Three is More Than Two and Less Than Four

I can vividly remember the nurse handing a newborn baby Charlie to me as I rested in the surgical recovery area of the hospital following his birth. Charlie’s arrival was the exact opposite of Henry’s in that it was incredibly calm, extremely joyful and mercifully brief. I didn’t know delivering a baby could be like that. That… relaxing. I cuddled Charlie in my arms for the very first time and I thought to myself, I cannot wait to do this again.

That feeling of wanting a third child never relented. Even Bob had to eventually concede that, yes, Charlie, even as a baby, seemed destined to become a middle child. He was born with the personality of one.

For as much as Charlie seemed predetermined to be the second child of three, Millie has always felt like she was meant to be our youngest. As if her slot was there but simply unfulfilled until her arrival. The new hire, so to speak. When she was born, I gleefully celebrated that my last ever pregnancy was over. Everything about her birth and first few months solidified that our family was complete.

We wanted three children together and are profoundly blessed with three children.

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So, then, here’s the rub. Turns out, three kids is… a lot of kids.

I vaguely recall a survey that some media outlet conducted last year that basically asked parents, when did your life go off the rails: was it with one kid, two kids, three kids or four or more kids? The gist of the results were that the official Chaos Tipping Point seemed to occur for most parents when they had their third child. Anything less than three and you had adequate coverage to meet demand. Anything more than three and parents just seemed to admit defeat and embrace their destiny of complete bedlam.

But, three kids is a sort of no man’s land, stuck between the manageability of two and the inevitable mayhem of four. With two kids, I was able to stay organized, stay sane, maintain order and a somewhat dignified household. With three kids, I’m intent on staying on top of things, just like when I had two, but completely incapable of actually doing that. With four kids, I think I would probably just get really good at letting certain things go. (But, let us never speak of a fourth child. Unless you want me to cry.)

Three kids was definitely our family’s tipping point. It was our Big Adjustment. The point where Bob and I switched gears into survival mode. Our expectations lowered and our resolve hardened, full of sheer determination to just make it through.

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The noise level with three kids is completely absurd. There is never a time in my house when someone little isn’t talking. Never. Someone is always talking. They are usually talking about Lego. Or, Star Wars. Or, Lego Star Wars. Add to that, at any given time in my house someone is probably, most definitely, crying. And, they are most certainly crying over something ridiculous. Usually, when someone steals their Lego piece. Or, their Star Wars piece. Or, their Lego Star Wars piece.

Just keeping three kids in weather appropriate clothing is basically a part-time job. There are bins and bins of clothes in the basement yet no one’s pajamas seem to fit quite right. Why is that? Also, everyone is always losing hats and sweatshirts (Charlie lost TWO last week alone). Add to that the fact that no one ever seems to have shoes that fit, despite the towering pile of them in all shapes and sizes by my garage door. It’s maddening.

Also, did you know that kids should see doctors on a regular basis? That you have to keep track of who needs a check-up with which physician, who needs their shots updated, what month that one is supposed to see their eye doctor, which one did I forget to follow-up with the orthodontist about, who had the appointment coming up with the dermatologist and so on and so forth. With three kids, I need a spreadsheet people.

I could also use a spreadsheet to keep track of the last time everyone bathed. School is back in session so we have a renewed focus on hygiene around here. Boys get smelly. Very smelly. With three kids, I spend a lot of time sniffing things. I think bath night would become 78 percent less stressful if I taught a couple of the kids how to shower all on their own. Also, how to cut their own fingernails. Henry is a nail biter and I’ve never held it against him because it’s ten fewer talons I have to trim.

And, on top of everything else, it appears our three children are legitimately bottomless pits of nothing but hunger pains. They are always eating. Or, talking about eating. Or, inquiring about eating. The carts at Target are, legitimately, not large enough to hold the food I must purchase to keep the ravenous tenants of my house satiated. It’s embarrassing when I round the corner and things actually go careening off of the cart, cartoon-style. I can feel people staring and saying to themselves, “Wow, lady. Have some self-respect with the Goldfish cartons there.” I feel like wearing a shirt that says, “FEEDING FIVE!”

Yes, they are adorable. Yes, they are totally worth the effort. Yes, we love them to the moon and back. And, yes, according to everyone else, they all look exactly like my husband which is incredibly unfair to the person that actually gestated them.

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When Bob and I sat down to dinner on the back porch one night last week, we both noted that it was nearly dark. Our day had been a busy one with a doctor’s appointment, soccer practice, homework wrestling and a grocery run, all sandwiched in between the many other ordinary tasks we completed that day. As we dug into our meal, I looked at him and said, “It was a long day, wasn’t it?”

Bob replied wearily, “They’re all long.”

We are tired. All of the time. There is almost never a time when we are not tired. We work hard at this parenting thing. We are diligent in the care of our three children.

Maybe the fact that we’re so tired is a good thing. Maybe it means that we’re doing something right. I can only hope.

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