Interview with dh – deleted scenes

This is the very final part of my Interview with Dh series. When I transcribed the original interviews I noticed that I’d forgotten to ask him a few questions and that other things came up as a result of the first interview. I sat him down with a gin and tonic and recorded the conversation… (p.s. the stuff about boys is his opinion, not mine so you can shoot him if you want to…)

This is the deleted scenes – the extras – the out-takes, if you will. I’m hoping to put the interviews on the blog as an audio file at some point but for now a written transcript will have to do:

Me: Do you ever wish we’d had a boy?

Dh: No. Initially I would’ve liked boys but now I’m really pleased we’ve got girls. Boys are more naughty aren’t they? At this stage at least. More mischievous, especially twin boys. The girls are quite naughty… We’d thought of boys names and didn’t have boys names when we found out. We didn’t get a Tom and a Lewis.

I didn’t get my Freya either.

I really didn’t like Freya.

How do you feel about your wife writing a blog?

I quite like it. I always read it. It often makes me laugh. I know it helps you to talk about things as well. You don’t talk about me very much. It’s always based around the children.

It’s one of my rules. I don’t discuss you with my friends in ‘real life’ so I’m not going to do that on the Internet either. I really like our relationship and I think it should be kept as private as we can keep it. I hope everyone knows how much we love each other but it’s between us. I’ll happily discuss how weird I am but I won’t talk about you and I.

It’s your blog so you talk about what you want. I’m happy with what you write.  I know other people like reading it as well, so it obviously strikes a chord with them.

It’s always going to have quite a niche appeal I think.

I don’t know how many random people that don’t know us read it. Don’t you check your pageviews? It’s quite a lot isn’t it?

The other thing I wanted to talk about was our YouTube sensation. How many views are we up to now?

I checked today actually and it was 320,000 views. It’s just the girls in their playpen [about 8 months old] laughing and making noises at each other. It’s like they’re talking to each other but they aren’t. It’s made £18 in adverts this month so far [on the 16th of the month]. It’s made us £12-15 per month in ad revenue over the last few months.

We posted it up in August 2008 and no-one looked at it really. In the last 3-4 months it’s shot up from 20 views to over 300,000 views. It’s linked to a video that’s had millions of views, of the twin boys wearing nappies in the kitchen.

You can click on the stats for our video and most people discover our video through that one. It’s all through over twin videos. It’s amazing how quickly it’s gone up. I tried adding another video but no-one’s looked at it!

You say that the girls’ generation is the most videoed and photographed generation ever. Their legacy [of content] is going to be enormous.

My Mum sent me some photos to print out for My Dad’s 65th birthday and he’s got 10-20 photos of himself as a kid in total. We take 100 photos of the girls a month, often more. I love all the little videos of them doing stuff as well, especially now they’re chatting and you can hear their voices. It’s amazing…not just how much you record but the fact that it’s online so our parents can look at it and it’s updated pretty often, at least once a month.

How do you think the children will feel when they’re old enough to realise that I wrote about them?

It’s hard to know how they’ll react.

I have thought that maybe I should stop writing it when the hit their fifth birthday but I don’t know…

You were saying that you quite like reading blogs and form posts about teenagers but I guess that’s in secret and they probably don’t know. You don’t have to stop. There’s no need to.

I go through phases of wanting to stop. Especially if I’ve written something and someone has got really hacked off with me.

If you don’t like it, don’t read it! Equally there are people out there that love it.

I have my cheerleaders – two of them! Do you feel that you can offer advice to people now?

I don’t like to. If people ask I will but equally I don’t want to say too much. I’ll give my opinion but every baby is different so I can’t say ‘Oh you should do this…’ Instead I say ‘We did this and it worked..’. There are people that don’t necessarily agree with what we did…

…but they’re wrong!!

How did you feel when I was really involved with that parenting website?

I quite liked the website. It was really useful but there are some strange people on the forums.

I even met some of them!

Yes. Some were fine and some…weren’t…

Some I thought were fine and turned out not to be, which was quite painful. I don’t need it now.

It must be interesting to talk to other twin mums and see what they’re doing.

There are two sides. It connected me to other twin mums when I felt incredibly isolated. The flip side is that I beat myself up about silly things that didn’t matter, especially when I first went back to work, we were all weaning and they were producing beautiful home-cooked meals and purees and I tried to keep up. I judged myself against standards that were almost impossible to live up to. It also pushed me to be a better parent, or to try harder at least. Someone would post that they were deep-cleaning their cupboards and I would think ‘Oh my God! I must go and do that now! I’m a complete slob! It’s terrible and I’m disgusting’! There is more to life than deep-cleaning cupboards

I did find those websites useful to look up stuff, especially the paranoid stuff. The forums could be interesting but they were more haphazard. You had to filter through a lot of crap. I didn’t write anything or contact anyone.

You did once. You got set upon by several million hormonal women!

You get to the stage where you call someone a Nazi and it ends there! Are you still friends with any of them?

Yes. There are 3 or 4 I would regard as friends and the rest as good acquaintances and I’m not going to say who!

That’s fine though. If you meet 10 or 20 random people you will filter it down to the people you really like. It’s useful to know a few people in the same position as you.

I do find myself comparing though, and worrying if their children are doing something that mine aren’t. That’s probably just my competitive nature

Competitive parenting is such a big thing ‘Ooh they can write their name…they can write a sonnet…’

You’re very laid back about it all and I fret, especially in relation to the education stuff.

They’re 3!! There’s nothing they have to be doing at the moment. They should just be playing.

What do you think they’ll do when they grow up?

Ruth’s very serious. I think they’ll both go to university. I can see Grace doing drama classes, although I think she’s fairly typical of kids her age. I think Ruth’s more unusual in that she’s so aware of what people might think of her. She gets so embarrassed about things and worries about other people. I don’t know what Ruth’s going to do.

She’ll either channel all of this and be brilliant, or she’ll be incredibly frustrating and muck about at the back of the class.

She’s quite boisterous and likes being with older kids. She puts a lot less effort into doing things, but is good if she actually tries. She’s a bit of a Ronnie O’Sullivan character. Naturally clever, but can’t be arsed! I read an article where it said that you should praise the effort rather than the achievement and we try to do that, but it’s easy to praise something and say ‘Oh that’s good’. Especially when they’re small. They don’t really understand effort. I keep trying to explain to her that you have to practice to be good at things.

We’re going to look back on the last four years, and probably the next 14/15 years, when we get old and grey I think we’re going to be incredibly proud of what we did.

I hope so.

Do you think that having children is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I think it’s actually quite easy but because it’s every day for years and years it’s difficult. If you look at an average day it’s easy. You feed them, etc. It’s the pressure of doing it all the time…it’s strange to do such a simple thing but we have to do it permanently. It’s the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to make up your own rules and systems.

It’s like having a piece of flat-pack furniture and not having any instructions or any idea what it’s for.

There’s no way of changing that. People can tell you what it’s like but it doesn’t actually help. That’s why I don’t like to give advice. It’s going to be hard and you have to work it out for yourself.

The thing that struck me about the transcript of the interview we did was that you sounded quite down. There was a lot of stuff about your lack of quiet time, it was hard work, they had a lot of tantrums, you were shouting at them and a lot of it was really downbeat and I felt quite sad.

I’m not sad overall. It’s hard work. I’m happy with the way it’s worked out now. Maybe not initially. It should get easier as they get older. I think it’s the same for everyone.

We chose it. It’s not like we were forced to have them.

I wouldn’t change it, no matter how hard it is. I didn’t mean to sound so down about them. I don’t think many people enjoy having babies to look after. They’re much more fun now. I love taking them out now that they can understand things, like going to the zoo – asking and answering questions.

They love you in a very unconditional way and equally you love them unconditionally. If they were a partner you would have kicked them out years ago! That’s the paradox of parenting.

I watched an episode of Top Gear where they do a silly challenge with rubbish cars [that’s pretty much every episode then] and end up falling in love with them. Jeremy Clarkson said that it’s a bit like a toddler – most of the time they’re quite annoying but if someone tried to take it away you’d kill them. You can be really annoyed with them but if they ran into the road or hurt themselves you’d worry about them. I love them really.

Interview with dh – now and next

For the first time, I’m really enjoying them at this point. I’m not racing towards the next milestone and I want to enjoy them as they are for a bit, before they go to school.

We always really looked forward to them being old enough to take out and do trips to the zoo. Last Summer was the first time we took them out a lot and enjoyed doing stuff with them.

It’s daft things, like them suddenly shooting up recently and growing out of lots of their [3-4 years] clothes. They’re more aware now too. I said to Ruth this morning that she was growing up really fast and she said ‘Don’t worry Mummy. I have to grow up to be big and strong’ and she gave me a hug. I was like WAAAAAH!

We don’t need the next year to go by quickly, because they’re nice as they are. They’re very sheltered at the moment. It’s nice that they’re going to school when they’re older…they’ll be nearly 5 when they start.

It’s a dreadful cliché but they’ll always have each other

It’s nice that they have someone to play with all the time. After breakfast they’ll just go off together and play. If I look busy in the kitchen they’ll leave me alone! If I go and sit on the sofa they come over!

What are you looking forward to? Don’t say ‘Leaving home’!

I’ve always looked forward to them being a bit older because it’d be nicer but not so much now. They’re at the right age. I’m looking forward to teaching them to read, and reading with them. At the moment they don’t seem terribly interested in words.

Grace recognises lines of text and asks me what they say

Reading with the properly seems a long way off. I’m looking forward to helping them with the school stuff as well – homework.

Lots of their friends are off to private school in September – and the girls aren’t. Do tell me your views on fee paying schools…

We can’t afford it and it seems like a waste of money. They biggest difference in how well they do [at school] is how much the parents are involved, rather than having a slightly nicer school. It can be detrimental to be so sheltered for so long [at private school] as well. You’re likely to be very naïve when you leave school. If you look at kids that don’t do well at school, it’s generally down to the parents. They get far more out of you reading with then and doing things with them.

We’re both very lucky because we come from very ordinary backgrounds but our parents read to us and helped us with schoolwork.

We’re also lucky because we live near two nice [primary] schools. I’m not worried about them having to go to a really horrible school. It’s also down to individual teachers rather than how well-funded it is. There are good and bad teachers in all schools. It’s not just about doing exams. You have to learn about different people as well.

Their [the girls’] thing with babies at the moment is hilarious.

All of their friends have brothers and sisters. They are both quite fascinated by babies…

Grace in an abstract way and Ruth in a ‘I like stroking them’ way! We’re not doing that again are we – why is that?

I’ve been cut off!

Do you ever regret that decision?

No!!

I don’t either. It’s a big thing to do. Lots of blokes wouldn’t do it.

People do ask if we’re going to have more babies and when I say no they ask me why…I just say ‘Cos I can’t’. Then they say ‘oh you might change your mind…’ No. Really no!

It’s weird, the process you have to go through. You first went to ask about it when the girls were really small and they said no…

They want to make sure you’re really sure about it. There seems to be a cut-off. If you’re less than 30, they won’t do it. When I went back second time and I was over 30, they were fine. They ask you what you’d do if something happened to one of the girls or if you died and…they have to make sure you’ve thought it through.

How would you describe your parenting style, if you could sum it up in a sentence?

I’m very involved. I find it strange that that’s unusual, but I know that it is. That’s what I wanted.

I’m very grateful for that. I’d find it odd if the balance was unequal, in the sense of me doing the majority of the childcare and you weren’t showing any interest. I think the girls have benefitted hugely from the involvement you’ve had in their lives.

I hope so.

Interview with dh – relationships

It’s a testament to our relationship that we still really like each other, considering. I’ve said to people that I don’t think having children is a remedy for a failing relationship.

You have to work together.

We’re a good team, even though we don’t get to do the things we used to, like going to the pub, watching rugby and cricket and going out for dinner.

Now we go to the park and the zoo!

Do you think that you’ve changed?

I don’t think so. I live a different life, but my attitude is still the same.

I’ve heard your shouting voice now, which I didn’t know you owned. It’s rarely deployed but I know it’s the end of the world when you go GRRRRRR!

I get frustrated more often. I’m not different, but it makes you look at things differently. You notice things…if you see other people or watch a film, you have a very different view of what’s going on in the world and a sense of responsibility.

I read somewhere that becoming a parent makes you harder on the outside but softer on the inside…

That sounds about right. At the weekend I found a little girls’ backpack on the train and I knew she’d be really upset. If you didn’t have kids yourself you’d think ‘Oh it’s just a bag’

I think it’s changed us as a couple in the sense that we used to be quite insular, but now we have to talk to people.

Yes. It’s like having two minor celebrities and they’re very recognisable. I’ve been to the shop on my own and people have asked ‘Where are the twins?’ I’m like ‘Who are you’. It’s a low local level of fame.

Interview with dh – coping

I struggled for a while [with anxiety and mild depression] before going on anti-depressants when the girls were 15 months old. What was that period like for you?

I don’t think I saw it really. I knew you found it hard but I didn’t really realise what was going on. It’s hard to explain isn’t it?

I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to let you down. Everyone kept saying how well we were doing and how well we coped and I knew that I wasn’t coping. It created an expectation and I had to keep pretending. I couldn’t tell anyone.

I found it really difficult to imagine, to understand. The harder you found it, the more stuff I did, but I think that made it worse. I thought I was helping you out but that made you feel less and less helpful yourself. I wanted to give you a rest.

It was self-perpetuating because the worse I felt the more you did and I felt that you weren’t letting me do anything because I couldn’t cope.

I should’ve just left you alone! I still went to work and left you with them. I didn’t think you couldn’t do it, I just wanted to help as much as I could. You never gave up – you always carried on.

What’s been the hardest time for you?

The first bit. The not sleeping. The first six months. Once you can get a proper night’s sleep you can cope.

My perception is –correct me if I’m wrong –that you went through a hard time about six months ago

They’re more frustrating now. They’re a lot cleverer and answer back now. I couldn’t go back to not sleeping…to sleeping in two hour segments every night. They’re a lot easier now, relatively…they can be exhausting, but they can be quite fun as well.

When do I need to buy you a shed to escape from all these mad, hormonal women?

They’ll just follow me into the shed!

Having escapes is a good piece of advice. That’s something we got from another dad of twins – plan your escapes.

I get quite a lot of time on my own during the day. I often have rest days when you’re at work and the girls are at nursery. I’m lucky that a lot of my friends live and/or work in London so I can meet up with them.

I remember sending you out once to have some ‘you’ time on a particularly fraught day and you went for a drive and came back with a bag of potatoes! You could’ve gone for a coffee, a drink but you did something useful!

We needed potatoes! I felt I should do something useful.

You don’t have to. Sitting in Starbucks with a coffee and F1 Racing for an hour is perfectly fine.

It’s just not being with the kids for a bit.

Do you think life was nicer before twins or after twins?

Before was easier! A couple of people have asked me if I can recommend having kids and I reply ‘I wouldn’t recommend having two at once!’.

Interview with dh – personalities and difference

They’ve really developed their own personalities haven’t they?

They’ve been different since they were a few weeks old really. They act differently and like different things

Do you think we’ve made them different deliberately, or are they just different?

They are Identical, but they act differently, despite being genetically the same.

The great test of that was the whole Sporty Tots thing…

…which Ruth loves and Grace refuses to do. Grace did it a couple of times and hated it.

They had equal opportunity to do it and Grace was very definite about saying no. I think we have an interesting perception of them, where we think Ruth is really clever and Grace is more airy-fairy but if you look at the targets, Grace is way ahead in terms of things like number recognition and letters…

…we’re biased, but I think they’re both very clever but like doing different things. Grace will happily sit down and try to write her name. Ruth can a bit, if you can convince her to do it. She likes doing sporty things, like throwing and catching. It’s more about what they’re interested in. Ruth doesn’t like doing things she’s not already good at. She gets so embarrassed….

…for one so young whereas Grace blithely strolls through life being like Lola from Charlie and Lola.

She has no awareness of anything! She’s not self-conscious at all. Ruth is really sensitive. It makes you treat them differently as well. I find that I have to be quite careful about what I say to Ruth because she’ll get really upset.

People think that Ruth is the more confident one of the two, but she’s not.

If she’s taken away from an environment she’s comfortable in, she freaks out.

Grace would be the same if she met the tramp or the pope. She would just be Grace.

Ruth’s a bit all or nothing. There are certain people she really takes to….

….and some that she really doesn’t and she makes it very obvious!

She really loves her keyworker at nursery. She’s very choosy about who she likes and who she doesn’t. Grace is the same with everyone. She’s very bossy.

You think that Grace is really airy-fairy and then she comes out with something that reveals how sharp she really is. We’ll be looking at a book and she’ll say ‘Oh, that’s an e and a g for Grace!’ You think nothing’s going in…

It’s amazing how much they take in.

Interview with Dh – twin world

Does anything hack you off about the questions you get asked about them?

People that say ‘Ooh are they twins?’ ‘Well, yes!’. People are nice normally. It’s just that you get asked the same questions all the time.

When they were smaller I used to get ‘Is one a boy and one a girl?’

Despite them wearing dresses!

The other question that used to wind me up was ‘Which one is the naughty one?’ Erm, both of them! I remember a woman asking me how I gave birth to them and looking really disappointed that I had a c-section.

People react very differently – you can tell which ones are parents and the ones that aren’t. I suppose if you’re a mum as well you might wonder how you gave birth to them.

Not a question I’d ask someone though. It’s like the whole bump fondling thing. Do you remember when we were in Pizza Hut? I was really heavily pregnant and a woman asked me if she could touch my bump! What do you say to that?

No you freak! It was an amazing baby bump!

The other one that bugs me is ‘What’s it like with twins?’ How do you answer that?

We get that from a lot of people with one kid. They can’t quite comprehend what it would be like to have two, especially if they’ve still got a young kid.

The amount of times there’ll be a conversation with lots of parents with one child (at parties and at nursery if you walk home with a group of people) and they’ll go ‘It’s really hard with so and so at the moment because he’s doing X…but it must be REALLY hard for you with the twins!’.

It makes you slightly famous as well. Everyone knows me at work as ‘The bloke with twins’. I don’t think I’d know as many people if we didn’t have twins. I don’t mind, it’s interesting that people focus on it.

It was worse when they were tiny and we were out with two identical babies. People would go ‘Awww’.

You could almost see wombs twanging!

They looked cute…

The really strange one for me is ‘Oh I always wanted twins’…I want to say ‘Do you want these two for 24 hours?’

It’s not like we have a choice.

I was talking to someone at work a couple of weeks ago and he’s got one that’s a bit younger than the girls. He was saying that they’re at the point where they think they should have a second one. We don’t really have that because we had two at once. I mentioned that the older you get, the more likely you are to have twins and he was a bit shocked!

The big thing is that you never expect to have twins. It doesn’t occur to you when you get pregnant, or are trying to get pregnant. You just think you’ll have ‘a baby, not two or three at once.

The stats are interesting e.g. the fact that you’re more likely to have twins as you get older.

It’s the lack of knowledge you’re given. As you say, nobody expects to have twins. I don’t feel we got any support in the sense of ‘Go home and read this..’

That big baby book you had [Conception, Pregnancy and Birth by Miriam Stoppard] had one page about twins. Most books are useless!

No-one sits you down and helps you. I remember going home and reading lots of stuff e.g. the Tamba website. You become an expert because you have to be. Everyone just assumed we were having non-ID twins because they were in separate sacs with separate placentas…

…but it depends when the egg split happens. If it’s an early split you get two sacs and placentas. This was stuff we read up on afterwards. No-one tells you this stuff. All the hospital needs to interested in is how complicated the pregnancy is likely to be. They don’t care if they look the same or not!

It mattered hugely to us though! At which point did you start to think they might be identical?

When they were born, they had different hair and Ruth had the big round face. They got more similar when they reached six months. They got more and more similar to the point where no-one could tell them apart. We could because we’d got used to them. Everyone else said ‘They look exactly the same…’

I remember getting the results back from the DNA test and it said they were 99.999999 identical and all of the markers were the same. You were at work and I phoned you up and you were quite surprised.

I really thought they looked different….but they do if they’re yours! If I look back at the really early photos, I have to think ‘Which one’s that?’ Unless I can see both of their faces.

That’s why we dress them differently.

We went to that TAMBA talk, which was useful and a good thing to do, and they talked about individuality a lot.

They really hammered it home…it was the photo they showed us of the two women celebrating their 80th birthday and they were identical and dressed the same. That really, really freaked me out. That it not what I want for my children…they may want to do it, but I’m not going to encourage that.

At least if they’re individuals, they’ve got the choice. They don’t have many clothes the same. They wear similar clothes e.g. the same style in a different colour or them both wear a skirt. They tend to choose their own clothes anyway now, and have done for a while.

Would you ever dress them the same?

No, it seems a bit weird. Especially now they’re older. As babies they’d look cute but now they’re proper little people it doesn’t seem quite right. They are also quite possessive about their clothes. Ruth likes her black stuff! It’s weird if they wear each other’s clothes, which they do very occasionally. It shows how much you rely on the clothes they’re wearing to tell them apart.

I did threaten to put them in each other’s beds one night…Ruth wouldn’t give up her bed! Grace thought it was quite funny, but Ruth wasn’t having it. They wore each other’s pyjamas but she was very possessive about her bed.

Do you think that having twins has jaundiced our view of having children?

A bit. You hear of children that are more difficult, or they could be ill or have problems. Generally, though, it’s a lot harder than having one.

Interview with dh – the toddler years

We dodged the baby bullets, moved house and reached the terrible twos…

…It was hard to go through a long phase of them sleeping well and then not again.

Hence my sleep chart

You did that for ages didn’t you?

I only stopped doing that two months ago! They got a happy face if they slept all night and a sad face if they didn’t! [I did this from just after their 1st birthday until May this year].

It was all Grace really.

Grace was a crap sleeper as a baby and Ruth was a fantastic sleeper. Then they switched and Ruth became the bad sleeper during the toddler stage.

Grace wouldn’t go to sleep as a baby. She was a really light sleeper. We always think of Grace as a bad sleeper but actually she’s been ok for a while.

We’ve had our fair share of tantrums as well. They’ve both gone through phases of being difficult, but not necessarily at the same time so it’s felt relentless. Even now, at 3 y 8mo we still get the occasional wobbler.

Not that occasional. Once a day! They’re more short-lived now.

Can you offer any advice to Dads going through the toddler period?

Try not to get drawn into their arguments and argue back. Especially when they’re having a tantrum, you’ve just got to ignore them for a bit. If it’s a civilised discussion it’s fine to reason with them, but if they’re getting shouty and crying it’s best to leave them.

I used to find them more frustrating, so I’d let them go a bit more, just so I could get them to bed and make life easier. It’s a difficult balance to find. It depends on the day they’re having and the mood they’re in, Even the time of day can make a difference. You have to decide whether to stand your ground or to let it go, particularly late in the day. Pick your battles.

Ruth is easier to deal with than Grace because if she has an all-out tantrum she just lays on the floor and I’ll just walk off and leave her there! Arguing back and shouting (which Grace does) is much harder to ignore. She’ll follow you round having a tantrum! Grace is more inconsistent, so we don’t know how she’ll react to things. One day she’ll be fine and the next day everything is the end of the world.