Navigating The Twin Toddler Years

Dad-of-three Rodney Farry reveals how he navigating the toddler years with his twins.

Ah, the toddler years. Made all the more fun by having twin toddlers and a five-year-old.

Picture the scene: We are on a day out at Glendalough, one of the most picturesque and popular visitor destinations in the country. It's early June and the weather is glorious; the sky is blue and the temperature is hovering in the early 20s, perfect for a family with Celtic long as we have on some Factor 30.

There are a lot of day-trippers around but the atmosphere is almost serene. People are in relaxation mode; going for walks, having picnics on the grass and paddling in the lake.

We are having a lovely afternoon, the type of afternoon that you know will be lodged in your parental memory bank for years to come. The children - our daughter who is five and our two-year-old twin boys – are enjoying themselves and have managed to go a couple of hours without fighting, which is quite a feat when it comes to the lads.

I start to wonder if the clean Wicklow air and all-round good vibes in Glendalough are having a positive impact on their temperaments.

Rather than tearing strips off each other, which is one of their favourite pursuits, they are pushing their double buggy together in a rare act of fraternal cooperation.

Just as I start to wonder if they are turning a corner, I am jolted back to reality by the sight of them going for each other with a ferocity not seen in Glendalough since the Vikings plundered the place in the 9th century.

My wife and I quickly separate them and try and calm things down with hugs and soothing words but they are having none of it. We try to distract them with the offer of paddling in the lake and then (don't tell anyone) by attempting to bribe them with ice cream, but they are in full meltdown mode. From zero to 100 in seconds, simultaneously.

All of our efforts to get them settled are failing miserably, in fact, they appear to be getting them more riled.

With what I perceive is every person in the place watching and judging us, we each pick up one of our seemingly possessed twins and make for the car park with their older sister at the rear pushing the buggy.

The meltdown continues the whole way to car, the longest ten-minute walk in the history of ten-minute walks. It finally comes to an end when we all cool down with ice cream.

In our defence, we honestly weren't rewarding their behaviour by buying them a treat. It was actually very warm and we all needed to take our minds off the trauma of the previous 20 minutes.

Navigating The Twin Toddler Years
It has been fascinating and fun watching their personalities develop as they begin to navigate their way through the world.

If you have a toddler, there is a good chance you can relate to the above story. These years can be difficult when you have one child, but when you have twins the challenges you encounter sometimes are on another level. I can only imagine the tales that the parents of triplets and other multiples have in their war chest.

To be fair to our boys, as they approach their third birthday, incidents such as the one last summer in Wicklow are becoming less frequent, thankfully.

They still have their moments but as their speech improves they are happening less often as they can articulate what is wrong.

Despite the many challenges that our twins have thrown at us, sometimes literally, over the last two years, it has been fascinating and fun watching their personalities develop as they begin to navigate their way through the world.

The tandem tantrums are hard to handle but here are a few things that helped us get through the last few years relatively unscathed. Whether you have one or ten little people in your house, they should come in handy.

How to navigate the twin toddler years.

  1. Take a deep breath.

    Sometimes, for everyone's sake, you have to take a moment for a few deep breaths. If your children are in tantrum mode, you won't defuse the situation if your stress levels are through the roof.

  2. Separate them.

    One and two are sometimes interchangeable depending on what is happening. If your twins are engaged in what looks like a fight to the death, you have little choice but to intervene immediately. If there are two adults there, you each take one and try and calm them down, but if you are on your own, you try and work out who is the most distressed and sort them out first.

  3. Try and figure out what the tantrum triggers are.

    With our boys, hunger, tiredness and a sometimes quite incredible desire to have what their twin has, are the three main causes of their meltdowns.
    We are fairly diligent when it comes to maintaining routine as it makes the day run smoother, but sometimes life gets in the way and you get distracted.

  4. Be prepared.

    We try to always have a stash of healthy(ish) snacks with us when we go anywhere because hunger is probably their most common tantrum trigger.
    In order to prevent them from fighting over possessions, when people ask what to get them for their birthday or Christmas, I just say get them the exact same thing. The more things you can do to eliminate potential flashpoints the better.

  5. Don't be too hard on yourselves.

    We can be as diligent as possible and attempt to do all the right things, but tantrums are a normal part of a child's development. If you have two toddlers then the chances are you will have at least twice as many meltdowns to contend with during these very special, but also at times quite trying years.

Do you have any tips for managing the twin toddler years?

Rodney Farry

Rodney is a proud dad of three children and one angel. A twin who has twins, his family is proof that multiples don't always skip a generation!

Read more by Rodney
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