Q&A: twins hitting the 13-month regression

I'm in Florida and may not have internet access this week, so I won't get any super-pressing emails.

And now as a counterbalance to Friday's "parenthood is wonderful" post, a different question. Josy writes:

"I am writing to you b/c i seriously feel at my wits end. Maybe you have some insight or your readers that eventuallythis will change!

My twin baby girls (13 months old) are going through an insane clingy stage (I hope!) and I am about to put them in their cribs and go out for ice cream.

Not really, obviously, but I just want to leave b/c the alternative is me sobbing/banging my head against a wall/ as well as being the ultimate stressed out mom. oh, yeah and I have 2 more kids.

Its been a really hard year; my son is turning 6 this week, my daughter is 2.5 and was only 15 months old when the babies were born....So the last 3 years have just been non- stop pregnancy, nursing, having babies up to my forehead.. I'm ready for things to change and just get a tad easier now that the babies reached a year but no, the last 2 weeks have been cranked everything up to a more unbearable level.

The girls had a stomach bug, throwing up, the whole bit, and sleep was off. Now the sickness gone  but I can't walk across the room without them both falling over screaming their heads off. They crawl after me wailing, and even if I simply stop at the sink to wash a couple dishes or help my toddler, they just wail until I pick them up. Up until the last few days I have been wearing one in an ergo and carrying the other, but like I said, I've hit the bottom. I DON"T WANT TO! I don't want to carry them everywhere, I don't want to pick them up every time they scream but what can I do!? At crazy times (like when I'm washing poop out of the toddler's potty or making lunch for my other kids) I've stuck them in their cribs so that at least they were in the other room and I could actually make lunch. Of course, they just scream til I get them out- there's never a moment of settling down and playing with toys or anything like that (even when they aren't in cribs- they want to be sitting on me).

They are the pickiest eaters I've ever experienced and are still nursing, so my hunch is that they are cranky b/c they're hungry but don't eat enough solids and just wait to nurse to fill up. Meanwhile they just cry until I give in and nurse (which I have been trying to cut back to just 4-5 times a day!) and then they are happy, if only briefly. I've been trying to offer milk in a sippy cup but they hardly ever try it, and often spit it out immediately. I don't want to start giving them bottles at this point.

Am I doomed- is this just their personalities? Did I do wrong by just carrying them around for a year? My other kids were not like this. Is it a twin thing? Are they just starving for individual attention that they will rarely ever get? I would love some other thoughts or just a huge fast-forward button so I can see how we are all doing in 2 years, please!"

Before I start: Holy shit, woman. Twins with a 15-month-old and a 5-year-old?? You are Wonder Woman.

Now: You did nothing wrong. Nothing, nothing, nothing. This is all normal, because your twins are at the 13-month developmental leap. It has nothing to do with their being twins, or anything you did. It's normal, and it's just a sucky stage that they'll come out of. (You can read all about the developmental leaps that cause cranky phases and sleep regressions through the first year+ in The Wonder Weeks.)

All kids are different, and some hit different leaps and regressions with different intensity. It sounds like your older two children are just not as intense in general, but also didn't have such a tough time at 13 months. Which is, you know, good, except that you didn't realize that it's awfully common for babies to just flip out right after they turn a year. And you got it with twice the intensity because you had two kids going through it at the same time.

It sounds to me like you've been responding to them as they needed you to. They needed more holding, so you gave it to them. But that didn't cause this. They're not letting you cut down on the nursing exactly because they're in this clingy phase, which is also why they're not letting you out of their sight, either, without wigging out. It would be horrific enough without all the other needs you've got rattling around in your house at the same time.

The Rolling Stones wrote a little song about this stage, and you can hear it here. (Hint--it's not about going out for ice cream.)

Anyway, this is not going to last forever. In fact, I'd predict it won't last another month.

In the meantime, I think you need a break. A major, major break. If I had unlimited funds, I'd send you away for a week alone to a spa in Sedona. I think a more practical solution, though, would be to see if you could get a mother's helper (the human kind, not the pill kind) from one of the middle school or high school kids in the neighborhood who wanted to make a few extra bucks by coming every couple days and entertaining your kids while you took a bath or something by yourself.

Because you need time to think, and not be dealing with everyone else's needs all day long. It's just not humane for one adult human to be trapped as sole caretaker for children all day long. And four kids, two of whom are going through a major cranky phase, are enough to drive you around the bend.

Oh--two other things: 1) It's possible that they won't ever drink cows' milk. If they don't, it's not a huge deal. Just feed them calcium-rich foods and let them drink water. My infamous brother (the one who Never Took a Bottle Ever) also never drank cows' milk ever, and he's a college graduate who loves his career and is about to marry a wonderful woman, and he has all his teeth and strong bones and can out-think me with little effort. 2) Figure out whether it's worse for you to hear them cry, or to pick them up every time, and then do the thing that's not worse. It won't hurt them at this point to be unhappy for 10 minutes while you're doing something else or just taking a few minutes alone. But if the crying stresses you out more than the picking up does, then pick them up.

Empathy for Josy? Tales of the 13-month developmental leap and how it made you want to leap? If you had the choice between taking drugs yourself or drugging your children, which would be most useful to you during a developmental leap/sleep regression? (You know I'm joking. Mostly.) Am I the only one who's had a complete moment of "Oh, NOW I get why all the women in older generations say their kids were so perfect--they've blocked all of it out because it was so demoralizing!"?

And Happy Monday, everyone. ;)