Monday, 23 April 2018

Life with Three Children

Life with Three Children

Today the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her third child. She and Prince William have been initiated into the exclusive club of parents with more than two children! It’s a fun club, if loud and exhausting.  

I read the news that Catherine had gone into labour as A was taking his morning nap, lying in my arms, curled around my bump, and I was drawn to thinking about what life has been like over the last 18 months of being parents of three children.

Obviously, we don’t have the hordes of support around us that Catherine and William do, but I suspect there will be some similarities ahead.

The day we brought A home.
When that third little person popped out, their parents were officially outnumbered. When it’s grown ups vs. kids, the kids get the deciding vote. You chase that one; I’ll chase this one; but the other one gets away. Another adult will always come in handy. I struggle to get out and about with three, because I only have 2 hands. I have to trust that B will stay close. I doubt the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will ever be short of extra adults to assist them, but I’m sure they’ll feel the strain of never having enough hands.

Following on from being outnumbered, there is the struggle of how to deal with there always being one child who feels left out. Mummy/Daddy only has two knees to sit on, two hands to hold, two sides to sit next to, and inevitably every child wants to be on one of them. You become the masters of convincing little people that sitting opposite you is a much better option. You learn to make deals with them, promising a longer cuddle later or the chance to choose the next activity or tv programme in exchange for swapping with a sibling. It’s difficult.
It's rare to get all three smiling
The middle child can suffer the most in these instances. Princess Charlotte will find herself no longer the baby, but not able to do everything she could do if she was the eldest. The new baby will get all the attention, while Prince George - who has already been through this once before - will be feeling grown up and important. The middle child will suddenly seem so much older than they did the day before, and be expected to behave as such. M has certainly struggled with this since A appeared on the scene. I don’t really know how to combat the Middle Child Syndrome, but can only hope that Catherine and William are able to give Charlotte everything she needs deal with the usurping of her place as baby. As many cuddles as possible and myriad reminders that she is as loved as ever have been our tools. And the fact that A laughs at M more than at anyone else has helped immensely.

But it’s not all difficulties and struggles. I wouldn’t get rid of any of our three, not even to make life a bit easier! Or quieter. Or tidier!

All that character!
Over the past 18 months I have been amazed at what appears to be the truth of nature vs. nurture. I have often wondered how children parented in the same ways can be so different. I thought that by following Attachment and Gentle Parenting techniques, we would be assured of well behaved, happy, easygoing children. Well, the past almost 7 years have made it clear that AP and GP are not magical, but as I’ve seen A’s character develop, and seen M grow and learn, and watched as B has matured, I’ve been struck by how different their characters are. They really are three unique individuals. All given the same attachment parenting experiences from birth, parented gently when testing boundaries, etc. but all three so varied in their behaviours and activities.

Having a third child has also affirmed to me that I do have a bit of a clue about parenting. I know more than I think I do. 18 months on, they’re all alive, happy, and I’ve not yet lost one of them! We still make plenty of mistakes, but I’ve learned not to doubt myself so much. A is benefiting from our experience with B and M. I don’t receive as much unsolicited parenting advice, because there aren’t so many people with as many children as us. 

Picture of all five of us
The Five of Us
Beyond everything I have learned from having three children though, I have found that your love grows immensely. When I only had B and was pregnant with M, I worried about how I would love two children. And when I was pregnant with A, I still worried about how I could really love any more children. Perhaps it had been a fluke before. But the amount of love I had to give hasn’t had to be shared out with everyone getting a little less; the love grew. I sometimes can’t believe how much love I have for each of them. They each make my heart swell. An increase of love in this world is majorly welcomed and needed, so that’s definitely the most enormous benefit of having more children!

On Mother’s Day this year, I wrote the following, which I think completely sums up how it feels to me to have three children (and one on the way):

To my thinker, the one who made me a mother...
To my adventurer, the one who taught me that love grows the more we have to love...
To my daredevil, the one who has shown me that I do know what I am doing...
To my mystery, the one who has reminded me that there is always room for one more...

I wouldn't be without one of them.

I asked B and M what they liked about being in a family with 3 children. B said that even though there’s never any peace and quiet (Ha!), she always has someone to play with. M said that she likes that there are lots of us, and just like B, she loves that she always has a playmate. A didn’t give his opinion on it, but judging by how much he appears to love his big sisters, I’m pretty sure he thinks it’s great too.

I hope Prince George, Princess Charlotte and the new baby royal will all be able to say the same in the future.

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