When we found out we were having twins, two things came to mind, makes sense right?
First, how in the world would we fit three car seats into our small SUV? Would we need to transition to- cue the collective shudder- a minivan?
Second, and if not more important then at least less vain, how would we prepare our firstborn, our two-year-old daughter for the impending arrival of not one but two newborns?
Right away, I went to work in search of the answer to my pressing worry. I will not say I read a dozen books because who am I kidding, that first trimester of twin pregnancy slayed me. I was a sailor at sea and my cozy bed, a merciless siren. So, I did the next best thing. I read Amazon reviews of the books I would have otherwise read and stalked Mommy forums. I suppose it follows then, that I didn’t really have a plan in place. But, lucky for you, I’m now on the other end of this story with a semi-well adjusted preschooler and almost one-year-old twins. So here’s what I learned, so you don’t have to read the books either. I’ll try to make it brief because I know the siren’s call is strong.
Keep life as stable as possible. Your firstborn is about to have her world rocked. She will be sharing her parents with not one, but two, crying, always hungry, and let’s be honest from a toddler’s perspective, pretty boring (for the first couple of months at least) newborns. So, as much as it is under your control, try and keep the rest of her world safe and entirely predictable. If there is one thing toddlers and preschoolers thrive on, it is routine.
If changes to your kid’s routine are absolutely necessary, avoid making the changes too close to your anticipated due date. For example, if you’re considering having your child start preschool, get her enrolled months before your twins arrive or months after, the key being to avoid transitioning your kid near your anticipated due date. You don’t want your preschooler to associate the arrival of her siblings with being sent off to preschool or any other significant change.
Let your child move at her own pace. You may be tempted to push your kid to become as independent as possible before the twins arrive, but consider letting her pace lead the way. Don’t stress and definitely do not force a milestone. Not only will you be less stressed, but your kid will appreciate the attention you give her later when she is ready of her own accord to transition into the big kid bed/ diaper-free living/ or whatever that milestone might be. Rest assured, milestones will be met. It’s just a matter of choosing your battles.
For us, letting our daughter move at her own pace meant delaying potty-training. She wasn’t too interested, and on an entirely selfish level, I could hardly picture myself being able to race with her to any bathroom whilst pregnant with twins when at best all I had in me was a haphazard waddle. A couple months after the boys were born she was potty trained. It didn’t happen without effort on our part, but a Disney princess underwear was key in sealing the deal.
Give your child special one-on-one time. Family and friends will offer to help when the babies arrive, and if you’re lucky even before while you’re pregnant. I found I always got offers to help after I shared pregnancy pics on my social media. I suspect it was my ever-widening circumference that lured my helpers in, no doubt they had visions of me sauntering about and felt a tug at their heartstrings. By all means, say yes; now is not the time to let independence or a sense of pride get in the way of accepting well-meaning offers of help. Take advantage of this help to catch up on some sleep of course, but also to spend individual time with your older child. The beauty of preschoolers is that it doesn’t take much to entertain and delight them: read a book together, build a fort (or better yet, choose a puzzle), give them finger paints and have them paint your belly – whatever makes them happy. I will be forever grateful for family and friends who stepped in to feed us, clean our home, and even walk our dog in the final months of pregnancy and early months of life as a family of five. Their willingness to step in allowed me the time to rest and be a more alert and present mother to my preschooler. So, as many changes as were happening in her world – she knew her Mommy was available to her.
Adjusting to life with two newborns is a challenge, but your preschooler will thrive if you maintain a stable environment with predictable routines, avoid pushing her to meet specific milestones and just let her move at her own pace during this time of uncertainty, and most importantly, spend some one on one time with her. Just hop into the minivan and go for froyo when you can. Yes, the minivan. Automatic doors are everything.