Oh it’s horrible being in love when you’re two and a half…Romilly is suffering the first pangs. We are head over heels with Archie, the Big Boy (3) next door. So much so, she’s renamed her snuggly ‘Archie’ (as in ‘ma Archie bear, no…MA Archie bear, no Mummy, oh no, Archie dirty, oh, ma Archie bear…’). We have panic attacks when we cannot immediately locate him, which never used to happen when he was plain old Snuggly.
Now, the real Archie is quite fond of her, and Charlotte too, and has conceded he will marry one or both of them in due course. But for now his own head has been turned by some kindergarten trollop called Violet who, like something out of Heathers or Mean Girls, has a squillionaire for a father. Sadly there is less money in sardines. I may have to arrange for Violet to meet a Dahl-esque accident. In the meantime though, she’s behaving like some lovestruck teen when confronted with the Harry Styles of Chester. It’s Archie this, Archie that all day long, but when he came round to play yesterday she went mute.
Archie visits aside, we are now chatting, in distinct phrases. They’re obviously a million miles off it, but Romilly follows words on the page with her finger and chatters away to herself; they’ve clocked what this language lark is meant to be about. There’s a lot of repetition and imitation but they’re clearly understanding what they’re hearing and saying, enough even to try to make jokes. I got greeted with ‘Hi, Cheeky!’ the other day when I came back from work, and then they collapsed in gurgles at their searing wit.
That’s been another change, the feeding off and entertaining and plotting with each other. They come up with ideas, rehearse and perform. They made up the exciting ‘hiya, hiya, hiya, mwah, mwah’ song (think Native American totem dance, with added waving and kissing, and percussive accompaniment) one morning in their cots. It’s rather catchy. Jon and I are thanking our stars that we made the decision early doors to keep them in the same room as it buys us an extra hour in the evening and morning. They don’t go straight to sleep and will chunter away to each other instead, and in the morning we eavesdrop on ‘wakey wakey!…no, snooooze….Romree, wakey…no, snoooooze…milk, ok?…no, MA Archie bear…ok?…oh my KNEES…ee-i-ee-i-oh…row, row, row’. I imagine if they were bored and lonely and worried they’d be screaming for us instead. You see, there ARE some benefits to multiples – your twin is your sort-of-inbuilt comforter.
I can see full well this may come back to bite us though when they move into beds instead of their current prison cots as they’ll be in and out of each other’s and breaking ribs bouncing up and down on their sister’s chest in enthusiastic morning greetings. But considering we’re keeping them behind bars until at least fifteen that won’t be for some time.
They very occasionally play happily together. In fact they’ll do peekaboo with each other, which saves about 50% of my time, and they have invented a slightly alarming new routine which involves Charlotte shoving Romilly face down on the floor, shouting SNOOZE, and then a split second later yanking her up by the scruff of the neck and shouting WAKEY in her face. I hope this is not some sick re-enactment of what happens at Nursery! They are both in cackling fits throughout. But it’s a different matter when it comes to the sharing of objects. I’m trying to turn it into a bit of a formalised game, so they each get a minute with a toy and then a high five if they pass it onto their sister, but it sometimes backfires as they’ll only hold the toy for a second and then throw it straight into their face as they want the high five…Charlotte is much more possessive than Romilly, and there will be a fiercely shouted NO if any toy is taken, occasionally accompanied by a push or scratch (we’re teetering on the brink of having to introduce the Naughty Step, and she does get this rather disturbing demonic half smile while she’s doing it, think Moriarty). She, naturally, also gets very possessive about the book she hasn’t looked at for six weeks which Romilly takes down from the shelf as obviously Charlotte was intending to read it at that precise moment too. And all this, and I assume a need for security too, leads to her having to cart an increasingly ridiculous amount of worldly goods with her. Any trip up or downstairs now takes about ten minutes because we have two teddies, my jumper with the silky label that she’s adopted, a cuddly owl, a hair bobble and a flashing plastic pig. It’s a bit like an ancient pharaoh being packed off with all his treasured goods to the afterlife.
They tell on each other and tell each other off. That’s fun. But the MOST fun is telling on Daddy. Especially if he burps when Mummy’s not there. Or steals some of our food. ‘Naughty Daddy, NO!’ Or on the cat. Often when I come back home I get an immediate report of ‘naughty Daddy, naughty miaow’ before I’ve had a chance to take off my coat.
So much so happily hilarious. What’s less so is the fact we have officially entered the Dark Ages ie tantrum time. I say ‘we’; it’s basically Charlotte, Romilly just gets a bit stroppy. It’s easier when the tantrums happen at home; you can just follow standard epilepsy procedure and make sure they’re on a soft surface and can thrash away to their heart’s content, and stand there thinking ‘well, that’s one less to happen in Sainsburys.’ Half the time I have to turn my head to hide the giggling (the last one was because there was only space to draw two boats on the paper, not three, imagine that! Only two boats! Quite why that didn’t appear above Ukraine and Ebola on the news I don’t know). But it can also be genuinely shocking. The epilepsy comparison is not a random one; Charlotte literally foams at the mouth, and her body contorts into a stiff paralysis rendering any attempt to hold her unfeasible and her face, well, it just doesn’t seem her there. It’s naked anger and hate and frustration at this huge GAP between how things should be and how they are. Romilly seems to have the same divided reaction as me; open mouthed, concerned but then also she does very good impressions of her sister. The other day she sat at the table opposite Charlotte, waving her head and arms around going ‘waaaah’ in time with Charlotte’s tantrum with just the tiniest hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth, which had the effect of snapping Charlotte out of it as I don’t think she could quite believe the mickey-taking!
And then when it’s all blown over, we’ll ask each other ‘oKAY? Happy? OK? Snack? Happle joos?’ and proffer a favourite toy. Bless. Long may they know their whims and be there for each other at fifty two the same way they are at two.
Romilly, as I wrote, hasn’t embarked on her tantrumming career quite yet (pleeeeeease God let them not happen simultaneously) but GOSH we can be a stroppy mare. I’ve written previously about being worried that she was the passive one, and might think she didn’t deserve attention. HA! Einstein would have been fascinated by twins as they embody the idea of a universal constant. A constant of bumption. Like a cosmic seesaw, they rise and fall in correlation with each other. Tantrums aside, Charlotte is generally quite malleable at the moment. Romilly, au contraire, is a spikey pixie. Her favourite word by a country mile is NO. When I say ‘do you mean yes?’ we get NO. ‘Shall we practise saying yes?’ NO. No bobbles. No snooze. No bath. No milk. No snack. No hold hands.
Most of the time she’ll make the executive decision that provoking a Charlotte tantrum ain’t worth it and so donate whatever toy she’s playing with to Charlotte to hold the peace, but occasionally she’ll decide she’s going to stand her ground, and that’s a full one hand on hip, the other jabbing in Charlotte’s face and a bellowed NOOOOOOO! Even I’m scared. She’s got some diaphragm on her. There’s a little bit of Jenny from the Block behind the eyes too…
The identity flux and continual role reversal is fascinating. I guess all little people are being built, and building themselves at this stage. But with twins this ebb and flow, the lability of it all, seems relational. The universal constant isn’t just cheek, it’s all personality traits and, to a certain extent, functional too. So at any one point, one will be more or less happy, one will be more or less chatty, one more or less feminine, one will be more or less into books, always adding up to 100 as a pair.
Thus ends the pub child developmental psychology sermon for the day (incidentally, just had the utterly surreal experience of having my son take my photo for me to upload for my new student ID card; it’s Freshers’ Week in less than a month, sweaty bops ahoy!)
On the more physical side, the keener reader will remember that Romilly is atopic, and lacks pigmentation behind her eyes, gets allergic reactions, and has dry skin (along with occasional eczema flares). We’d been advised that there was a strong probability she’d grow out of a lot of this, but as a Mum you fret, don’t you, and I had visions of her having to endure school from behind dark glasses, and being teased for her leprous skin (which apparently is what her FATHER used to do to an unfortunate fellow pupil, for which I apologise on his behalf unreservedly!) But she seems absolutely fine with bright summer sun now, only avoiding to the same degree any sensible being would. She still gets pink and blotchy with too much grass or straw etc, but it doesn’t seem to bother her, and we haven’t had any full blown eczema flares for ages (we have hydrocortisone for that eventuality). All of that seems the great healing property of time, but one thing which has added some value in the here and now is using Oilatum, both in the bath, but also as a skin cream. We’d previously been using just the standard dermal cream from the doctor, but she still had permanent raised bumps on her arms. Since using the Oilatum they have decreased significantly and it’s become rather a lovely ritual of an evening. I can actually get her to lie still while we do her ‘magic cream’ and she goes a bit trance-like. Long may this last!
Charlotte’s issue has always been ‘ma EEEERS!’ She’s got glue ear and, connected I think, bad motion sickness and a fear of things like swings/slides. She’s going to have grommets fitted but we’re trying to hold out till she’s three, as then she can be operated on by the nice doctor at the nice hospital (blatant euphemism for private!) To be honest, there’s a part of me procrastinating too seeing her tiny body go under the general anaesthetic. But in the meantime I don’t know whether it’s time, or the antihistamines we drug her with, or the new travel wristbands, but she’s just managed a 6 hour drive to the south coast and then back again with nary a hiccup. Hail Mary!
Memo to self though, next time bagsy the driving, which is SO the easy option, compared to keeping two grumpy gnomes either side of you fed, watered, entertained, un-screaming, not hitting/scratching/biting their Mum/each other, navigating cross country as all the main roads were bank holiday snarled and the sat nav couldn’t cope so Jon honoured me by trusting my map reading and then, to cap it all, the cat escaped from his basket and had to be pinned onto my lap. So obviously I then had to stop the girls trying to kill him with kindness. I state formally for the record I will drive from Land’s End to John O’Groats without a stop before I will do chronic back seat duty again…
And with that, and in the words of my all-forgiveable daughters, bye bye PIE!!! This is very funny. Apparently.