Name, Age: Troy, 36
Age(s) of Child: Fraternal twin girls (2 years, 4 months)
How did you prepare for having twins?
My wife and I read a lot of books and blogs on how to prepare for having multiples. We did not read the same material but would discuss the main points we learned with each other. From those discussions, we would come to an agreement on the topics and create “our” approach to preparation, development, and general parenting. It really has been a collaborative effort.
How has your experience as a father changed your outlook on child development?
I always had this vague image of how I wanted fatherhood to be, where I thought the answers would be easy and the response from my children was never contradictory. Logically I knew that is not how it really is, but why would I want to dwell on the challenging moments? I very quickly learned that my children are individual people and will react very differently in the same situations, and almost never in a way that I expected. I have had to learn to adjust my expectations of them and their individual developmental growth patterns.
Each is progressing at their own rate and in completely different ways. One loves to talk and mimic every word that comes out of your mouth. The other has very little interest in speaking to you but wants to experience everything around her. She will touch, taste, climb, kick, and throw anything that is not nailed down, plus a few that are. I try to tailor my interactions with each child to what I think they respond to best.
With Zelda, who loves to talk, I can ask questions or tell her what something is verbally and she starts to pick up on those new items. Just from talking about it or pointing it out to her, she very quickly starts to include in day-to-day play. In the mornings when we get them out of bed, I always give a bright “Good Morning!” and just the other day she started saying that to everyone in our house, including the dog and cat when she gets up.
For Aeris, our child that wants to do it all, I try to sit with her and show her how things work in addition to speaking. We got them a play doctor kit for their second birthday. Neither one was particularly excited about it when we first opened it up, but after I put on the toy stethoscope and used it to check Aeris’ heartbeat, she got the general idea of what it did. She started to use it all the time and will check my heartbeat, the stuffed animals’ heartbeat, and even the couch and chairs’ heartbeats.
This method has not been 100% perfect. How they respond depends on a combination of many other things, generally how tired they are or if they are hungry, but I think it has worked out pretty well so far. I have learned that I need to be the flexible one in their development to give them the best opportunity to understand and learn. And if I get really stumped, I usually end up on Google looking for new ideas.
How do you help with your child’s development? Are there any specific activities you do?
For all of the activities and skills the girls learn, we try to gradually build in self-sufficiency, having them take on more of the task themselves after introduction. During bath time, they were very interested in the soap and making bubbles. After a while, we showed them that they can scrub their own hair and it creates more bubbles. Then, we asked them to scrub their knees and toes, then their bellies and arms. Eventually they knew how completely clean themselves, actually had fun doing it, and best of all, they wanted to do it without any help.
We took the same approach to cleaning up toys but made it like a game. We would ask them if they knew where a certain toy belonged and if they could show us how to put it away. Initially, it was just prompting but eventually, they wanted to tidy up themselves and would show us how to do it. This eventually bled into mimicking the house chores, social manners, and our morning/evening routines.
We extend this to going to new places or doing new things. Slowly we introduce small skills they can complete and praise them when they are successful. As they show comfort with it or more curiosity, we give them more to do in those bite-sized pieces. So instead of us telling them what’s what, they lead themselves and we help along the way.
Since the holiday season is approaching, how are you preparing your toddlers?
Growing up in a large family means every holiday or special event is a wild ride of noise, laughter, and confusion. There are always so many people together that even as an adult, it can become sensory overload very quickly. Multiple televisions going at full blast in adjacent rooms, all conversations turning into shouts of pure excitement, and cousins, nieces, and nephews of all ages running through the space playing.
Before kids, I thought it was hectic enough to just get myself there to participate and bring everything that was required. Now with two toddlers, the required planning even before we leave for the holidays has increased exponentially. There is the laundry list of kid accessories that we need to remember to pack, plus all their clothing and snacks for the trip. Even if we manage to successfully navigate the pre-trip planning, every day on the trip needs to be planned out or managed around the girls’ schedule. Our timing of when we show up to or leave holiday events mostly revolves around the girls’ sleep schedule, much to the dismay of all the aunties who want to hold them. Being off schedule and in a new environment can certainly make it more difficult to predict their mood or keep them from having meltdowns, so we try to anticipate and be as proactive as possible.
What do you enjoy most as a father?
There are a few things that I really enjoy; the first two usually end up occurring together. First, the physical play of rough housing, wrestling, and swinging the girls around, which then brings on the laughter and giggles is just a fantastic feeling. I also enjoy watching their excitement during moments of discovery, like seeing all the creatures at the aquarium for the first time or showing them that you can write on almost anything with chalk.
Regardless of them being big or small discoveries, it does surprise me how they choose to incorporate those memories or skills into their lives. We have been letting the girls assist in cooking meals. They get to measure out ingredients, pour them in the bowls, and do some of the mixing. We tell them the names of the ingredients and let them feel and taste them too. Shortly after we started this, Zelda told us she needed to go shopping to get mushrooms and garlic for their play kitchen, even though she’s never actually been to the grocery store before. It’s so surprising and entertaining when things like that pop up unexpectedly.
What is your advice for fellow/future dads?
Don’t let your preconceived ideas of what being a dad should look like ruin what is happening right now. There will be plenty of things that happen pretty close to how you think it will, but there is a lot that will never go the way you thought it would. Just roll with how your kids are and how they develop. Adjust your message to them so that they respond well and continue to grow.