They say the third time is a charm, and truth be told, my youngest (and third child) is all charm. He is a natural empath who laughs loud, plays hard and loves oh-so-big. I truly can’t imagine life without him. But making the jump from two to three children changed life in ways I never could have prepared for.
I myself am the youngest of five children, and my mother always told me that the most difficult transition was going from two to three children. Everything gets easier when you add that fourth child, she said, because the older siblings just chipped in to care for the new family members. I will likely never know if she right about that fourth child, but I do know that is she 100% correct about the challenges of adding a number three to your brood.
Here’s what I have learned as a mom of three …
1. Three is always a crowd.
When you have three kids, one is almost always left out. Chances are that on any given day, two out of your three children are teasing the other. One is crying while the others are laughing and you, supermom, must find a way to make it all better. You stop at nothing to encourage kindness, inclusivity and structured activity, but it always ends in a two vs. one battle, and Mom yelling four letter words she will soon regret.
2. Any combination of two is basically a vacation.
Take away any one of your three children, and you are pretty sure you are in heaven. When one of the children escapes the insanity of your home for a playdate or sporting event and you are left with just two, life is good. Good and easy. No fighting, no tears, and no mom yelling. The kids even become more well-mannered, saying things like please and thank you, and they suddenly clean up after themselves. You wonder who are these little people and what happened to your children? Now, you would never get rid of a child, we all know that, but these rare moments of parenting only two are glorious and well-deserved. Enjoy them while you can.
3. Everything is a competition.
“Dibs on the bathroom!” my daughter yells as we pull the car into the driveway. My son is quick to react with, “Dibs on the TV!” Dibs, dibs, dibs! Dibs on everything. “Shotgun,” they all yell as we step outside of the front door and race to see who gets to sit in the front seat. “I said that first,” or, “Hey, that was my idea!” and, “It’s my turn to pick a movie!” are common exclamations. It is always a competition in our house, and guess who’s the ref? They always look to me to decide who is the winner of this totally unfair game of life.
4. Silence is non-existent.
Watching a movie? Trying to talk to a friend on the phone? Cleaning the house? Even if each child speaks only minimally, chances are that one of your three children will have something to say at least every 30 seconds. That means no uninterrupted thoughts for you, Mom! There are three of them, and one of you. Rest assured, it is perfectly okay to nod and say oh, that’s nice, wow, mmhmmm, and pay absolutely no attention to what your child is saying so that you can finish your own thought. Don’t make a habit of it because you are sure to get caught here and there, but give yourself permission to zone out once in a while. Sanity first, friends.
5. One-on-one time is precious.
Whether it is first thing in the morning or through the afternoon on an unexpected sick day, 1-1 time with any child at any time will provide you with the most precious moments a mother could ask for. You will feel as if you are getting to know your child in a whole new light and you will want to squeeze the love right out of yourself and into them.
You will be struck with awe over things like their gentle nature and sharp wit as you wonder why you don’t notice these qualities as much when the others are around. And then that nagging mother guilt will set in, telling you that they deserve better and that somehow you are failing as a mother because there simply isn’t enough of you to go around. Let that guilt go right away, because you are enough. These kids were chosen for you, and these 1-1 moments are too precious to taint. Soak these moments up. No matter what.
6. They love hard and forgive easily.
The life as one of three is all they know, and underneath the arguments, sibling rivalry and chaos is a love that words can’t describe. When the going gets tough, they put all bets aside and comfort each other. They raise each other up when one doesn’t make the sports team she wanted to, they work overtime to turn their siblings sad tears into pee-your-pants laughter, and they have each other’s backs no matter what. They always will.
Maybe best of all, every now and then you just might be taken by the surprise silence you thought was totally elusive as you look around to catch them cuddling on the couch, no dibs needed. Because like three peas in a pod, they fit together perfectly. And your heart melts.