Five years ago I saw a friend of mine in the airport. I hadn’t seen him in a while and told him the good news; my wife and I were expecting. Twins.
He is a father of twins himself, and I expected some good-natured comments like “run while you can”, or “good luck with that”. Instead, he puts his hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and tells me to be prepared for the most stressful time of my life. He tells me that the divorce rate is higher among parents with multiples and that he and his wife almost didn’t make it; it was harder than he could have imagined. I assured him we’d be ﬁne, caught up on the rest of our lives and then he and I went our separate ways.
So here I am, divorced for more than two years now and a single dad of 4 year-old twins.
After about a year I felt comfortable enough to at least give the ‘dating’ thing a try, so try I did. And failed. Again and again. There’s been ﬂashes of potential, and even signs of that elusive spark here and there. But in the end there just seems to be ‘two’ many complications. I’m not one to give up after a few failed attempts, but I am also unwilling to settle. I’ve come up with a few things I’d like potential matches to know about me (and maybe other single dads) that might give them some insight into what they have in-store for them.
1. Patience is more than a virtue
Especially with twins.
As a parent of one, have you ever had that day when it took the entire morning to convince your toddler that wearing Minnie Mouse pajamas to school isn’t okay? Well, imagine ﬁnally being able to talk them into a school uniform (i.e. bribe), rushing to get toddler two into their school uniform only to ﬁnd, once ﬁnished, that toddler one has
retreated into their bedroom, takes off their school clothes and slipped back into their favorite pink Minnie jammies. Toddler two now wants to wear his spider man pajamas.
Getting angry will ruin the morning for at least two of us. I’ve learned to start the morning a little earlier and admire her persistence. You may think an opportunity to teach time management has been lost, or wonder who is in charge of who. Rather, I hope you think about a future date night. Reservations. I even wear something more dressy than a polo shirt. You can trust that I will smile through your wardrobe changes and admire your efforts. And if it takes all night and we miss our reservation, you can slip into your favorite jammies and I’ll be just. Fine.
2. Routines rule the day (and be the bedtimes)
I know routines are important for any child. They are critical for twins, and you learn this very early on. My twins have their routines and it allows me to keep the last bit of sanity I have left intact. For example, I know their nighttime routine takes 60-90 minutes (depending on how many stories they talk me into). At 7pm it’s upstairs for bath time. Then it’s a 25min show in daddy’s bed while daddy goes down and makes school lunches for the next day.
When I come back upstairs, it’s a book on the reading chair, followed by the removal of all bugs from teeth with the magic toothbrushes, potty, prayers, tummy rubs and ﬁnally tucked in tight with a personalized goodnight (she gets butterﬂy kisses on the cheek, he gets frog kisses on the forehead). If one of these routines is missed or forgotten, one or (usually) both will be calling me at the top of their little lungs to tell me about it ﬁfteen or twenty minutes after I’ve left the room.
So please don’t get frustrated with me when I can’t talk during this crucial time. I don’t mind ﬁnding a babysitter to put them down every once in a while, but every night won’t happen. As important as their routines are to them, I cherish those moments as well.
Whether it’s Green Eggs and Ham so often that I can recite it without looking at the pages, or when I hear them bless their loved ones in their tiny voices as they kneel next to their beds… those moments are ﬁnite and won’t last much longer. So know this. Someday we will settle into the routines that ﬁll our days. They may be as simple as an evening bath, or as critical as removing tiny bugs from our gum lines. But even if it’s mundane and uninteresting to anyone else outside of our home, I will ﬁnd the moments to cherish in the routines that guide us.
3. Dating and Baby mama drama
That’s all I’m going to say about that. O.K., I lied. There’s actually a lot I could say about how important co-parenting is, and how despite the fact that you may not like it, my childrens’ mother is ALWAYS going to be in my life somewhat. It’s truly the subject of another article, so stay tuned!
4. You won’t come ﬁrst
You can’t. I’m not saying it won’t ever happen. I’m terrible at Yahtzee and there’s an excellent chance that if we were to play against each other you would come in ﬁrst. Often. I hear more than that I need to make more ‘me’ time. You need to do more things for yourself; the twins will be ﬁne. Kids are resilient, I’ve heard, and won’t mind if you go out a couple times a week to enjoy yourself. They are only four, after all.
Here’s the thing. I’m a single dad that shares custody with their mom. From now until they move out, for better or worse, I will be their primary guardian for exactly ﬁfty percent of their lives. I can’t constantly take away time from the limited amount of time I have them. I’m not saying I can’t get a sitter every once in a while, but I enjoy my time with them. I know they won’t be this little forever; I won’t always be the strongest person they’ve ever met and the one who can ﬁx everything and answer all their questions and carry them both in my arms and make them smile when all they want to do is pout… but right now I am all those things. And more.
Yes, they are only four. But they won’t be for long. So if you give it a chance, I can assure you that during our days together when I’m not with them I’m pretty fantastic at making the most of that time. I can ﬁll a short amount of time with memories and moments that you’ll be able to keep with you when we are apart. I’m really good at it. I have to be.
5. Life happens
This is true for any of us but for me it’s true times three. It’s not just my life, but theirs as well. I lock my keys in the car and it’s an inconvenience (one that keeps my AAA membership on auto-renew). But, misplace Buzz Lightyear and the entire universe comes to a screeching (sometimes screaming) halt. The problems of a four year old are magniﬁed simply because their world is so small that the smallest of problems seem pretty big from their perspective.
And of course, if one four year old loses Buzz and creates enough of a disruption that Daddy’s attention is laserfocused on ﬁnding him, you can bet the other four year old will all of a sudden remember their long lost Elsa doll that hasn’t been thought about for weeks, but is now much more important than Buzz and therefore Daddy’s attention must be redirected accordingly. And immediately.
My life’s problems are minor compared to theirs. At least when I take a step back and compare my perspective to theirs. While I have my own life to juggle, it’s just as important that I provide the balance and support to theirs to ensure their well-being and happiness. I’m going to be late sometimes. There will be times I have to cancel at the last minute. Kids get sick. Kids get each other sick.
These things happen, and the likelihood seems to grow exponentially when the difference in age is less than ﬁve minutes. So I am pretty darn good at rolling with the punches. I’ve become proﬁcient at padding time and setting realistic expectations (because being late annoys me). I’m excellent at resolving conﬂict, motivating the unmotivated and creating an environment ﬁlled with an abundance of happiness. Sometimes they even share.
Those are some of the struggles.
I can honestly say that raising twins is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It doesn’t get easier when they start walking or when they are potty trained – it’s just a different kind of hard. Trying to date seems like an impossible endeavor, but one that is truly possible if you approach it with realistic expectations and an open and honest beginning.
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- The 5 “Must Knows” When Dating Single Fathers of Twins - April 13, 2017