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4 Things Every Parent of Twins Needs to Survive

04/21/2015 04:15 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015
Rachel Toalson

I don't know if I've ever faced a harder challenge in my parenting years than raising twins.

Maybe it's because our twins came near the end of the line of boys and they see all their older brothers do, then expect that life will be exactly like that for them.

Except there are two of them.

Oh, you want to drink out of a big-boy cup because your older brother did it when he was 2? I'm sorry. There are two of you.

Oh, you want to sit free at the table instead of strapped into your chairs because all your brothers did it when they were almost 3? I'm sorry. There are two of you.

What? You want me to leave the baby gate on your door open because you haven't yet figured out how to climb over it? I'm sorry. In case you haven't noticed, THERE ARE TWO OF YOU.

Our twins are identical, two sides of the same egg. Nature's gift, doctors say. One is left-handed, one is right-handed. They complete each other.

That's part of the problem. What one doesn't think of, the other does. What one is afraid to do, the other will try. It's like having toddler wrecking balls walking around the house, scheming about what they can destroy next. I imagine their silent conversations go a little something like this:

Twin 1: "Hey. Hey, bro. Mama's not watching. Remember how she told us not to touch this computer? She'll never know. Where is she?"

Twin 2: "She's in the bathroom. Remember what we did last time she was in the bathroom?"

Twin 1: "Oh, man. That was fun. But this computer. She'll never know. I just can't figure out how to open it."

Twin 2: "Like this. But how do you turn it on?"

Twin 1: "Easy. I've seen Daddy press this button right here."

Twin 2: "There it is."

(Mama comes back into the room with the baby she just changed.)

Twin 1: "Close it, close it, close it!"

Twin 2: "Walk away. Not too fast, not too slow. Just enough to look like we weren't doing anything."

I love my twins. Of course I do. It's just that they were unexpected.

If I could have read a primer two years ago, this is what it might have said:

Every parent of twins needs...

1. An extra dose of patience.

You will need this for many things. You will need it for the stranger at the store who asks to see your amazing bundles of joy and, after looking at their angelic, sleeping faces, declares she "always wanted twins," and you want to say, "Oh, really? Then take mine," because one was up screaming at 3 a.m. and as soon as you got him calmed down two hours later, the other one woke up screaming, and as soon as you got that one calmed down an hour later, all the other boys were up asking for breakfast. Which woke up the twins, who were also hungry. Again.

You will need it for when they learn to talk and there are so.many.words and so.many.whys and so many demands for everything under the sun. You will need it for the potty-training and the big boy bed transitions and the constant fighting from dawn until dusk.

You will need it for the times you were helping one out of his pajamas and into his day clothes and you return back downstairs to find all the jackets removed from your poetry books and spread across the living room floor like a special carpet for toddler feet for the six thousandth time. (You should probably just put those books away, Mama. Far, far away.)

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"I'm an angel." That's what this face says. Keep this picture close. You'll need it for the times you wonder if he really is the devil.

2. Good decision-making skills.

These will come into play those times they both wake up at 3 a.m. because they're hungry. Which one do you feed first? (Answer: You'll figure out a way to feed both.)

You'll need these skills when one twin is in the downstairs bathroom playing with a plunger in a potty you specifically remember your older boy didn't flush five minutes ago when he stunk it up and the other is in his bathroom upstairs finger painting the mirror with a whole tube of eco-friendly toothpaste. Which do you get first? (Answer: The toilet one. Toothpaste is much easier to clean than the mess an overzealous plunger can make.)

You'll need them when the one who's known for wandering does exactly that, moves from his nap time place while you take a minute or five for a shower (because it's been four days since the last one) and you walk out to find him playing with the computer he's been told 50 billion times to leave alone and, in his panic to close it, he deletes the 1,500 words you wrote this morning before kids got up. What do you do? (Answer: Cry. And then start all over.)

3. A rigorous workout regime.

When one is running down the street because someone forgot to lock the deadbolt he can't reach and another is going out back without shoes in 26-degree rain, you'll want to be in shape for that. I recommend interval training. That way when they stop and change directions, you'll be ready. You've done this a thousand times. Ski jumps. Football runs. All-out sprints.

When they slip, unnoticed (because they're like ninjas), into the playroom while you're wiping down the table after a ridiculously messy lunch, and both of them come out with their scooters, you'll want to be able to wrestle those "cooters" from screaming, flailing bodies without hurting anyone.

And when one collapses in the middle of the park because it's time to go and he's not ready yet and the other thinks that just might work, you'll need strong arms to carry 32 pounds of kicking and screaming twins back to the car, one tucked under each armpit.

4. Containment measures.

This would be things like strollers until they're 3 and booster seats until they're 4 and a baby gate on their door until they're... 15. Well, maybe 13.

It also means leashes at the city zoo on a packed day, even though you said you'd never use them and you can feel the disapproval of other people and you want to say, "Come talk to me when you have 2-year-old twins. These things have saved their lives 17 billion times, and that was before we even got out of the parking lot."

Containment saves lives. And sanity.

Twins are great. And hard. And maddening. And great. And so hard.

They can disassemble an 8-year-old's room of LEGO Star Wars ships in 3.1 seconds. They can disassemble a heart with one identical smile and a valiant try at saying "Uptown Funk You Up" that sounds like it should have come with a bleep.

There's just nothing like them in the world. You'll be so glad you get to be their mama.

Especially after they fall asleep.

A version of this essay originally appeared on Crash Test Parents. Find Rachel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.