I was a freshman in college the first time I was introduced to the idea of synergy. It was Thanksgiving and I was staying with my boyfriend’s family for the long weekend. His mom sent us down to the basement to put sheets on the beds, and I couldn’t believe how quickly we were able to get the beds done. “This would have taken me five time as long to do by myself,” I said. “It’s synergy,” he answered. “When we work together, the sum is greater than the parts.” I probably tackled him and kissed him at that point, so we will give our teenage romantics some privacy while we exit from that part of the narrative.
Since that time, I’ve seen synergy at work in many different ways. Last night I was doing round one of wrapping Christmas presents, since they had taken over my husband’s closet to the point that he couldn’t even reach his shirts. Most years, my mom and I wrap presents together at Christmas, but this year she’s staying at home in Minnesota and I’ll be in Utah. We have a system down: I do the grunt work (putting paper on boxes, placing items in gift bags, writing what’s in the package on the bottom, ironing the ribbons, coming up with the clue we traditionally provide for each package), and she does the finish work (fluffing tissue paper, tying bows, writing the clues in her fancy handwriting). But this time, I was all alone, or rather, I wanted to be all alone, but various kids kept coming in and peeking. Wrapping is usually one of the things I look forward to most during the year, but this time it felt like drudgery. I was missing my mom. My mom, and synergy.
But I’m experiencing plenty of synergy in other aspects of my life. Unfortunately, it’s not the happy, productive kind, at least not from my perspective. I have two two-year-olds. They’re not biological twins, but with six months separating them, they might as well be. First of all, I feel the need to apologize to every mom of twins I’ve ever known or taught in primary or seen in the checkout line at the grocery store. I thought that since I had multiple kids, I knew what having twins was like– having two-year-old twins wasn’t measurably different from having a three-year-old and a one-year-old, right? Wrong. There were even times when I was sort of jealous of twin moms because I thought that it might be easier to raise two at once than it would be to keep raising one after the other after the other (that, and the matching clothes thing).
On the other hand, I’ve always thought that twins were kind of naughty and undisciplined. Not necessarily as a group, but I’ve definitely had times where I’ve thought that the twins I knew were naughty. I have twin cousins who are two years older than I am, and I grew up thinking they were both 10000x cooler and 10000x wilder than I was, and that’s probably because every time we got together we did things I wouldn’t dream of doing on my own. And that’s exactly it– twins get into the kinds of trouble that singleton kids wouldn’t even dream of.
Right now, for example, while I write this, they’re both standing on stools so they can reach the top of their dad’s dresser, where there’s a cup of change. They’ve got their fists full of change, and they’re stuffing it down the tiny slot between his dresser and mine, which will eventually require me to get down on the floor and move the dressers to retrieve the coins (and whatever else they’ve shoved down there). But they’re not bothering me and they’re quiet, so I let it slide. We’ve had more disasters with paint and crayons in the last six months than I’ve known in 14 years of parenting. I’ve been the mom at the zoo with one kid running in one direction toward a speeding golf car and the other taking off the other way. I called poison control yesterday before we headed off to church. One morning a few weeks ago, I got out of the shower and they weren’t in my bedroom, watching tv (which is where I’d left them five minutes earlier). I finally found them on the driveway, swordfighting with scissors. Most days, I feel like I try to carry out the regular duties of my life with cement blocks on my feet, probably because I’m usually carrying either the 32-pounder or the 27-pounder, or both. I can pretty much guarantee that every single day we will have the kind of disaster I would have considered blog-worthy with any of my other kids, but it’s starting not to faze me. Or maybe I’m just tired. My husband thinks I don’t watch them, but the amazing thing is that all of this stuff happens while I am watching them.
The thing that astounds me, when I look at the chaos that our lives has become, is that a year ago, this is exactly what I was praying my guts out to have happen. Our daughter was a caboose, so of course the logical decision was to adopt a buddy for her. And nine months since he joined our family they are best buddies, which is great. But as someone who craves order and clean spaces and walls without crayon on them, I’m finding this stage of parenting a much greater challenge this time around than it was with my four older kids. I’m hoping that one of these days I’ll be able to put their synergistic energy to good use. Maybe they’ll be our designated bedmakers.
So– synergy– where do you see it in your life? And toddlers– anyone else as fed up with theirs as I sometimes feel with mine?