Every day some kind stranger holds a door open for me as I drive my boat of a double stroller through a heavy door (Whoever invented those little air locks for stores where you have to negotiate two sets of doors should have their foot run over with said stroller. Repeatedly.); they eye me and the two to four children with me and inevitably announce, “You sure must have your hands full!” It makes me want to stab them in the eye.
But before the eye stabbing comes the befuddlement. The stranger asks, “Oh, are they twins?” Why, oh why, on the face of the planet, would I have two identical babies in identical car seats, in a specially designed double stroller if they weren’t twins? Because I’m pretty sure it would be considered rude, I haven’t had the balls to stop and ask, “What other scenario would you propose?” I genuinely can’t think of one. Where would I get another baby? How would I manage to get an extra that looks EXACTLY like the first one? Under what circumstances would they have the same car seat? And how would they both look extremely related to my other children? Wouldn’t the most obvious solution be that they are in fact twins? As rare as twins might be to the average shopper, wouldn’t it be even more unusual for me to just be toting around an extra infant? Who does that?!
These thoughts whip through my mind every time. I wonder if this is the time that I’ll crack, and ask the stranger back, “What else would they be?” It’s coming one day. One day I’ll be more sleep deprived and drained than usual, and I will happily report back the fantasy created to explain the troubling presence of the second baby.
Then they tell me I have my hands full. I repress the full body scream and stabby feelings while I smile and say, “I sure do!” I generally try to keep moving at this point. People, especially older people, inevitably want to stop and admire the twins. I can understand the impulse. They are stunningly handsome, if I do say so myself. But I do not really want you touching my babies, no matter how many of them I have. I also do not really want to spend time telling you that they are in fact a handful and that yes, I am really busy. “Oh yes, big brother/sister is a great helper!” I report as I continue to edge away.
Just like people wrongly assume that a pregnant belly gives them license to say anything that pops into their heads, the presence of twin babies gives people the wrong impression that they can ask me whatever they like. People often ask their names (Why do you want to know, stalker?), how old they are (OK, that’s a pretty standard baby question.), were we surprised (The reason this irks me is too long for a parenthetical and probably requires its own blog post.), and do twins run in our family. Twins run on Josh’s side of the family, which has no bearing on my ability to ovulate more than one egg. Further, as identical twins are a random event with no genetic grounding yet identified by science, identicals don’t “run” in families. A-I do not wish to share my medical history with you, stranger. B-I do not wish to try and explain to you the difference between identical and fraternal twins. C-It’s none of your beeswax.
What these strangers don’t stop to think about is that every parent has their hands full. Parents with one child or seven have their hands full. It’s true that twins fill your hands in a different way, but even if I’d had four singletons, I would still be a very busy woman. I have three boys under three years old and a six year old with ADHD; life is busy. I spend all day asking and cajoling and ordering and separating short people and holding and shushing and nursing and laying babies down and changing diapers and doing all the things parents of small children do. This situation is not unique to me because I have twins. All mothers of small children feel the same way: like every day done with no major injuries to children or mother is an accomplishment.
So yes, I’m busy. Yes, my hands are ever so obviously full. I go to sleep more quickly and deeply than at any point previously in my life because I am exhausted at the end of each day. My life is so consumed with assuring the continued health and wellbeing of these tiny creatures that your classification of busy seems absurd to me.
More than that, when you announce, “You must have your hands full!” you say it in a way that smacks of a feeling of being put upon. You seem to say, subtly and sometimes not so subtly, that I am saddled with a hard road. It’s as if I am under some sort of punishment. Sometimes it’s as if you are smugly glad you’ve avoided whatever awful pitfall has landed me in this Hell I must live in (The pitfall is sex. And precociously dividing eggs.).
You, dear stranger, might mention to your partner that night, “I saw this poor woman with twins! And she had two other children!” Perhaps you mention how tired I looked, or how sweaty (Damn you, Alabama in August.), or how distracted. You might go on to say something like, “I can’t imagine it! Twins must be hard.”
You don’t get to take those twins home with you. You don’t see how they wave their arms and legs when I walk in the room, happy to see me and eager to be picked up. You don’t see the way they sometimes hold hands when they nurse together. You don’t get to hug two perfect tiny miracles. You also don’t get to cuddle the world’s cutest toddler boy. You don’t hear him encourage his younger brothers to talk, saying, “Ah-goo!” You don’t see how big sister watches over all three little brothers like a mother hen. You don’t see the bigs gently rock the littles’ car seats to help settle them while I frantically try to pack the diaper bag.
My life is busy. My life is messy. But it is so incredibly beautiful. If you stop at thinking my hands are full, then you miss the fact that my heart is absolutely bursting. I constantly wonder how I could possibly be this lucky. I also constantly wonder how I will ever get the three boys to all nap at the same time. No one’s life is just one thing. No one’s journey can be defined by a trite phrase. If you want to tell me something, stranger, as you hold that door, wish me well and send me on my way. After all, I have my hands full.