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Hands Full, In Hindsight

May 21, 2014

I wrote this eight years ago when in the throes of toddler-dom. In re-reading it now, I’m reminded of how, to paraphrase Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, the minutes pass by slowly, but the years quickly. These moments may not always be “enjoyable” exactly, but they’re what make up the years of our lives — and ultimately, the memories we cherish.

“You’ve got your hands full,” I often hear people say after I tell them the ages of my three children — twins girls, 3 ½,  and a son, 5 ½. I usually dismiss the cliched phrase with thoughts of “You think I’m busy…”

I may have three small children, but I’m a wimp compared to those super-moms who manage to keep track of their three or four kids’ various after-school activities, sit with them during homework, schedule playdates, go on exotic family vacations and find time for a weekly date with their husband. Not to mention fulfill those classroom duties jokingly labeled “volunteer,” like sitting at the crafts table while one in every four child pours an entire bottle of glue onto a thin piece of construction paper and inevitably adds a mountain of glitter. These moms remember to pack lunches every day, apply sunscreen to their kids’ scrunchy faces and send in the proper forms on the appropriate days. They even do it while in a seemingly good mood. Oh, and did I mention they work full-time?

No, I can barely manage to take my kids to Starbucks. Take earlier today, for instance. I had made a morning vet appointment for our dog, who had a suspicious-looking growth on her face, knowing that I had a sitter scheduled to take care of the girls while their brother was in preschool. When the sitter cancelled, I vowed to take along the twins. I can do this, I thought. OK, I admit I almost backed out and considered putting them with a neighbor’s sitter, but then I would have felt like an extreme wimp, not just a mere wimp. So, even though bringing them along also meant that I would have to lift our 70-pound, arthritis-ridden yellow lab into the back of the SUV since the girls were in the middle seat, I didn’t back down. The twins’ only requirements? One brought her bunny, the other her book.

The nice thing about low expectations is that when things turn out not to be a disaster, that means they went really well. The vet visit was a case in point. There was no one else in the waiting room when we got there, crayons and Twizzlers magically materialized for the girls, and everyone was happily occupied. When we went back to see the vet, the girls were quiet for, oh, about three minutes. Then one started some hybrid mix of chattering-singing, sort of like chanting, that unnerved me a bit while I was talking to the vet. But it did speed things up and we were done in ten minutes. It turned out the dog was going to stay there for the afternoon to have the benign bump removed, so I thought, hey, we’re already out; I’ll take the girls to lunch.

I needed to buy some coffee and there was a Starbucks across the street. The minute we walked in, the girls eyed the tables and chairs and announced they wanted to have lunch there. Perfect, I thought. We’ll grab a quick sandwich and head home.

One wanted tuna salad and the other chicken salad. I let them get chocolate milk if they promised to wait to drink it. We sat down, and the taller one immediately looked at her sandwich, pointed to her sister’s, and said, “I want what she’s got.” Not missing a beat, I took the other half of her sister’s sandwich and put it on the plate.

“Hey! That’s mine!” the smaller one yelled.

“No, I purposely got enough for two of you,” I said forcefully.

“OK,” she said, momentarily compliant.

Ah, the happy silence of eating. A full 45 seconds passed before I started hearing cries of “Done! I’m ready for my milk now!” The smaller one quickly hopped off her chair.

“No, you’re not done. Sit down.”

“I’m thirsty!”

“OK, one more bite then you can open your milk.”


“One more bite or no snack this afternoon.”


Sigh. I looked around. Only one other couple was in the shop, and they were in intimate conversation.

“OK, but don’t drink it all.” I handed over the milk.

“OK, mama.” That sweet little voice again.

Another 20 seconds of silence. Then I made the mistake of thinking we were actually having a civilized time. “Look,” I said, trying to get them to eat more. “Bunny wants some sandwich.” I made munching sounds and moved bunny’s head. The taller one started laughing.

“Mommy, I wuv you!” She climbed off her chair, lunged forward to hug me, and spilled my coffee in a move so efficient I couldn’t have copied it if I tried. My sandwich ruined, I instructed her, for what felt like the hundredth time, “PLEASE stay in your seat while we’re eating.” She turned and hustled back to her chair.

Another 30 seconds passed. They were only drinking chocolate milk now, having completely abandoned their sandwiches. The smaller one, who’d already kicked off her shoes, announced, “My feet are hot.” Suddenly the socks were on the table.

I’m the one who’s done now, I thought, grabbing the socks and throwing them in the Starbucks bag.

My phone rang. It was a call I had to take, but I couldn’t hear because of the music playing, so I stood up and walked a few feet away from the speaker. Like mosquitoes, the girls followed me to the corner.

“Get back to the table. No, not you — sorry, I’m with my kids at Starbucks and I can’t hear very well. OK… Talk to you later.”

I looked with disgust at my daughter’s bare feet in the middle of the coffee shop. Heavy sigh.

“Please put your shoes on. We’re leaving.”

I wrestled her shoes back on her feet — forget the socks — and threw away the trash. As I headed for the door, the other one announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. Naturally.

We all went together into the restroom where both used the bathroom again (they’d already gone once at the vet), everyone washed their hands — “by themselves,” they insisted — and I opened the door, just trying to propel myself forward. Then I remembered that I also wanted to buy a thermos for my husband, so I quickly grabbed one and paid for it while periodically shouting various phrases over my shoulder: “Put that down! Don’t touch anything — ever! — in this store! This is a nice store! We are in a public place and you don’t touch things! That’s breakable! Put that down! Please don’t play with that!”

Turning to leave, I noticed a new arrival in the corner, a neatly-dressed 50-ish looking woman who had been observing the scene. She smiled as I reached the door, my mosquitoes buzzing behind me.

“You really have your hands full.”

I smiled back weakly, pushing on the door.

“Yes, I do.”

Fasten your seat belts: Life with twin toddlers

Put on your crash helmet — good advice for life with twin toddlers


One Comment
  1. Jake Tarr permalink


    Liked by 1 person

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