It's not that cold today. I dressed both kids in their lighter-weight winter jackets. I didn't have them wear hats. I almost didn't wear a coat myself. Almost. The weather is decidedly different than it has been these last few frigid weeks. Perhaps that is why I felt a tad guilty when I sat down in the driver's seat, my kids safely strapped behind me, and reached to turn on the heated seat.
I was cold, as I am apt to be, and the cool leather radiated through my jeans. I reached for the heated seat, but my hand stopped mid-air as I thought of my little girl happily singing behind me. She has the same circulatory system that I do; her extremities are always cold. How could I justify turning on my "hot-ass" (my husband's term for the heated leather) when I hadn't even bundled her in her warmest jacket?
Then I remembered that she had, only moments before, been happily lying on the blacktop making a "snow angel." Without a snowflake in sight, she thought it was fun to spread arms and legs in tandem on the hard macadam while I secured her brother in his car seat.
The scene unfolded in the parking lot after music class. We have been attending music class since my kids were five weeks old, and the routine has changed dramatically in the last two and a half years. When they were tiny babies, it was difficult for me to make the trek by myself. The music studio was on the second floor of a building without an elevator. Unloading them from the car and maneuvering the stroller the two blocks from the parking deck to the studio were difficult tasks for a mama recovering from a c-section. Carrying twin carriers upstairs was impossible. Since leaving one on the street while I carried the other to the classroom was not an option (though it crossed my mind, as I'm sure it has every twin mom's at some point), I quickly recruited help for the weekly outings. Grandparents were more than willing to accompany us, and the tradition continued for quite some time. Now, however, it is much easier to accomplish music class alone. Since the kids can walk, I have no problem maneuvering... yep, no problem at all.
Last night I attended a meeting of a Mothers of Multiples (MOM group). I overhead one MOM of younger twins asking a veteran MOM how she could get both babies out of the car and into her home/a store/the doctor/etc. Her daughters refused to sit in a stroller, and she did not think it was possible to carry both of them in her arms at the same time. She asked if it was okay to leave one in the car while she took the other inside and then reverse the trip. Another MOM answered her by telling the story of a woman who was recently arrested for leaving her kids in a parked car while it was still running so she could drop a bag at the door of the Salvation Army, a few yards away.
As a veteran twin mom, meaning my twins are older than 2, I had to smile when the advice given to the newer MOM was to "haul them up under each of your arms." The MOM giving this advice mimicked a football player in her stance as she demonstrated how she herself had handled the dilemma. I smiled because I had done the same thing.
Transporting twins from the car poses new dilemmas with each stage. When they are tiny in their baby carriers, which shift easily from car to stroller, most twin moms are fighting the pain of the c-section. At this stage of life, the babies are light enough, however, that carrying both bassinets is doable when a stroller is not an option. For instance, going from the house to the car is easy when you can do it in one trip and not worry about leaving a baby alone for any amount of time.
Of course, babies grow. Quickly. So by the time a MOM has recovered enough from the c-section to avoid outwardly wincing, it gets more difficult to carry both babies in their car carriers at the same time. I was convinced that I was going to pull my shoulders out of my sockets, and I'm sure my chiropractor has still not fixed the damage I did when my twins were between 3 and 6 months.
Twin car seats pose another problem inside the car, particularly for a twin dad. It is impossible for twin parents to follow safety guidelines and attach a single car seat in the middle of the backseat. In fact, it is less safe to put one car seat in the middle and one on the outside. Thus, a car seat must be placed on each side of the car. The design of backward facing infant car seats, the ones that make life easier by sharing a bassinet with a stroller, limits the range of motion of the seat in front of it. For a tall driver, like my husband, it makes for uncomfortably long trips perched atop the steering wheel. Thus, at the first possible moment, we ditched the car carriers and switched to convertible seats. (Note: When backward facing, the convertible seats allow for approximately 1-2 inches more movement. This is not quite enough to get a tall driver off the steering wheel. We dressed our daughter in multiple layers, despite the heat of August, on her first birthday so that she would hit the required weight and we could turn her seat around.)
Without the bassinet carriers and with twins who could not walk, there was no option except for me to carry them both when I could not use a stroller. So I know the football stance well, and I sympathized with the MOM who was facing this dilemma. What I wanted to tell her, and didn't, was that it gets easier --- but more complicated --- when they walk.
When my kids started walking, people joked with me that they were probably going in two directions all the time. I laughed, amused at the joke, because in fact, they were not doing it all the time. Most of the time it was quite easy to keep tabs on the two of them. The one exception, however, was when we were in a parking lot or someplace equally dangerous. It seemed that every time I needed them to stay together, one got away ---- and as they grew, they gained speed and agility.
After experimenting with different techniques, like allowing my son to climb around the inside of the car while I strapped in my daughter, we developed routines that worked, most of the time. Without question when I take the kids alone, my daughter gets unstrapped first and strapped last. She is much more tractable and easier to contain. Usually I squish her between my legs and the car while I buckle my son. Today I was a little more lenient, and I lifted my son into his seat before I had her pinned appropriately. She took the opportunity to make a snow angel on the blacktop in the empty parking space next to the car.
As I contemplated the cold seeping into my body from the leather seat, I pictured my happy daughter on the asphalt. She didn't seem to mind the cold then. And her car seat had to be warmer than the ground, I rationalized. So I hit the "hot-ass" and joined her in singing her tunes while we trekked home from music class, dilemma solved --- at least for today, anyway.