Finding Our Eye of the Parenting Storm

Having four children in four years for us is like living in the proverbial eye of a hurricane: bizarrely tranquil and surrounded by a swirl of activity.
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I remember in very clear detail the feeling of deep panic washing over me as I lay on the examining table when the sonographer giggled, saying she saw two babies. I remember how my husband jumped to my side with words of encouragement, the doctors bursting in asking if it was twins. I also remember wondering if was time to pick up our two daughters from preschool.

Having four children in four years for us is like living in the proverbial eye of a hurricane: bizarrely tranquil and surrounded by a swirl of activity. The bustle of our family schedule, wrestling task lists and managing the various milestones of our kids has actually created a center of calm. There's simply no time to complain and little time to ponder the merits of what you're doing. You just have to do it.

After a trying, yet healthy, pregnancy and a surprising three-hour delay between delivering each twin, the panic that had resided with me was suddenly replaced by gratitude. All the little things I worried about, like how you hold two newborns at the same time and still cuddle two preschoolers, became delightful problems to solve. This only grew my thankfulness. I do laugh when I recall friends' comments that since I am a twin, I'd have an advantage on raising my twins (spoiler, it's not an advantage). Though many things have fallen to the side at different times -- bed sheets unchanged for weeks, complete ignorance about what movies are in the theaters, my inability to recall the last time I wore mascara -- gratitude eclipses all of it.

With no family living nearby, my husband and I have to continually cobble plans as we balance our home and office lives. It's a team sport that can be quite a spectacle. We were once stopped outside our pediatrician's office by a couple of lovely and seasoned ladies intrigued by the sight of us juggling two preschoolers and two infants. They peppered us with questions about our children, our jobs, whether we had help and how we did it. After many nods and hums, they conferred with each other and then pronounced us the most fortunate couple they'd ever met. Though we were visibly tired and overwhelmed, they noted that because we had both given things up to make our family life work, we were on the track to harmony and less regret. I try to remember this encounter when my husband and I tag-team late nights with waking children and work emails.

We've also come to realize that having our children in such a short amount of time has provided us with a surprising gift: perspective. You realize that all the craziness -- the tantrums that stop traffic outside Ikea (embarrassing true story), the Zen-like state you need be in to successfully pump milk while standing in a toilet stall (pathetic true story), questioning whether the post-febrile tummy rash is scurvy like a pirate (ridiculous true story) -- all of this is temporary. All the lessons we learned with our first are quickly rehashed with our second and again with our third and fourth in an iterative process. One of the hardest things about parenting is wondering if you're doing it right -- we've had the privilege of figuring out what works for our family in a wonderful crash course. While I can only speak to the early days of parenting since our eldest is only in kindergarten, I hope I always remember that whatever may be happening will only last for a short while.

Four in four years. You can often find us at our neighborhood farmers' market on Saturday mornings standing in line for mini donuts slathered in cinnamon-sugar, wielding two double strollers. If you see us, and like most folks do a double take, give us a wave. We won't even mind hearing "you've got your hands full" -- though I should look into trademarking that phrase. We are a parade and I love it.

Whatever your own parenting maelstrom may be, find your way to the calm center by living in gratitude, by sharing sacrifice with your parenting teammate, and remembering that each stage goes very quickly. The brevity of those first few years both pulls at heart strings and -- let's be honest -- is a relief.

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