Here’s what we didn’t realize:
When our son was born, his sister was almost 9 years old. Only one kid was in diapers, only one kid was shoving small objects into their mouth, nose or ears at any given time, and only one kid would be screaming their head off for longer than 2 minutes.
Oh, to go back to those easy days.
Don’t get me wrong - it was definitely a big adjustment to go from one child to two. We had to learn to juggle the needs of both children at the same time. Definitely more complicated than just having one child.
When I was pregnant with #3, we really thought we had this whole “parenting” thing down. It was only 3 years before that we had done the newborn stage with our son, and everything was still fresh in our minds. We weren’t as worried about her getting sick, or getting enough sleep, or as obsessive about writing her bottle times down. We trusted our instincts with the 3rd. We assumed that after 2 kids already, we were pretty much pros.
Dear lord, were we ever wrong.
Okay, so here’s my take: being the parents of 2 kids KIND OF sets up the framework to be able to handle adding more to your brood. HOWEVER, it’s not in the way you think. Or at least not in the way I was thinking…
Bear with me here as I try to pull a coherent thought out of my head with only one cup of coffee in me and 6,000 other thoughts floating around my overloaded brain. Maybe if I make a list that will simplify things?
- Your kid gets sick
- You have 1 child: So what? You spend all of your time devoted to making your little one feel better. You stock up on Vicks, you buy the special green bubble bath, you set up the humidifier in their room. Worst case scenario: one parent sleeps on the couch while the other parent and kid get the big bed for the night. If it lasts for more than 1 night, you can just take turns. Both of you are rested enough to continue functioning like normal human beings. The world keeps turning.
- You have 2 children: Ah….this one is a little trickier. You may not have time to go out and buy any of that special stuff, and if you do, it means you are leaving the 2 sick kids with the other parent ALONE. You’ll probably get a speeding ticket either on the way there or the way home because you will be on your way to rescue your poor, exasperated partner. When you get home, you can divide up the kids. One is assigned to the oldest (along with the cooking of the dinner and any other household tasks that need to be accomplished), one the youngest (and nothing else, because sick babies need 100% of your time).
- You have 3 children: Armageddon. Seriously. RUN. RUN NOW!!!! You quarantine any of the kids showing signs of infection as though you are living in the movie “The Stand”. Anytime one of the “healthy” people in the house dares to cough, you give them the side eye and tell them to go wash their hands and stay in their room for the next 3 days. You have a grumpy older child who is not yet used to being tossed out of the nest on their own. They can run their own bath, apply their own Vicks, heat up their own soup in the microwave. Then there’s the toddler. They are most likely completely losing their ever-loving minds because they have been barely hanging onto their sanity by a thread since the moment you brought a new baby into the house. They are sobbing, inconsolable, mucous-covered germ machines that insist on snuggling with one parent at all times. The infant is given to one of the parents to go hide out in a safe place until the house is clear again. If they are infected….oh man, I feel for you. There will be no sleep. There will be no dinner for the parents. There will be a lot of bickering and crying and misery until everyone is healthy again.
- Also, if this is a stomach bug...you are screwed. Like, completely screwed. I suggest blowing up a few air mattresses that you can just hose down every time they get puked on. Bathing sick, screaming kids while the other two are also sick and screaming in the next room is probably the 7th circle of hell. I am not religious, but I would totally pray for you in this situation.
2. Your kid has a crisis.
- You have 1 child: OMG!! Call the pediatrician, call the local therapist, set up a zillion meetings at the school to get them back on track and happy again! Devote 100% of your time to resolving the situation.
- You have 2 children: Trickier. You have to figure out what to do with the second child while you are still trying to do all of the previously stated things for the child in crisis. Pack a giant bag of snacks, crayons, toys, etc. to cart around with you for the next few days to keep child #2 occupied while you fix child #1.
- You have 3 children: This is not good. NOT GOOD AT ALL. Now, you have child #1 with the crisis who is disintegrating before your eyes, child #2 is throwing tantrums and clinging to your shirt everywhere you go. You have a screaming child #3 in your arms. You opt out of in-person meetings because there is just NO WAY that is going to happen, and you suggest phone conferences instead. Then you realize that those won’t work either because you literally have 2 kids screaming and trying to get your attention at the same time you are trying to voice your concerns about the OTHER child to the given professional. They can’t hear you, you can’t hear them. Nothing gets accomplished. You want to run away and take a nap, but NO ONE NAPS THESE DAYS AND YOU ARE LOSING YOUR MIND AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A SHOWER?!?!
3. Throwing a birthday party.
- You have 1 child: SO SIMPLE! Order all of the personalized decorations from Etsy! Spend 2 days decking your house out in whatever theme you are running with that year. Spend the entire day before cleaning the house until it smells brand new. Spend the morning of the party cooking all of the food you had pinned on Pinterest while your partner takes the child out somewhere so that you have complete silence to work in.
- You have 2 children: Gets trickier. Child #1 is wanting the day to be all about THEM (totally normal - it is their birthday.) Child #2 thinks the party is for THEM because they are a toddler and they think EVERYTHING is for them. You may have to wrap a few gifts to let child #2 open so that there isn’t a meltdown. (Don’t worry - you can just take a few of their toys and do a 5 second wrapping job and they will be perfectly content with it.) One of the parental units is in charge of making sure the toddler is happy and still alive while the other one is in charge of tending to the guest’s needs and being somewhat social. You are tired at the end, but you’ll be fine by the next day.
- You have 3 children: You almost forget that you are having a party in the first place because everything is complete Bedlam at all times and you have no idea what day of the week (or even what month) it is. I’m sure by this time you have an app on your phone sending you daily alerts about any appointments or parties that are coming up. You start attempting to clean the day before the party, but all you get done is scrubbing the toilets because that is the #1 thing on the list and you only made it through #1 because the kids freaked out and somehow you lost an entire day dealing with bickering, screaming, cooking, bathing, picking up socks, etc. On the day of the party, you send your partner to Walmart with at least one (if not 2) children in tow to buy a bunch of pre-made party platters. If you are lucky, you get to take the food out of the plastic containers and put them on regular plates so that it looks like you have your sh*t somewhat together. One parent is assigned to the infant and their needs, the other is assigned to the toddler and their multiple tantrums, and the third parent is assigned to milling about the guests and making conversation, offering food and drinks, recording gifts on a piece of paper so that the birthday child may write thank you notes after. Wait. Wait a minute. THERE IS NO THIRD PARENT!!! You literally have zero idea who actually came to the party, your house looks like a bomb hit it after everyone leaves, child #1 and #2 are completely out of their minds because they have so much sugar and caffeine in their systems because WHO HAS TIME TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY ARE EATING AND DRINKING at this point?!?! Everyone is crying. You want to cry. It takes forever to get everyone to bed that night. You throw out the dishes as opposed to washing them all. You vow to never throw a party again.
There are SO MANY other things to add to that list, but the infant just started crying, the toddler is waking up for the day, and the older child is calling saying they need you to do something for them immediately. Your lucky partner is off at work, conversing with adults and driving around in their car with the radio on and no screaming in the background. They get a lunch break. You get the half of a granola bar that your child thankfully did not finish eating the day before and you didn’t have enough hands to bring it inside and throw it in the trash.
Don’t get me wrong - I LOVE my 3 kids. They are my world. Literally. My entire world. I wouldn’t change it for anything, but it seriously is crazy. Like bat-sh*t, I couldn’t even make this sh*t up, crazy.
Don’t forget to take your pill!