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Raising twin (teenage) girls – a dad’s story

Brent Harbour and his wife Kezia have three teenage daughters. 17-year-old Aidan and almost 14-year-old twins, Aspen and Keira. Sound like a lot (of hormones)? Well, at the risk of ruining any dramatic suspense, the Harbours are doing just fine.

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At their scan, Brent remembers hearing the radiographer exclaim, “Oh! That’s interesting!” Not really something you want to hear from your radiographer. “What? Two heads?,” Brent asked. “Nope. Twins.” Gobsmacked is the word Brent uses to describe that moment. “Being pregnant and having a baby was scary enough. But two at once? How would we cope?”

How did they cope?

By sucking it up and paying out a lot of extra money

“When we first found out we were pregnant, we figured we’d be fine because we still had all of Aidan’s hand-me-downs. But no. We were now going to need two of everything! Also nappies? Crikey.” Brent laughed as he recalled being a first-time parent with Aidan and the expense of buying lots of bottled food for her. This all changed with the twins. “This time we went old school and made the baby food ourselves – lots of mashed vegetables frozen in ice trays. I reckon it paid off and actually made the twins less fussy as eaters because they got a taste for home-cooking early on.”

By saying bye to the ‘nice car’

Thanks to the now three car seats, it was time for a people mover. “My cool factor went down by 100 percent and the people at work gave me real grief.” 14 years later, that faithful Honda Odyssey is still with the family ferrying the girls and their mates around.

Routine routine routine

Taking on the advice of the wise nurses at the hospital, Brent and Kezia worked hard to establish routines that would make it all more manageable. Even so, that first year with the twins proved to be extra hard with Kezia recovering from a Caesarean and back problems. Brent had to step up his support more. “With Aidan, we could take turns getting up at night. But with the twins, we both got up at every feed and so neither of us got much sleep, really!”

By learning together

When the twins were six, the Harbours spent three years Dubai. Foregoing the easy option of doing life exclusively with other expats, the family chose to do life there in an incredibly diverse community. The girls played with French Muslims, kids from Pakistan, Iran, India, Bangladesh, to name a few. At Christmas, their new Muslim friends would bring presents and in return, the Harbours would bring gifts to them at Eid.

“I remember telling the girls, ‘This is not our country. We are immigrants and so we have to learn and respect how things are done here.’ I think it has made the girls more empathetic to others who have come to live here in New Zealand.” The time spent in Dubai is remembered fondly by the family as a time full of wonderful memories, including seeing the pyramids in Egypt and the time Brent took the girls over to Rome while they were studying its ancient history. ““Our travel adventures have been great family bonding and learning experiences.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. Kezia was home-schooling the girls and it soon wore her out.
Eventually she and the girls returned to New Zealand while Brent stayed on for another year. “I discovered the magic of Skype and talked to them every day those 12 months. But it was difficult. I missed them and I felt like I missed out on so many things – birthdays were the hardest. It wasn’t a great year.”

By getting to know the girls

Aspen and Keira have different personalities – “One is a little more serious and practical, and the other is a bit more of an entertainer,” and Brent has learned to be intentional about keeping communication lines going between them. “I sometimes hear myself starting to sound like one of those dads. ‘Are you really going to wear that? It’s cold outside. Don’t you think jeans would be a better idea than shorts?’”

And what about the inevitable topics of boys? “It’s not been part of their world yet but we do talk about it. I don’t fear boys – I think I can deal with boys and I am careful to not criticise boys. What I actually fear most is the bullying that can happen on social media. I expect there will be ups and downs with the twins but they know they can always come and chat with Kezia or me.”

How has the twins’ relationship changed over time?

As it turns out, the inevitable discussion about having separate rooms has only recently come up in the Harbour home. When the girls were younger, separating them resulted in many tears but they are now coming into their own. (With a touch of newfound willfulness in there – nothing their parents can’t cope with though)! “It’s actually wonderful to see how they get on – they really appreciate each other.”

“Seeing them develop as independent individuals is something I’ve particularly enjoyed.” Having spent most of their life seen as a ‘twin pack’, it has been exciting for Brent to watch Aspen and Keira branch out and pursue different passions, subjects at schools and groups. “It’s always fun as parents of twins to assess what’s the same and what’s different in the lives of these girls who have spent so much of their upbringing together.”


Attend a Toolbox parenting group

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The four Toolbox groups – Early Years (0-6), Middle Years (6-12), Tweens and Teens (12-18) and Building Awesome Whānau (0-12) are available throughout the country. In an informal, relaxed and friendly environment participants are equipped with practical skills and strategies that can be immediately put to use. Over six sessions, key parenting principles are explored and participants are encouraged in their parenting. Find out more and register here.

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About Author

John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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