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Family Ties. Family Tugs.

I will carry to my grave the deep and terrible guilt that I did not bond with my twins the way I did with their big sister.

Having more than one child means someone must wait. It means that everyone must share. 

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Waiting teaches them the Earth does not revolve around them. Sharing prepares them for making friends and living richly in their communities.

But having more than one child at the same time means children must wait  for - and share - the most elemental baby needs: food, clean diapers, touch, time. It's hard for me to imagine how that helps any child. And yet, it is the brutal reality of raising multiples. 

I could not linger long over my nursing baby because the other was waiting to eat.  I couldn't let one fall asleep on my chest and watch for hours the gentle rise and fall of their tiny bodies as they napped. I couldn't bring them into the bed in the morning to snooze and play and nuzzle. I couldn't carry them together in the sling as I did in my belly.

A year ago today, we welcomed Tobias and I fell in love all over again with the luxury of doting on one. I lingered. I watched. I nuzzled. I held. 

Plenty of people - some of them twins themselves - have tried to ease my guilt. Desmond and Josephine share an unparalleled bond, they say.  I watch the two talk, play and comfort each other and think that perhaps these folks are right. Their friendship is unusual, deep and beautiful. 

And then I realize that Tobias and Esme do a fair amount of waiting and sharing  too. 

This morning I ignored the alarm and overslept. I jumped into a pair of jeans, smoothed my bed head, and ran out of the house to get gas, buy milk and grab a coffee before returning to take Esme to her second day of kindergarten.

I found her hiding beneath the bed covers, refusing to come out, when I returned. Just yesterday she was alive with stories from her first day.  The girl who never told a story from preschool couldn't stop telling them from the moment we met her at the bus stop. 

"I love my new school Mama," she said. "I like it more than preschool."

But someone thought wise (WHY?! OH WHY?!) to warn the kids there would be a fire drill today and now my child was a crumpled, teary mess of fear and anxiety. I managed to get her into her uniform with hugs and comforting words then send her off to brush her teeth before I realized something. HUGE!

I turned around and looked at my beautiful monkey happily stuffing his mug with cereal, pineapple and watermelon on his first birthday! HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY! Which so far I failed to acknowledge because so far I failed to remember. 


I grabbed his face and tickled his neck and sang "Happy Birthday." And the other children joined the lovefest and his Papa came to look. And Tobias giggled and smiled and lapped up the adoration. 

I then drove my tearful, fearful oldest child to school where I left her standing in a sea of kindergarten students, waiting to walk to her classroom with her teacher. Kent needed to leave early for work so I couldn't stand with her until the bell rang. 

There are images from my life that I can't shake: 

-Balloons and cake on a card table in the family room with a small group of my friends at a surprise party my mother arranged on my 16th birthday. It was so sweet and so innocent and so not at all like the parties my friends and I went to. I'll never forget my mother's excitement and my friends' embarrassment. 

-A Norstrom's bag filled with my brother's tennis shoes and clean clothes. My parents carried it to the emergency room where my brother was admitted after a catastrophic bicycle accident. They packed the bag before leaving for the hospital because they thought Tony might come home that night in late July. He didn't return home until March.

Now I'll carry the sight of Esme - so precious and young in her knee socks and plaid jumper - standing in the center of the gym, alone, her shoulders hunched, her body shaking. 

I failed to dote properly on my twins during their infancy. I nearly forgot my youngest son's first birthday. And I left my sensitive, kind-hearted daughter crying in the middle of a school gymnasium on her second day of school. 

Did I mention it's a Catholic school? 

We Catholics do guilt famously well; just look at the baggage I'm carrying to the hereafter.

Reader Comments (6)

Just...wow. Not to negate anything you wrote, but all of your children are so lucky to have you as a mom (and Kent as a papa). You give them each what they need and much more. I know--I witnessed your amazing mama mojo for a week straight. I will testify.

What's the HTML code for delivering massive hugs through the interwebs?

Are you perfect? No, but pretty damn close. Today will pass. I hope it ended better than it started. Did Esme make it through her day all right? If it will make her feel better, let her know, just for giggles, that Ava has been in trouble twice already: once for talking (surprise!) and again for jumping on top of the box of dress-ups when she couldn't close it properly. Ooooops.

Hang in there!

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLea R

you've got me crying at my desk here - dear esme!

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrachel


I am really enjoying your blog. It scares the crap out of me, but I guess parenthood is kind of scary.


September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Pickard

Oh D! Just learning now about your morning yesterday. My heart's broken for you. Oh, the things mothers do to themselves! I so deeply hope your Catholic teachings also include forgiveness -- in this case of self!

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Holy shit. This one was breakfast for me- incredibly rich and satisfying that I felt full after reading it. It is gorgeous, your writing is so real and honest. Please send this one out for publishing. I knew I felt this growing in you, this compulsion to share with your words (obviously your god given talent) the experience of motherhood as a writer. Wow is all I can say.

September 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSoo Young

Oh I do hope you are planning to publish one day. I so enjoy reading this blog.

My sister delivered twins (at 29 weeks) in March. They are doing fabulously well but she too carries the guilt you write about.

January 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVivi

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