Last week, I shared a very personal post about my husband’s and my choice to have only one child. But even as I wrote it, I couldn’t help but reflect on how such decisions aren’t entirely up to us as individuals. Which is why I’m happy to welcome Leigh Ann from Genie in a Blog to share her story – one that not only offers a completely different perspective from mine, but also a reminder that regardless of whatever family size we have in mind, fate may very well have other plans.
Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, I round the corner and approach the open door of my four-year-old twins’ preschool classroom, my two-year-old Zoe in tow. I instinctively brace myself as they see me.
Claire tackles me with a giant embrace before I can even get in the room. She turns to greet her little sister with a super hug, sending them both tumbling to the floor. Zoe bonks her head on the classroom door, and as I try to pull Claire up, the teacher and the aide rush to help.
Zoe’s screaming from her head wound; Claire’s upset because she knows she hurt her sister and is now crying, clinging to me, and sucking her thumb, begging for me to hold her; and all the while, Rachel runs over and starts bombarding me with “LOOK MOMMY! I MADE THIS FOR YOU!!!!!” as she waves a piece of fringed construction paper in my face, nearly taking my nose out with a pair of safety scissors.
All I can do at the moment is just sit down on the floor and collect them in my lap until we can all calm the eff down. And I haven’t even made it 3 feet inside the door.
This is my life, people. My life with three kids ages 4 and under. Chaos is a part of my daily regime. God did not give me enough arms to hold everyone at once, or a big enough lap for three children to crawl into, nor did he even give me enough hands to pour and pass out three cups of milk quickly enough to satisfy the thirsty buggers at mealtime.
Sometimes I think, This isn’t the motherhood that I signed up for.
I signed up for leisurely trips to Target or Starbucks. Story time at the library. Idyllic situations that seem to have been skipped over altogether in my journey through motherhood.
But Leigh Ann, you say, didn’t you know what you were getting into when you decided to have three kids? I mean, you know what causes this, right?
Yes, I know what causes it, thank you. But if you really want to know, there was no “deciding to have three kids.” You see, I technically only signed up for one kid.
Not that we only wanted one child, but one child was the idea to get this family thing started. Like most couples, we decided to have a baby. A BABY. So needless to say, I nearly fell out of the stirrups when my doctor located one heartbeat… and then another one at my first sonogram.
Okay, fine. We’re having twins. We can deal with that. There’s two of us. There will be two of them. Even stevens. (Note to non-twin parents and expectant twin parents: IT DOES NOT REALLY WORK LIKE THAT.)
Debilitating sleep deprivation aside, we found our groove and, wouldn’t you know it, that things started getting a little easier when they were around 15 months. Only it was around that same time that I started having mysterious bouts of sickness in the mornings and my husband kept asking me what the hell was wrong with me that I was being such a bitch all the time.
You’re not pregnant, I told myself. You’re having cramps. You’re going to start your period any day now. Only I remembered telling myself that before…
I’m not going to lie. I was devastated. I cried for three days straight at the thought of having to be pregnant again (I hate it) and the fear that we couldn’t afford this baby on our already tight budget.
But most of all? I’m a planner. I have to have things laid out for me so that I know exactly what the next step will be. And this was not in the plan.
We had gotten to a point where things were more even stevens and easier to handle. Our little family of four was so perfect, and I feared that this new baby would be an intruder, destroying our chi, causing imbalance, and destroying our perfect lives.
And she did. Many of our daily activities became a struggle, even though we stayed home almost every day. She was easy. The two year old twins were somewhat easy. But it was the dynamic of the three of them that made me want to tear my hair out, and many days still does.
They each are so very different and have their own unique needs, likes, and quirks. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other… or the other.
Rachel loves play-doh, will only use the red spoon, and has to sit in the middle of whomever else is on the couch.
Claire sleeps with a huge Disney book every night, loves to help me cook, and needs to retreat to her bed when she’s angry or upset.
Zoe is a sparkly honey badger, a girly girl who doesn’t realize that she’s only two, and is way more high maintenance than her sisters ever were.
I almost always feel pulled in too many directions from the moment I wake up. I can rarely focus on just one of my children in a craft or activity. I don’t bother sitting down to my own meals since I’m always getting something for someone else. I field multiple requests for the nightly “lay with me” routine. My husband is unbelievable in his support and mean dad skills (the skills are mean, not the dad), but there are still three of them and only two of us at best.
Even today as I tried to snuggle with a sick Claire on the couch, a not sick Zoe insisted on scrambling into my lap and diverting my attention. Don’t even ask me where the third one was. I have no idea.
Sometimes it can be grueling. Frustrating. Maddening. The noise level is at a full-on 11 from sun up to sun down. Timeouts are abundant. And as soon as I get all three kids dressed and ready to go outside, someone inevitably wants to come in because they have to go potty or OMG our yard is so boring.
Come on, you say. It can’t be all that bad, can it?
Well, no, of course it’s not. I get triple the hugs and kisses. Triple the excitement to see their dad when he comes home. Triple the laughter at watching them bust out their sweet moves in a kiddie dance party.
I see them consoling each other with sisterly pats and back rubs. I witness them sharing a toy because they know the other wants it. I have some of the wackiest conversations known to man. I walk in on them all piled into one toddler bed, arms stretched around each other (but seriously, that one doesn’t last long before someone starts throwing elbows).
You see, this is what we wanted. Our third child was unexpected, but had it not happened that way, I don’t think we ever would have taken the plunge to have another. Having two kids seems so freaking easy to me now. But she was always supposed to be with us. And she’s just so damned cute.
Parenting is a job. It grows and changes as your family grows and changes, and you have to adapt. I never thought I would sit in my kitchen, simultaneously nursing a baby and cutting up oranges for my big girls. And in those days, it was hard to imagine taking a trip to the zoo with three kids and no stroller.
But that was what we just did, and it is categorized as one of my favorite days, seeing all three of my girls running and jumping, so excited about each animal. And we only lost a kid once if I remember right.
It won’t always be this way with the logistical struggles. They’ll get older. It’ll be easier. But it won’t always be this way. They’ll grow up, move away, start families of their own. They’ll have camaraderie in boyfriends, husbands, and they’ll eventually share this journey of motherhood with each other.
But right now, I’m sitting with three little girls in my lap, suffocating from their curly hair, their boney butts protruding my thighs, their little squeaky voices piercing my eardrums. Each vying for my undivided attention that’s always divided.
And that’s okay.
I have a personal friend who was also surprised first by twins, and later by an additional singleton. I know she’ll be able to relate to Leigh Ann’s tale. Can you?
Speaking of relating, new mom for the second time around, KLZ from Taming Insanity, will be holding down the fort on Wednesday with a short-but-sweet post about going from one kid to two. And surprisingly, there’s only a little bit of insanity involved.