with three kids, life lessons abound
I have many conversation about what it’s like to have three children. In fact, it’s quite strange how often I’ve found myself chatting about family dynamics since Percy was born.
When you have one or two kids the conversation doesn’t last for nearly as long. But throw in a third and you’ve got conversation fodder for a good few years. There’s a sense of intrigue and mystery from those not yet ready to take the plunge and they lean in, furrow their brow, waiting for all the answers. “What’s it really like?” they say, hanging off your every word. People looking on are desperate to know more and fellow mums-of-three want to talk to someone who understands…someone who really understands.
That may sound dramatic but I’ve had those conversations – many times. And I’m not afraid to admit that not that long ago, I was the one asking all the questions, seeking all the advice, wanting so badly for it to sound achievable. But until I fell pregnant it just seemed daunting.
When I wrote this post last year someone left a comment on facebook that basically dismissed my thoughts altogether. It was something along the lines of: “…her baby isn’t moving yet, she knows nothing.” I’m sure a little of the newborn haze was still hanging around because I laughed off her comment and got on with my day. But then Percy started moving and I thought about that woman and knew exactly what she was talking about.
The past few months have been an immense period of adjustment as I literally juggle (and I’m not that coordinated) life and work with three children in tow. Throw a house hunt and a house move in and it was, at times, a little messy. But amidst the chaos there have been life long lessons learned. And they haven’t all been mine.
You see, when you have a third child your hands are literally full. And when your hands are full you have no choice but to surrender control and let others help you out. Older siblings must step up – there’s no two ways about it. And so while you feed your third baby, change his nappy or spoon porridge into his mouth, your older children have to find their clothes from the washing basket, they must butter their toast and they learn to pack their school bag on their own. For every moment that I’m busy elsewhere and with every chore they undertake, they discover their abilities and come to know just how capable they are.
And therein lies the unexpected lessons that come with the third child. I’ve had to let go of many of my ideals but in doing so, Che and Poet are gaining skills that they’ll have for life. They know exactly what it means to wait, to share and to go without, they know how to wash the dishes, water the plants and get dressed for the day. They also know the goodness of sloppy baby kisses on the lips, the joy of first steps and the contentment that comes from guiding, nurturing and loving a younger sibling.
Apparently three is the most stressful number of kids to have and in a way, I’d agree. My third pregnancy, birth and “first year with baby” required me to dig deep – physically, mentally, emotionally. Without reverting to cliches or gush, mothering three children has forced me to be more honest – there’s no time or space for fanfare or facade. Somedays I can’t quite fathom the madness or the mess. Sometimes I feel like a human teatowel. When Daniel remarked that someone at his work calls him Mr Smart/Casual, I told him that I’d probably be called Miss Avocado Smear. But then I marvel at how far we’ve come – all of us.
Last week Poet was sorting through a stack of affirmation cards at a friend’s studio. She brought me one of them because the woman painted on the front bore a striking resemblance to me. On the back it said:
Embrace your confusion, let there be peace in not knowing all the answers.