This post also appeared on My Big Jesus!
Having small children is amazing. It’s amazing if you think endless piles of laundry and cabinets being emptied out onto the floor is amazing. It’s amazing if you think snuggles all day every day and being able to make all their sadness go away is amazing. I’ll let you choose which definition you think I like more.
With three children under the age of four, I’m challenged with keeping little bodies safe, fed, clean and happy. They depend entirely on me for those things. You take for granted how easy it is to keep yourself safe, fed, clean and happy – especially if you’ve got a messy child, or a child going through a growth spurt, or a child who is too brave for his own good. Here are a few reasons I think that having three little children depending on you is difficult:
- Mobility. You’re always trying to keep track of who can reach what and how quickly and in what way. I’ve got a three year old daughter who basically has her run of the house. There’s pretty much nothing she can’t get to. If she’s too short, she moves a chair to give her a boost. I have an almost two year old son who is a thief. He can find pretty much anything I hide or keep out of sight. I have a two month old son who is completely immobile… for now. But the first time he rolls over? Gone are the days of sitting him on our bed while I get things done. When will he roll over? I hope I don’t find out the hard way.
- Car Seats. I’ve got three children in large, five-point harness car safety seats. That means I have to drive a car big enough to accommodate this. Just before we had our third, we sold my Camry (2003, baby!) and got a (large-ish) mid-size SUV, complete with captain’s seats and a third row. It is enough room to fit all three seats, and even hold another adult back there somewhere, but I’m realizing how annoying it is that not a single one of my kids can buckle themselves in. I have to strap in each and every one of them when we get in the car, including the ones in the back row. Heaven forbid I’m wearing a dress, or the neighbors get a show while I’m getting the kids in the car.
- Meal Time. This, all things considered, isn’t as bad as it could be. Most of the time, my big kids are great eaters. They eat what Hubby and I eat, almost without fail. My youngest is obviously not eating, but taking bottles, so he needs someone to feed it to him, unless we time it to happen right before or after. But when the rest of us sit down to eat, there are two main issues. My threenager can’t sit in her chair for more than 90 seconds at a time (We end up threatening to throw her food away. She knows she has to be finished to get up, so if she’s up, we “assume she’s finished” and tell her we’re throwing the food away) and my not-quite-two year old eats great for most of the meal, and when he’s done, his plate and the rest of the food hit the floor immediately, with no warning. Hubby and I share meal duty: one is always convincing EK to stay seated, and the other is always on the lookout for flying food/utensils from J.
- Lack of Self-Sufficiency. Sometimes, I take for granted how self-sufficient EK is. At 3 1/2, she usually goes to the bathroom by herself, she can dress herself, feed herself (if I make the food, of course), move herself around (with less concern about her running off) and basically entertain herself. With J, I’m still changing his diapers, dressing him (he’s at least getting more helpful with that), making sure he doesn’t run away, fall off something, or spill my favorite nail polish all over my bedroom floor (oh wait, that happened last week). And D? Well obviously at two months old I’m doing everything for him. I don’t mind – really, I don’t. But sometimes, it’s nice to go out to lunch with mygirlfriends and not have to order their food, ask them not to spill their water in their laps, and keep them from throwing the plate in the floor when they’re done. I don’t even have to take them to the potty!
- Bedtime. Every single one of them needs (or thinks they need) a long one-on-one with both parents at bedtime. They all also need (or think they need) to go to bed around the same time. We end up tag-teaming. We have a pretty good routine, but especially now that we’ve added a third kid with the same bedtime into the mix, we have had to get creative. Rotating through rooms, lullabies, soothing promises of tomorrow, and a little extra screen time have saved us from heartache, but also lengthened the time between family dinner and grown up freedom considerably.
My family is good crazy, needy and wonderful. Each day is an adventure, full of giggles, snuggles, messes and walking really slowly. Just surviving a day is the most hilarious, challenging, and heartwarming thing I could ever do.