Having twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.
When my daughter Allie said “Mama” at only seven months old, I was probably the proudest mom on the planet. Seven months old! She was obviously a genius. And she didn’t just say it once—she said it over and over for about an hour, long enough for me to videotape it so I could prove to all my relatives that I had one of the smartest babies in the world.
Then Allie didn’t say “Mama” or anything else for months. Both my twins didn’t really start speaking until they were two years old. When they did talk before that, all they basically said was “cat” and we didn’t even have a cat.
By the time they were 10 months old, both Allie and Nick were babbling “mamama” and “dadada” but still not saying words with meaning. My mom thought it was helpful to point out repeatedly that I started talking at nine months, but I wasn’t worried. I’d read and heard from many twin-mom friends that twins start talking later than singleton babies and sometimes only speak in a language the two of them understand. I was okay with waiting.
When he was a year old, Nick learned how to whine “Mom”—he’d really drag it out and pronounce it a little like the character Cartman in “South Park” does: “Maaaam.” For a few weeks, it was the first thing he’d say when he woke up, and it was the first thing I’d hear on the monitor in the morning. I have to admit that I didn’t mind waking up to it—when your kids aren’t talking, you take what you can get.
Then when he was 14 months old, Nick replaced “Maaaam” with “cat” and he would say it all day long. Any animal he’d see was a cat. After a few days of listening to his cat-centric talk, Allie figured it was a good idea and joined him in calling everything a cat. We’d be outside and see someone walking their dog, and they would yell “CAT!” I’d show them flashcards that had pictures of keys, a ball, a baby, a cat, and for every one, Nick would say “cat.” Naturally during the first few weeks of this cat-talk, I would correct them, saying “That’s a doggy!” or “That’s a ball!” but every time I did, they would just shout me down with “cat!”
Despite not having a cat, and despite me being a dog person, my twins genuinely seemed to love cats. So I bought them stuffed cats, books about cats, and adorable little black cat Halloween costumes when they were one and a half years old. I figured when they randomly yelled “cat” everyone would just assume they were proud of their costumes.
For the most part I thought the cat obsession was cute, but I alternated between indulging the cat-love and trying to get them to correctly identify things. I bought cute framed prints of dogs for their nursery and I’d read them “The Poky Little Puppy” so we could get some more dog appreciation going. I remember eventually getting frustrated when they would point to things I knew they understood the meaning of (light, apple, ball) and say “cat.” They were smart kids, I was an attentive mother—what was the problem here?
When your kids don’t catch on with potty training, well-meaning people say “no kid goes to college in diapers.” When your kids don’t talk, people start telling you “Albert Einstein didn’t talk until he was four.” This didn’t help me. Maybe Einstein’s mother didn’t hold him enough, maybe he was ignored—I don’t know what his problem was, but I did know that I really didn’t want to hear “cat” for the next two years, and I imagine Einstein’s mother wouldn’t have either.
At 20 months my twins were only saying a handful of words, so my pediatrician suggested I have them evaluated by an Early Intervention specialist. A wonderful speech pathologist named Rachel came to our house and did an array of tests by playing games and interacting with Nick and Allie. She was surprised by how much my children understood and I was secretly proud about that. Rachel was also kindly unconcerned when Allie rifled through her handbag and pulled half the contents out, and later refused to participate in any games once she found something she really liked. Apparently, that type of behavior scores big in “Self Care” and “Adult Interaction.”
After our meeting, Rachel told me that my twins were exhibiting a 25 percent delay in speech and she wasn’t concerned because their level of comprehension was so high. She said if they didn’t have a major vocabulary burst within six months I should give her a call. I was happy that I never had to. Soon adorably-pronounced words like “cacka” (cracker) “appum” (apple) and “fwowie” (flower) were being spoken in my house, and within four months my two were talking up a storm, making even that little guy Einstein look bad.