I'm told that twins are harder work than one. Everyone says so, both in words and silently. You hear it in the pitying looks you get when you waddle past at 34 weeks pregnant and bigger than most at full term, or the gasps of shock from old ladies who peer in the pram, or the admiring glances when, by some miracle, and for more than ten seconds in a row, both babies are on top cute form.
But, you know what? I never really felt it.
I think the thing about having twins, especially after having a singleton, is that you realise that all you can do is to deal with what life throws at you in the best way you possibly can. And yes, at times it feels impossibly hard, but it did with L too, and I can't honestly say that the worst moments with L were worse than the worst moments with A and S.
Now I get it. Now, two, at nearly two, are hard. Harder than one. Oh, so much harder than one...
We're at that stage. And the fact that I know it's a stage isn't making it easier. That stage where the penalty for failure is death.
And I fail. Regularly, reliably and unremittingly, I fail. I take off their pyjamas when they want them on. I choose the wrong socks. I take the banana out of its skin. I give them macaroni cheese for supper. I put them in their pushchair. I get them out of their pushchair. I give them the wrong toy. I stop them playing with the door. I say "no".
So I fail. And the punishment is swift and relentless. Screams of pain, of misery, of years of unloved neglect. Of the unrecoverable sadness that only a well-fed, cossetted, adored 20-month-old can feel when she's been told she can't have a packet of raisins.
And sitting here, both of them asleep upstairs, it's funny. But oh, when you're living it, when you're jiggling a writhing, caterwauling baby on your hip, as she pushes and fights with rage-fuelled strength, flailing with both arms at your glasses, yanking on your hair, while you desperately try to soothe her, though with no idea what it is that you did wrong, and simultaneously try to ignore the desperate wails from your ankles as the other one screams with fury because she can't take off her shoes, knowing all along that you're failing their big sister, who just wants you to read me a story Mummy please, the funny side seems so very far away.
It's just a stage. It's born of frustration. I know it. They can't talk. They can't say "Not those socks; the blue ones please Mummy", or "Please could you possibly cut up the banana for me in slices no more than half a centimetre thick" so they voice their displeasure, they express their personalities, they show their independence in the only way they can. All babies do it. It's part of being nearly two. I get it. I really do.
I just wish I'd realised how calm my life was with just the one.