Friday, July 2, 2010

Creative Containment

I knew I had a good picture for my last entry on ironing. I remembered it well. Both boys in the laundry basket. Cute. Fitting.

But looking back made me remember what else we used that laundry basket for. As well as toy crates, shopping crates and whatever else we could stick them in that would keep them happy - and contain them a bit - for just a few moments longer. (My guess is the above photo of Andrew and Matthew was taken as I was trying to get ready to go to English Group one Wednesday, a process that took 45 minutes to an hour when the twins were young, and required the multiple bags you see in the background, plus lots of patience and creativity to amuse the kids while I packed them.)

The other day I sat Talitha down on the floor. Next to another mom. And walked away. (To help somebody else to the bathroom I hope and not to help myself to another glass of wine!) "Hey." Beulah shouted. "What the heck are you doing?" She looked at her 8 month old, sitting alone and unassisted on the floor. I looked at her 8 month old, sitting alone and unassisted on the floor. "Going to the bathroom?" I might have ventured. (I sincerely don't think I would have put a baby down for a mere glass of wine.) "Uh yeah. She doesn't sit up alone yet" Beulah said. To her credit, she was laughing. (And has let me hold Talitha since.)

Oh wow. And I'm a mother of four. Shouldn't I know better than that?

Well, then again. I'm a mother of four. And twins. Looking back at photos, those boys were on their own way earlier than most. The whole survival thing, I guess.

Andrew never sat. Or crawled. He just got up and walked. At seven months. Honestly. I have photos if I can ever figure out how to post them. I'm not bragging. He didn't speak until he was four. Too busy running circles around the other normal children! (I remember him literally running a circle around his first girlfriend, in Geneva, when they were both one year old. She was asking her mother - in perfect sentences - why that boy didn't sit down. And picking out letters of the alphabet out of the book in front of her. To keep her amused until she learned to stand on her own!)

The twins were up and about early too. And we used just about anything we could to keep them happy and contained. Necessity is the mother of invention. Hence the crates and pillows and anything else we could get them.

My best trick was the laundry basket in the tub, although I'm sure it's been done before. You see, both boys were sitting, but the tub was slippery. And Aidan was a lot stronger than Matthew. I was having a hard time keeping them both amused - because that is the primary reason to bathe twins. Why give yourself all that trouble otherwise? And above water at the same time. Aidan would stand. Matthew would try. Aidan would balance himself on Matthew's head. And both of them would be under water. (They are FANTASTIC swimmers now, both of them!)

But they cried a lot. And that didn't make me happy.

So I reinvented the laundry basket as a bathtub seat. Plastic. Holes for the water to go through. Sides for Matthew to hold on to. Sides to keep Aidan from using Matthew for balance. It worked.

I don't have a lot of pictures - only the one on top - but I was still more preoccupied with keeping the two of them above water than with taking pictures to prove that it was possible. (Note also that that is ANDREW in the tub with Matthew, so my guess is I had a few extra seconds to snap a photo while Aidan was behind me playing in the toilet bowl.)

They spent a lot of times in crates and baskets between the ages of 6 months and a year. Then Aidan started walking and the months of running in two different directions began. That was fun too. I spent one summer at the Hildrizhausen pool tyring to keep Aidan off the concrete steps while at the same time checking to see that Matthew didn't spend too much time with his head underwater in the kiddy pool.

Really. One time Andrew - then just five - jumped into the adult pool and forgot he could swim. It took me less than thirty seconds to gather up Aidan and Matthew from the grass, strap them into their stroller, vault over the chain link fence and fish Andrew out. By then he was already remembering he had taken a swim class.

The few other mothers there looked at me like I was nuts - and irresponsible - to be there with two infants and two other children besides. Look at how long it had taken me to rescue my five year old. Plus I'd left the seven year old in charge of the babies as I vaulted the fence. I ignored the looks. I do well in emergencies. Leaving two 10 month old babies on their own wouldn't have helped anyone. So I strapped them in. And hey, would have been nice if any one of the other mothers had stopped pouring sun lotion onto their own - single - child - and perhaps offered to help me with at least one of mine.

But this isn't about that. It's about creative containment.

And the good times we've had.

"I need to learn how to be more relaxed - like you." Lynn told me the other day. Then I met Catherine at the pool yesterday. "I can't believe you are so relaxed." she told me. I like that word. I like that impression. And I like that I really AM more relaxed now, after years of experimenting with what works for me.

Lynn's turned her driveway into the best play area ever. I've turned one of our porches into a sandbox and water play area.

Creative containment doesn't have to be perfect.

It just has to keep us happy!


  1. Doc Steinmann,
    Ti moun yo belle oui!
    Mwe konton pou jouin ou isit.
    Eske' ou kap rele mwe? 515.386.3560

  2. I can't wait to talk to you. Might be a week or so though - the twins were born on July 4 (go figure) and we have a World Cup Soccer tournament going on here and the end of school activities for the kids. Then I can take "me" time again - I figure second week in July. I've got so much to ask you - homeschooling for one. We're going to do it this fall - we have to leave Germany since it is illegal here - and I am getting a lot of slack for it. I can't wait to hear how you are all doing. Thanks so so much for finding me here. I'm not sure I'm on the same Highway you are - more a meandering dirt path alongside it - but since you found me - I figure you can see me from the Highway and I am on the right path!!!! We'll talk soon!

  3. I get it. And I would do the same. Or will. Strap them in the stroller and save the older one. I haven't actually put them in a crate yet. I'll have to try it.

  4. Get a crate big enough for the three of them. Or one for each. Then get to work on the novel!