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Fritz Barnes

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Movers and Shakers
by Fritz Barnes   

Last edited: Friday, August 08, 2003
Posted: Monday, May 06, 2002

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The ongoing battle for control of the household...

Our twin boys made it clear, early on, who was to be in charge at our house.

As infants, they seemed determined to maintain different schedules. (It was as if they were somehow saying to each other, "I've kept mom and dad up long enough. Its your turn now. I'm going to take a little rest.")

When our older children had approached crawling age, it was an exciting time. We'd get down on the floor and cheer every move, show them how to spread their hands, help them learn how to slide their knees...

When the twins approached crawling age, the objective was a bit different. As soon as either one would get up on all fours I would put my foot on his tush and push him down, saying, "Oh no, you don't! You stay where I put you!"

It was futile, of course, and they were soon traveling full-speed in opposite directions. It was a clear divide-and-conquer tactic, and they worked it to perfection.

At about 12 months, they had mastered the buttons on the TV set, and knew exactly how to flip through all the channels...very fast...again and again....and somehow, to simultaneously send the volume through the ceiling.

(To counteract this, I taped a piece of thick cardboard over the buttons, cutting a small hole in the cardboard so the remote control--when we were able to find it--could still do its job.)

Not long after, the boys started pulling the TV off of the entertainment center, seeming to delight in the panic that generally ensued as we rushed to see if the old box would still work. (Oh, and, um... of course, to see if anyone was hurt. Yeah, right! My boys are indestructible.)

Still thinking that because I was bigger, I must also be smarter (I was young and naive way back then) I fixed all of that. I bolted a piece of wood to the front edge of the entertainment center (it was a small price to pay) to ensure that the TV could no longer slip off.

It was then that I learned, my boys' objective had never been to pull down the TV, it had been...the summit! Yup, those little buggers wanted nothing more than to climb to the top of that flimsy old entertainment center...perhaps for the telephone that rested on top (they wanted to call grandma, no doubt, or maybe they were going to order a pizza). Or maybe they just wanted to climb up there for the view. But in all honesty...they wanted to climb it just "because it was there." Let's face it, from their perspective, that piece of furniture represented the highest peak in the known world.

And trust me when I tell you, that room was about the only world they knew. Twin-proofing a room for these guys (baby proofing? Hah! These guys were never babies!) was not a simple proposition. And I don't mean making a room safe for the twins, I mean making a room safe from the twins... So, that family room was the world for them. We, and the tallest gate money could buy, made sure of that.

Oh, back to that entertainment center. Did you ever see those sectional gates that hook together and bend to whatever shape you want, even a free-standing circle? For a good year, visitors to our home discovered the TV, as if some sacred and precious treasure, lovingly encircled and protected by a semi-circle constructed of just such a gate.

(By the time they were three, that gate did little more than slow them down, so--without a trace of regret at its departure--we retired the gate to the garage.)

At three, the sofa and loveseat in that family room had become the boys' personal gym. They would climb up to the back edge and walk back and forth, perfecting their balancing skills. Then they would jump from that top edge, out toward the middle of the room, to see who could jump the farthest.

They would also stand on the arm of the couch and do flips--yes, literally flips--onto the couch, landing safely on their backs with a giggle and a bounce. (Later, when they were five and barely able to swim the seven or eight feet to the side, they were doing flips off of the diving board at the local pool.)

And they would scale the couch to climb up on the windowsill... Standing there side by side, partners in crime, they would scream at the birds in the backyard. Taking turns, each was determined to be louder than the other. After each set of bone-jarring shrieks, they would look at each other and laugh hysterically at the amount of noise they were able to generate.

(Now, almost eight, they still play this game, with one variation--no windowsill or birds are required.)

Tired of seeing the boys climb the furniture, my wife decided they should have something they were "allowed" to climb on. (That word, "allowed," while it sounds good in theory, has never had much relevance for these guys.)

So she brought home one of those "Little Tykes" plastic cube thingies, with the platform, the slide, and the holes to climb through. We carefully discussed, with this new item in the room, the best way to arrange everything... Finally we settled on a spot not too close to any walls, windows, or doors, and of course not near (you guessed it) the entertainment center.

Satisfied with our work, we stepped into the kitchen for a minute, and my wife picked up the phone to call her mother. No doubt, she was going to describe how clever we had been, how wise...

No dial-tone.

It had taken the twins mere seconds to slide that plastic cube over to the entertainment center and pull down the telephone. Apparently that toy provided an opportunity they had been waiting for their entire lives.

"OK," I thought, "so they can slide the thing. Good grief, that's easy to fix." A fifty pound bag of sand was soon placed confidently underneath the platform, between the walls of the cube...and wouldn't you know it (but of course, we didn't) they simply got underneath, laid on their backs and used their strong legs to lift the cube up and over the sandbag. Without much optimism, we then tried laying the bag of sand on TOP of the platform...and not surprisingly, it barely slowed them down.

(Later that day, with fifty pounds on top and another fifty pound bag underneath, we finally had the formula right and the darned thing stayed where we put it.)

Not long after, my little climbers learned how to scale the gate, escaping the room that had been their world for a lifetime...and in so doing they once again took the upper hand in the never-ending battle for control of the household...

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Reviewed by Frederick Barnes III 2/17/2006
HI DAD IT'S ME, ERIK! I am one of those little monsters that are talked about in this article. Oh yeah dad... sorry about that :)
Reviewed by Claywoman 6/29/2002
Aren't twins fun??? Thank you for writing this! I know I enjoyed reading it, you gave me an insight into the raising of two at a time. I hope you share more stories of your children!
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