When you have your first child you expect things to change. Even moving from one to two children incurs adjustments. But after two, people assume that your job as a parent isn’t that much harder, you’ve done it all before just hit repeat.
It’s true, there are some parenting benefits to having three kids; they entertain each other (there’s always someone to play with) and you can get more use out of that highly expensive baby gear you’ve invested in. But I’ve discovered a few things that parents of three don’t share with you. If you’re getting ready to welcome baby number three, here are four things you might want to know:
You don’t have enough hands. I’m not speaking figuratively, as in three kids keep you so busy your hands are full; I mean you physically don’t have enough hands. My kids still love holding my hand when we are out. This may sound like a lovely idea, and it is unless it’s a school day. Then handholding becomes the catalyst for a sibling fight. When supply is limited (only two hands), demand seems to increase. To avoid morning squabbles we’ve had to instill a handholding rotation for our walks to and from school. So far; so good. I expected my kids to fight, that’s what siblings do, but not over my hands.
You can forget most of what you learned about raising kids. Having another child is not the same as riding a bike; you can’t just pick it up again like nothing’s different. People are wrong to assume that after raising two kids, the next one should be a piece of cake. I mean, you’ve done it all before right? Not so. What worked for my first two kids, never seemed to work for my third. She plays different, has different likes and dislikes, even the benefit of having an older siblings clothes to wear doesn’t earn much favour in the eyes of my third child. It’s true, it’s not like learning from scratch, well, most of the time, but it’s not a cake walk either.
You forget to teach important lessons. Although, I am having to learn new ways of doing things when it comes to my third child, there are some basics that haven’t changed. These are mainly safety rules: don’t touch the stove, don’t open the door to strangers, or don’t slide down the stairs on a flimsy sheet of cardboard. But I’ve found that since I’ve taught these rules to my oldest two, having repeated them over and over again as they were growing up (especially to my son), somehow I’ve assumed I’ve told my youngest. I thought she was there to hear the lesson or absorbed it through osmosis or by watching her siblings NOT do these things. Not likely. I have found myself telling my daughter about not opening the door AFTER she opened it to a courier while I was in the basement. I’m telling her not to slide on the cardboard box down the stairs AFTER the incident and I have an ice pack on her head from hitting the floor at the bottom. No one likes going over things again and again — I don’t like saying it, my kids don’t like hearing it — but if in doubt I’m finding it’s best to ere on the side of caution. If anything, my third child will be resilient.
You rush the growth of your oldest child. No one would ever admit this as a parent, but I think with the age gap between the oldest and the youngest in a family of three children, you tend to look to your oldest child for help. You could say it’s out of the desire to encourage sibling bonding but in reality it seems to be more out of necessity. I find myself asking my oldest to help my youngest get ready in the morning or get her a snack as I’m in the middle of helping my middle child brush his teeth or pack lunches in the school bags. My oldest daughter is capable and usually a willing helper but sometimes I think I expect too much from her, too much playing the mother role with her younger sister. Instead of reading a book, she’s helping her sister with her socks. Instead of swinging and daydreaming in the backyard, she’s pushing her little sister on the swing. You’re right, these aren’t bad things but a part of me thinks my oldest daughter is missing portions of just being her own child, without worrying about her younger sister.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having three kids and can’t imagine our house with anything less. It just seems there are few things I have encountered and I didn’t expect, things people don’t talk about. Maybe they don’t get talked about because they’re not that big a deal or they’re kind of embarrassing to admit but I just wanted to share these for any future families of five.