Episode 183 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
In this episode, I chat with Jeremy Schneider father of fraternal boy/girl twins.
On this show, we dive into Jeremy’s twin journey, including:
- Supporting each twins’ individual interests
- Specific things they did to help foster individuality in their twins
- Boy/Girl twins sharing a room
- The transition from sharing a room to having their own rooms
- Helping with the kids when work keeps you far away during the day
- Evolving our roles as parents and with our partners over time
- The importance (and positive outcomes) of dad’s involvement in their children’s lives
- Practical ways to be more involved as a father
- Parenting is an ongoing experiment so you have to try and see what works
- Keeping a strong relationship with your children when you have a long commute and leave early
- Building a relationship early with your children
- Why being a father of twins naturally helps you be involved in their lives
Joe: Hello there, and welcome to the 183rd episode of ‘The Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast’. This is Joe Rawlinson. As always, you can find me on the web at TwinDadPodcast.com, where you’ll find the complete show notes and transcript for this episode and all previous podcast episodes.
Joe: The holidays are rapidly approaching, and today’s show is brought to you by TwinTShirtCompany.com, where you’ll find dozens of T-shirts designed specifically for you, fathers of twins, plus mothers of twins, grandparents of twins, and the twins themselves. Once again, that’s TwinTShirtCompany.com
Joe: Today, we are continuing our father of twins interview series with fellow father of twins, Jeremy Schneider. Jeremy is a certified marriage and family therapist, a fellow author of a great book that we’ll talk about, and a father of fraternal twins. We’ll talk a lot about how to give individual attention to each twin, the challenges of being a father, and how to be involved as a parent and as a father in the lives of our children, and how to keep evolving our parenting methods over time to meet the needs of our individual children. Let’s jump right into the interview with Jeremy.
Joe: Today, I’d like to welcome to the show fellow father of twins, Jeremy Schneider. Welcome to the show, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
Joe: So Jeremy, tell us a little bit about your family situation right now. How old are your twins? What’s the most exciting thing about this age?
Jeremy: I have boy/girl twins who turn 16 in two weeks, which is overwhelming to say the least. So there’s four of us, we have my wife, and then the two kids. I’d say the most exciting part about this time right now is watching their talents begin to really shine. So just as a coincidence, last night, they’re both part of an acapella group at their school, and for the first time in our lives, we watched them both sing together as part of a group on stage last night, and it was unbelievable. They both have very different voices, but they have such personalities, and my wife and I were just overwhelmed with pride. It was a pretty nice moment.
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Joe: Yeah, what a great milestone, to see them perform together. That’s pretty awesome.
Joe: Have they always been interested in the same kinds of things like music, or did one follow the other’s lead in that regard?
Jeremy: No, it’s interesting. They always liked music, but in different directions. So my son always was interested in drums, whereas my daughter was much more interested in singing. So they’ve been involved in various groups, but my daughter has been more performance oriented, being in shows and singing, while he has been more in musical groups or in the jazz orchestra, or he was in the pit of the recent high school musical they did. So they’re interested in the same things, and it kind of connects, but they don’t really overlap, and this was the first time we ever saw them, besides the little elementary school performances, like class performances, this is the first time we really saw them on stage perform together, and it was really awesome.
Joe: That’s great that you finally got a chance to see them together since they are in similar circles, but not quite overlapping until this performance.
Joe: Do you see any competition between them as far as different levels of achievement?
Jeremy: They don’t. We’ve … it’s funny, I was listening to one of your earlier podcasts talking about being emotionally aware when raising your children, and one of your guests was talking about making sure to try not to compare one twin to the other because it can create this competitiveness or create other concerns, and thankfully that was something we felt really strongly about, my wife and I felt very strongly about from the get go, and tried hard, I’m sure we were not always successful, but we tried hard to be conscious of, even though they’re twins, they’re each their own person, and we don’t want to compare them to each other, we just want them to be who they are most comfortable being. So I think we’ve been fortunate that they, for the most part, do not have real competition, and in fact, my daughter was in this acapella group already last year, and this year encouraged her brother to try out for it because she thought he would really have a good time and they would have fun in the group together. So I think they’re pretty good about sharing their stuff with each other like that, and for us, that’s pretty exciting to watch.
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Joe: Oh, that is. So they kind of help each other out, cheer each other on. It’s a good dynamic.
Jeremy: Yeah, I mean, it’s not always like that, let’s be honest, but you know, it definitely seems like that’s more so the case, thankfully.
Joe: That’s good. Yeah, we’ve seen different interests in our … we’ve got identical girls who are 10 now, and they have different interests, but they do encourage each other in those and help each other out a lot, so it’s fun to see. But like you say, it’s not always roses. Sometimes they’re like cats and dogs, but other times they get along great. You mentioned trying to focus on their individuality and encouraging that. What are some things that you had success in encouraging that individuality in each of them?
Jeremy: I definitely think some of that was with music. Just being able to sign them up for different classes. There was also a stretch where my daughter was taking a lot of dance classes because her goal is to be on Broadway, and to be on Broadway, you need to know how to dance, and you need to know how to sing, so that was very important to her. And allowing them to have their own activities I think was a really big deal, not always being like, “Oh, well if one wants to do it, then the other has to do it.” And obviously that’s challenging from a logistical standpoint. It’s hard to, as a parent, be in two places at one time, but for the most part, I think that really worked out. Even just when we put them in different rooms, I think allowing them to have their own space. I think we did that somewhere around six or seven, six-ish, and I think that really helped as well. I think also as a difference to you, having boy/girl twins, it’s a little bit easier, I think to allow their individuality to flourish because by their very nature, they’re going to come across life in a very different way because they come from a different gender and different perspectives. So I think for us that was a little bit easier than I think it would be than if we had had identical twins like you.
Joe: Can you talk a little bit, you mentioned the transition from sharing a room to separate rooms. Was that driven by you as the parents, or were the kids to the point where they expressed a desire to have their own space?
Jeremy: It was a little bit of both. I think we were starting to feel like it was time. They were getting kind of too big for the one small room that they had. It was big enough for one person, but it wasn’t really big enough for two people. The two beds in there were crowding the place up. So I think that was a big part of it, and I think we just … we were very, what’s the word, conscientious, we were very concerned about trying to make sure that we gave them their own sense of individuality without trying to upset the special dynamic that twins have. So for us, it was just down the hall, it was six steps, but it definitely made a difference, and I think it was hard, it definitely was challenging for them.
Jeremy: Up until that point, they had spent their entire life sleeping in the same room together, so all of a sudden to kind of go their own way was difficult for them, even though they were still in the same house and still part of the same family and obviously all the same everything else was the same, but that transition was I think challenging for them. And on the flip side, I think it was great. I think it was such an important thing for us to do, and I think they’re both so appreciative of having had their own room and of course now having their own room, and being able to have a place that is really their own, that they can just be by themselves without the other one if necessary, and I think that really has been very helpful for them.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. I’ve talked to other parents of boy/girl twins, and they usually start out like you, sharing the room together, and sometimes they ask is there any awkwardness because there’s two genders in the room. Does it reach an age where it’s awkward for the kids or the parents? It seems like in your experience, it was more focused on their individual needs, not necessarily anything having to do with gender at all.
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Jeremy: Yeah, I don’t think so. I mean, the truth is that sometimes when they’re getting dressed for some event, they’re always talking about what they’re each going to wear and how they’re going to get ready for it. My son is a fashion guy, it’s fascinating to watch because at his age, I was not anywhere near that talented with clothing and hair, so they’ll share these ideas or, “Oh, you look good in this.” Or, “You look good in that.” So that’s really kind of cool. So the gender piece never really played that much of a role, it wasn’t that much of a concern for us, but it was really, like I was saying earlier, just the idea of having their own space and having their own something. Everything in their lives up to that point was shared, so being able to have, “Oh, this is my bed in my room.” While that was an adjustment, I think it really worked out for them.
Joe: I know, my girls would love to have their own room now. Logistically, it’s not going to happen any time soon, but-
Jeremy: Yeah. That’s the other part, right? We were fortunate enough to be in a house where we knew when we got it, [inaudible 00:11:13] room that we could use.
Joe: So you mentioned encouraging them in different activities, and there’s a logistical challenge to that that you mentioned. So how did your wife and you juggle that? Was it divide and conquer, or do you have some other method to manage the chaos there?
Jeremy: It is divide and conquer. I think it’s difficult because mostly where I work, I work in the city, we live on Long Island, it’s an hour and 15, 20 minutes from the time that I leave my office to the time that I get home, so I’m not really available on call, unfortunately, as much as I would like to be, but on the flip side, if something starts to happen a little bit later in the evening, then it’s really easy.
Jeremy: … starts to happen a little bit later in the evening, then it’s really easy for me to get involved. So that’s been great. We were really fortunate. We also had her parents. My wife’s parents have been around for so much of what we’d been doing with the kids. So if it ended up that my wife needed to be at two places at once, her parents were really generous with their time and always very helpful. But it’s that whole idea of shared parenting, where it’s not just one having to be responsible for everything, like all the logistical stuff. I think that’s always been something we’ve tried to deal with, and, unfortunately, because of where I work has been a little bit harder immediately after school to deal with.
Jeremy: What we tried to figure out is what other things can I pick up. Right? For instance, one of the things is I frequently deal with the school in terms of administration issues or when we have an issue with the teacher that we want to address or something like that. I’m usually the one that starts that conversation, or we’re dealing with a guidance counselor. It’s just sort of trying to find ways to kind of even out the sort of shared burdens of parenting. Sometimes, even for me, I can’t always be present to pick them up after school, but maybe I can deal with some of the challenging issues with school or in scheduling some appointments or when I come home in the evening, to be able to rush and pick up a kid while she’s at work or something.
Joe: Yeah, so a good division of labor. I like how you remind us about our needs to work as a partner with our spouse or a partner in the parenting responsibilities. You can’t just slough off everything, maybe because one parent is working full-time and the other is at home. It is an important give and take and partnership. I know my wife and I, our roles have kind of varied over time, depending on our work situation and how old the kids are. It’s not something you can just outline and then stick with that forever because it’s going to continually evolve over time.
Jeremy: Yeah. I think, to me, that’s one of the more underrated or underestimated aspects of parenting that parents don’t talk about enough. Right? We talk about sort of the things that we believe we want for our kids or how we should punish them or how we should reward them and maybe even how do we divide up responsibilities or tasks for them to do. But we don’t sort of think about how do we take the big picture of all the responsibilities of being a parent and try to make sure that not one of us is overwhelmed by that weight and that the more that we can share that weight the easier it will be on both of us.
Joe: You’ve recently written a book, Fatherhood in 40-Minute Snapshots, which has a great collection of short little essays about your experience as a father, and some interactions you’ve had with your twins, some things you learned along the way. You mentioned in there a lot about the importance of a dad’s role and involvement with the children. I know, professionally, you’re also a marriage and family therapist. Can you speak a little bit about why it’s so important that dads are involved in the lives of their children?
Jeremy: The idea that what men bring to the table as dads makes a big difference in the life of their kids. I want to sort of clarify that by saying that doesn’t in any way reduce the enormous impact that moms have on their children, but that kids do better when there are two parents that are involved. Whether those two parents are man and a woman, two men, two women, doesn’t matter. But what matters is that children do better when there are two parents involved. When we talk about how involvement of dads makes a difference in the lives of their children there’s a lot of research out there that talks about kids tend to do better in school when their dads are involved. Kids tend to have a better sense of life satisfaction as they get older when their dads are involved. They experience the world a little bit better. They have a better sense of self. There’s even studies that have shown that women tend to … daughters will tend to have sex later on in life when they have involved dads.
Jeremy: I think there’s so much powerful stuff here that shows why dads are important and the benefit that dads give to their children that I hope it kind of inspires dads who are unsure of their importance, unsure of the value that they bring to their family, that it helps them to see, “No, no, no. I do make a difference. Maybe that just starts with me sitting down and playing with my toddler and see where that takes me.” Right? They don’t have to know how to be the perfect dad, by any stretch of the imagination. But just the process of starting to be involved on a regular basis can make such a huge difference.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. I see that with my girls. They come home from school and they talk about their friends and the family situations of their friends. Some of them are quite sad and depressing. It makes me feel like, “Okay, I need to even work harder as a dad to help my daughters.” Even if vicariously through them, they can help their friends in the difficult situations that they’re in. You mentioned that we don’t have to be perfect as dads, which is good news because none of us are. What are some of the maybe key components of involvement with our children, maybe some low-hanging fruit that we can start on with our kids?
Jeremy: I have sort of two thoughts on that. They’re more big picture reminders. I think the first one is that being a parent is very my like managing a project. There’s so many pieces involved and there’s so many different things that we need to do. Part of what we might be able to do is just sort of help thinking about this isn’t necessarily … Of course this is the most important job we’ll ever have in our lives. Right? It’s the most valuable thing that we could possibly do, is to have a positive impact on our children. But it doesn’t need to feel like that enormous pressure. In the end, we are just trying to do our best to help our kids get further on in life. Thinking about that as a project, sometimes, I find, helps men sort of quantify it in a way that helps them get another perspective. “Oh, okay. If I want them to be able to do this, I need to help them with these three things.”
Jeremy: I think that’s, sometimes, for dads can be really helpful. I think another thing related to that is that this is, in a large part, an experiment. It’s an ongoing experiment that we parents are trying to do in terms of raising our kids. We don’t know how it turns out. We don’t know the effect of every single thing that we do in 20 years down the road or 30 years down the road. We are just trying to do our best. I think, with that comes a freedom to experiment. I think some of that is … sorry. A good example of that is, for instance, there are so many things that I’ve tried over the years to connect with my kids. Obviously, some of them were very successful, but also, some of them were incredibly unsuccessful. Things that I thought would make a difference didn’t and things that I just did without even thinking about it have stuck with us for 15 years.
Jeremy: To me, what I think that that is a really valuable lesson of is that you just keep trying. If something doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It just means you need to try another way. You just keep going. When that stops working, you try again. You keep going and going and going. I think a simple example of that is, when I left for work in the morning, when my kids were toddlers, it was very difficult. If they were awake when I left, there was often screaming. But then, if they were asleep when I left, they were really upset that they didn’t get to see me. We kept trying to figure out ways to help them feel connected to me while I was away. One of the things that I accidentally did was I left them a note in the morning.
Jeremy: It was on construction paper. I hand wrote a note, and I drew a stick figure drawing because I am, unlike my daughter, in no way an artist whatsoever. Just like, “Hey, I’m so proud of you. You slept through the night. I love you. I’ll miss you today,” and then a drawing of something we did the night before. And drawing, again, in quotes, of course. My wife told me that was amazing, that they loved it. Whereas I was like I was just slapping it together because I just wanted to leave them a note. They can’t even read yet. Right? She’s reading it to them. Before I know it, I was doing that for months, I think, every morning. Because when I didn’t leave them a note, they missed it. I didn’t know that would work.
Jeremy: But it’s just that, here it was. I tried something new, and fortunately, it worked out for a few months that they really felt connected to me while I was away at work. I think that’s really what I want dads, all parents, but especially dads, to understand that you just keep experimenting with different ways of connecting with your kids. Some of it won’t work but some of it will. The ones that do work really have a powerful impact.
Joe: Yeah, that’s a great example. I like how you tried something new. It wasn’t necessarily intentional that that was going to become a habit over the next couple of months. But you saw how your kids reacted to that and then you continued what was working. If it had been a total flop, maybe you would have tried something else.
Joe: And that’s-
Jeremy: I had tried other things before that. They hadn’t connected with them the way that this did.
Joe: Oftentimes, our kids don’t … They don’t know what they want us to do. Right? We want to be present and we want to be involved and we try different things and we see how those turn out.
Jeremy: The idea somehow there is a right way to do this or somehow our kids know what they need from us and we should figure it out, I think the reality is is they don’t know what they need from us. We need to sort of decide what they need from us and then do the best that we can to fulfill that. I talk a little bit about this in terms of what I call the guiding principles of parenting. For my wife and I, the first guiding principle of parenting is that no matter what, we’re going to love them. We’re going to love them unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what they do, what they say, how they act, how they behave. That love never changes. We can be mad. We can be disappointed. We can be angry, upset, et cetera. But we still love.
Jeremy: When you come at from that perspective and start thinking about, “Okay, but what do I do every day that helps remind them or show them or prove to them that we love them unconditionally and that I’m there for them?” It ends up being like a note. It ends up being something called … We had this-
Jeremy: It ends up being something called … We had this thing where my wife would be away or would go out and my kids and I would go out to dinner or do something special, just the three of us. We would call it los tres amigos. It just became this thing when they were toddlers that was this special name to make it special when mommy wasn’t around instead of them getting upset that mommy wasn’t around. Honestly, they’re just about 16 years old, we still use los tres amigos when it’s the three of us together. I didn’t plan that. That wasn’t some part of grand scheme of mine. I lucked into it, it worked and it continued to work and so we keep using it.
Jeremy: I think one of the things that we talked about earlier about the importance of involved dads, I think the piece that I mention that I want to circle back to is the level of involvement is not what we think it is. It doesn’t matter that we think we’re involved with our kids. All that matters is our kids experience of us being involved. All the benefits of fatherhood involvement are based on children’s perception of what they feel their dad is … the level that their dad is involved. To me, that was like a really important thing to remember that, okay, it doesn’t matter that I feel like I’ve loved them. The question is do they feel like I’ve loved them. Do they feel like I’m there for them? Do they feel like I care? That I’m present?
Jeremy: It helped me to sort of feel a little bit of pressure every day or so to just make sure that I was doing something that when they went to bed at night they felt this comfort and security in my presence, both physically and emotionally. I think that’s where that, just trying something, always just trying something different. Trying a new way to connect with them I think is really, really valuable.
Joe: Absolutely. I like los tres amigos and how you started that when they were really young and it’s continued even to today. We’ve done something similar, we have what I call daddy interviews. We’ll do like one on one chat with each kid maybe once a month, it’s usually once a quarter now. Just to kind of find out what’s going on in their life that maybe you don’t get a chance to talk about because we’ve got four kids in the house and it’s usually kind of crazy in a group setting. Pull them aside one on one and ask how details of school or their friends and things that they’re struggling with. When they were younger those conversations were pretty simple. Now, I’ve got my oldest is a teenager now, and so those conversations are evolving to more complex matters. Because we’ve established this pattern of dad wants to know how you’re doing, the kids are more likely to talk about things that are challenging. Where before they might have just held it in or kept it a secret.
Jeremy: What you’re talking about it also so important. You can’t just show up when they’re 10 or 14 and say, “Oh, hey. I’m here. I’m ready to be involved.” You’ve laid that groundwork for their entire childhood so that it doesn’t at all seem uncomfortable when you say, “Hey, I really want to know what’s going on.” Because they’re already used to that bond, that connection with you. I think that’s the other thing that is so important for dads to understand is you have to start when they’re babies. You have to start when they’re toddlers. You have to have that presence and that connection so that by the time you get to those difficult middles school and high school years, you have a foundation of a relationship that you can build upon. That doesn’t mean it will be easy but it means you have a much better chance of be helpful and supportive and encouraging and empathetic to your children because they’ll have been used to that feeling with you. Even though now there’s so much more drama and challenges, that they’ll still see you as someone that is helpful and valuable to them.
Joe: I think that’s where we, as far as the twins, have an advantage too. Twins when they’re infants, basically force both parents to be involved in the logistics of feeding and diapers and changes and nap time and all that stuff. If we get in that routine of just pure logistics of child care early it helps us continue to spend time with them as they mature and their needs mature and you start to build that relationship with them.
Jeremy: I completely agree. There are definitely times where I think about what would have happened if we had only had one. Because my wife would have almost always been holding that one baby and would have been nursing that one baby. I would have been sitting there with nothing to do. I would have been kind of relegated to a much more supportive role while she was much more the primary caregiver. That doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t have wanted me to be involved or I wouldn’t wanted to have been involved but it just more logistically is more difficult when two people are sharing one baby. When you’re sharing two babies, yes, it’s overwhelming, but I always had a baby. It just challenged me to do something with the baby I was holding because I wanted that connection. I wanted to feel something with them. Whether it was filing nails, which was something that I would do when they were babies so they didn’t scratch themselves or just singing to them or anything I could.
Jeremy: Just having to always have a baby really challenged me to okay, how do I connect, how do I bond, how do I enjoy this experience? Whereas if we had only had one, it would have been a lot of watching from the sidelines that I think would have been very difficult. My life would be very different.
Joe: Yeah, being a father of twins has it’s challenges for sure, but it also has it’s advantages. That’s definitely one of them.
Joe: Jeremy, you’ve written a great book for dads, Fatherhood in 40 Minute Snapshots. Can you share a little bit about the epitaph behind that book and what dads can expect in it?
Jeremy: Absolutely. First let me explain the title. My commute into work is on a 40 minute Long Island railroad train. That’s where every article was written. I would get up in the morning, I’d get myself ready for work. Either I’d see the kids or not see the kids, and I’d walk to the train station. I’d get on the train and I’d start writing. I started writing because I found myself struggling with some parental challenge. For me, being on the train by myself gave me a chance to be kind of brutally honest with myself. Like, what are you really doing? Is this the way that you want to be a parent? Are you doing the way that you think you are? Are you the kind of person that you think you are?
Jeremy: It was really this valuable time, almost therapeutic for me. I started writing and before I knew it I had hundreds of articles. I started getting them published and things like that and then recently I realized I could compile a bunch of them into a book. I put the book together in terms of what I think are some of the most important topics. There’s the preparation pregnancy, there’s the bonding particularly in the early years. There’s the issues of sleeping, there’s the parental issues. Having kids affects a marriage or relationship so profoundly so how do you start to deal with those issues?
Jeremy: Then also just like when do we find out our grade. The struggles of being a parent is that in 20 years you’re going to see how it turns out but you don’t know now whether or not you’re doing a good job. Trying to help think about how might we be able to see if we’re doing okay or not. That’s a book. I tried to write it in a way that there are basically bite sized chunks so you don’t have to read it all the way through. You can say, “You know what I’m really struggling with sleep. Let me get someone else’s perspective on sleep issues.” And read through that section.
Joe: Awesome. I enjoyed reading through these vignettes as well. You capture the moment really between you and your kids in each of these and the conversations and the experiences and the kinds of things that you were learning along the way. We talked earlier in our chat today about the trial and error. Some things worked and some things that didn’t and the outcomes. I definitely recommend to listeners you check out this book, Fatherhood in 40 Minute Snapshots. Where’s the best place to find this book Jeremy?
Jeremy: The best place to find the book is at my website, jgs.net. My initials are Jeremy G. Schneider, so jgs.net is the best place to find the book. You can also check me out on Twitter or Facebook. Twitter is @jgs_author.
Joe: Fantastic. Listeners, I’ll link up to those in the show notes so you can check out Jeremy’s book and connect with him on Twitter. Jeremy, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your expertise with us today. We really appreciate it.
Jeremy: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Joe: I hope you enjoyed that chat with Jeremy. Shared a lot of tips about fatherhood and parenting and things that are working and how you can adapt those to your needs with your twins and your children. Again, you can check out his book and connect with him via social media. I’ll link up to all of those in the show notes of this episode over at twindadpodcast.com. Again, today’s show is brought to you by twintshirtcompany.com where you’ll find dozens of t-shirts designed specifically for you, families with twins. We got shirts for dad, mom, grandparents and the twins themselves. As you know as a parent of twins, good things come in twos, so if you order two or more shirts you’ll get free U.S. shipping. Head on over to twintshirtcompany.com
Joe: Thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you next time.
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