"How is Caitlin doing with the twins?"
That's possibly the most common question I get these days. From all of the entries I've made, you'd think she's all but disappeared, wouldn't you? Well, she's still here but things are tough for her.
She's very excited to be a big sister and is very helpful, for the most part. When we ask her to fetch and carry, she almost always complies. She really likes the babies, except for when they're screaming and we're all trapped in the car together. I can't really blame her, after all it hurts my ears too, but I freaked out when Emma's cries went strangely muffled one day. Turns out Caitlin had shoved the blanket into Emma's mouth to muffle her crying.
I freaked out all over Caitlin once we were out of the car and in the house.
I'm not proud of that moment. Unfortunately, there have been plenty more where that one came from.
Sometimes when they're screaming, she tries screaming louder. Not helpful. Sometimes when they're sleeping she is singing at the top of her lungs in the very next room. Also not helpful. Sometimes when asked to entertain them with a toy she shakes it fiercely inches away from their face; or when asked to rock them in their car seats whips them forward and back. When trying to hold the babies, she squeezes them or jiggles them or bounces them around in a head-snappingly disturbing manner.
And I freak the hell out.
Then, when hollered at about it, she starts crying and running from the room. I don't always start out hollering, but when you say STOP! and she doesn't? and you have to yell it three times before she actually STOPS doing the scary/harmful/dangerous/freak out inducing thing? then I head right down Screamer's Boulevard and don't stop until I hit Over Reactor's Guilt Alley.
Once, when pissed off at me a few weeks back for asking her to go brush her teeth, she ran up the stairs and into her room and slammed her door shut. Now, ordinarily slamming your door shut around here is a big no-no and will get your door taken off its hinges until you have been properly chastised. However, this time the slamming caused my wedding picture - my glass framed wedding picture - to fly off the wall. Gravity still works around these here parts, so it took over and the picture when smashing to the floor where the glass exploded on contact. Glass has an allergy, you see, to bamboo floors.
That was a hard night. I skipped right past mad and went directly to depressed.
I understand that her entire life has been turned upside down by the presence of the twins. So has mine and Eric's. I understand that it's hard to go from the center of attention to the outer edge. The problem is that Eric and I are both exhausted and our ability to put up with whiny or resentful or bratty behavior is completely shot. I feel like Jekyl and Hyde: one moment I'm snapping at Caitlin to "Pick up her room an don't make me ask you again!" and the next I'm smiling and cooing at the twins.
We try to set up play dates for her. Eric tries to specifically set time aside for her, to read her a story at bedtime. I'm the one that is trapped under twins and unavailable almost all the time. My ability to play is shot and I'm often left angry at her and guilt-ridden for feeling angry. I know that she's "just 6" and that she is going to act that way. It's just hard to deal when I'm faced with the whiny, resistant, non-tooth brushing, slow dressing, back-talking, needy, crying version of Caitlin.
On the bright side, when she does something well or exceptional, we lay the praise on thick. This morning, for example, Eric shut off the alarm and didn't get up to get Caitlin to school until 15 minutes before they had to leave. She, however, had gotten up and brushed her teeth and hair, gotten dressed and fed the cats all before Eric woke up. We took her to get ice cream after school as a treat.
If you've been through this and have advice, lay it on me. Keep in mind that it has to be reasonable. Telling me to let it all go ain't gonna happen. Just telling me to cut her more slack isn't constructive. We need actionable ideas that are known to work to get us through this transition period. And that are physically possible to do for parents that are exhausted all the time.