Twins Happen: A Review of Double Time
A thousand years ago, when my wife and I discovered that kid #2 was going to be, in fact, kids #2 and 3, I reacted in the calm and composed manner of any self-respecting man-about-town: I more or less fell off my chair, curled into a fetal ball, and started muttering indeciperable obscenities to myself and the base of the sonography table.
(that was a fun day.)
In any case, after we eventually composed ourselves enough to leave the building and face a suddenly and dramatically changed world, we immediately realized there were three things we had to do:
- Tell Our Families
Admission: my wife had to talk me into this. I remember driving home from the hospital and my wife saying that we had to call her parents and my parents and.... um... I kind of resisted, in the apparently misguided belief that if we didn't tell anyone, maybe it wouldn't turn out to be real. It turns out: that's not actually a viable strategy. Go figure.
- Get A Bigger Vehicle
This was me shifting into logistics mode. Going from 1 kid to 2 kids is one thing — most four-wheeled vehicles are set up to accommodate such an adjustment. Going from 1 to 3, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether. Can you fit 3 Britax kid car seats onto the back bench of a Toyota Corolla? Maybe you can, but I sure as hell can't. Hence: we needed to go car shopping. (Note: this was, of course, an entirely selfless and family-focused exercise in car shopping. Heaven knows I'd never otherwise take pleasure in such a hunting-and-gathering and test driving exercise.)
Meaning: look around online, see what info there is to see about having, and start buying some damned books on the topic. Now, back in the day (this was 2005), there wasn't the same, robust community of twin parents you can now find online without working too hard — I remember finding some BabyCenter message boards, and... uh... that was about it. And as for books? NADA. Just a couple of paragraphs (or, occasionally, entire chapters) devoted to multiples in otherwise singleton-focused books or pregnancy/early kid memoirs. In other words, we were basically on our own.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I really, really wish that Jane Roper's terrific Double Time had been around when I needed it, because it's exactly the kind of thing I was desperately hoping to find — a warm, funny, immensely personable and emminently readable take on how a normal couple (which I define as: smart, sarcastic, educated and professional... in other words: people I could relate to and imagine hanging out with) navigated the uncertain waters of having and parenting twins.
Of course, it turns out that there's a lot more to the book than kid/parenting stuff - Roper devotes a sizeable amount of real estate to discussing in sobering and often moving terms her struggles with depression and bipolarism, which are further complicated by the myriad challenges of being a twinfant parent - but make no mistake: the parenting stuff is at the heart of the book, and is the engine that drives not only the story but Roper's impressive ability to wrench honestly, truly funny observations from the kind of parenting scenarios that might kill a lesser person.
(How funny? I'll put it this way: I'm a tough audience. I rarely actually laugh out loud when reading a book. Double Time? Made me laugh out loud at least a half-dozen times. Name another "parenting young kids" book - never mind a twin-specific parenting book - that can do that. By any stretch of the imagination, they're few and far in between.)
Now, as you might have guessed from the fact that the author's name is Jane... this book was written by a woman, and is told from a woman's perspective. I found it very refreshing, however, to discover that her husband (Alastair, a musician) is a strong presence in the book — and not one who's simply hovering at the periphery, or serving as hapless comic relief, or (as is the case in many parenting memoirs) strangely absent except for occasional guest appearances. Rather, he's presented as a hands-on partner and equal in the process who ultimately comes across every bit as fully realized a character as the mom-and-kids themselves. In perhaps his finest moment in the book - and one that articulated something I often found myself thinking at that particular stage in the game - he reflects on the experience of being the father of two-year old twins:
"We were both quiet for a moment, and then Alastair said, 'You know, when our friends say to us, 'having twins must be so hard, and I don't know how you do it,' we're always so careful to say, 'well, having two or more kids at different ages isj ust as hard.' But you know what? Fuck that. Having two two-year olds is ridiculous."
You're preachin' to the choir, man.
In the end, I wasn't thinking about the fact that I was reading about the experience of dealing with new twins from a mom's perspective: I was just enjoying the fact that the perspective I was reading was intelligent, articulate, and expressed in the kind of voice that plays effortlessly across a couple of hundred pages. Mom, dad, whatever... at the end of the day, it's the quality of the writing and story that matters most, and that's what I took away from Double Time. This is the book I wish I'd been able to read when my wife and I first discovered we were having twins — and, next to Alexa Stevenson's Half Baked, it's probably the best pregnancy/newborn/infant parenting memoir I've come across in the past half-dozen years.
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I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Ms. Roper and her publisher, St. Martin's Press, sent me this book in the hopes of seeing it reviewed. That said: I read it, I liked it, and the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that Ms. Roper is an active and long-time member of the online parent blogging community, who recently discovered that one of the twins chronicled in Double Time is sesriously ill (as she details here). All of us here at DadCentric wish Jane, Alastair, Elsa and - most of all - little Clio the best of luck in fighting the good fight and working toward better days ahead.