our children’s lives. We talked about our parenting styles and truly believed that we would be similar in our approach. Then reality hit us like a ton of bricks, we felt like we were treading water and a kind of fight-or-flight reaction kicked in meaning that all of the ‘theory’ went out of the window and we suddenly realise that we do things very differently to how we expected. I thought I would be the softy but am totally the disciplinarian. The girls only have to pout and my partner gives in. We’ve even resorted to telling the girls that he has gone to the gym every evening (ha ha) after they have gone down to sleep, as they like to play up to get his attention (which he gives into), which they don’t do for me.

9. Being gay parents is still a novelty. We live in London and probably have a much different experience to people living in say the Outer Hebrides but we have still had some strange reactions. Most recently was our visit to Father Christmas with the girls. On entering the Grotto my partner and I, each with one of the girls in our arms, were asked “are you together?” We said yes. He then proceeded to ask my partner and youngest where they lived and he told them the street name. He then turned to me and asked the same question. I looked at him baffled and said the same street name and he said. “Oh you live on the same street?” “Yes, Father Christmas we all live together, we are a family”, I said. He turned as red as his suit as he realised his mistake. Nothing malicious in it at all, just a lack of awareness I suppose.

10. I now cry at the silliest of things. I’ve had many ‘oh my contact lenses are irritating me’ moments as I have blubbed while watching the say or do something. Watching my girls say ‘cheers’ with the milk cups in the morning sets me off, as does seeing them holding hands in the back of the car. Seeing my eldest sing Christmas songs at her nursery show had me in floods.

11. My home will never be as tidy as I’d like. Being a parent has made me realise how much I really do love having a tidy and ordered home. We currently have toys everywhere. Piles of washed but as yet unfolded clothes dominate our bedroom. Paperwork clutters the kitchen worktops. There are finger-prints, smudges, crayon marks and unidentified sticky substances on surfaces where there shouldn’t be across the house. I am slowly coming to realise that the magazine shoot ready home I’d love to have is just not going to happen with two little ones. And I’m okay with that. Sort of.

12. Cherish every moment. This is the advice we’ve been given by lots of parents with older children. As adoptive parents we’ve been very lucky to experience and enjoy some of the key early moments with our children, as we adopted them relatively young. But whether you’ve had your children from day one or year five, cherish every moment as they grow so quickly. The past year has seen the girls grow and develop from baby/toddler into little girls each with their own distinct personalities and character. This time next year I’ll be looking at primary school places for my eldest. It goes so quickly. Cherish every moment.