LAURA MEEHAN AT THE SHORT-WINDED BLOG recently wrote a rather exasperated yet hilarious post about the ardors of having three children.
I regularly speak with people who have zero children, or one child, or two children. And they tell me they might consider or would like to have three children. My first impulse, I will own, is to bark, “No, you don’t want three kids.” But that is not helpful, I know this.
Let me first say in her defense: Everything she writes is true. She writes about the juggling, the tiredness, the constant shouting, the unhelpful comments, etc. Reading her post made me realize that for those of us who have 3+ kids, our normal is most people’s crazy. And since I have 3 growing boys, I would even add to her list of demerits that we are soon approaching the day when our grocery bill will outpace our mortgage. Extracurricular activities and travel require gifts of creativity and frugality because everything is x 5. Eating out is rarely relaxing (even with our shameful use of electronic babysitters).
That notwithstanding, however, I think she gave short shrift to the picture of the beauties, the plusses, the shear awesomeness of having 3 kids. Again, not to negate what she said – but the pleasures of parenting x 3 are equally real, experienced in what sometimes feels like cacophony, but many times like harmony.
SO HERE IS MY NON-REBUTTING COUNTERPOINT. These are the reasons why I love being a father of 3, and why I think you ought to consider stop freaking out about it…and just…do it.
- Band of Brothers – This is also because they’re all brothers and all close in age, but my boys are very close to each other. They love each other, they watch out for each other, and they do everything together. Sure they are constantly invading each other’s space (often times in each other’s faces), but it goes both ways: the same impulse to steal each others toys is the same impulse to crawl into each other beds. Because even at an early age, they understand that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. And what parent feels anything less than joy knowing that? . .
- Every Part Belongs to the Body – Yes, the dishes and laundry and cleaning are NEVER truly done. An extra dishwasher and washing machine would hardly feel like a luxury (first world problems – I know). And what this means is that for my wife and I: We cannot do it all. But instead of being a point of exasperation and self-absorbed guilt, we see this is an opportunity to involve our kids even at an early age – teaching them that they have a role in the family. That family isn’t about you or me, but us. But in order for us to function, your help is not only appreciated, it is needed. So yes, raising 3 kids is a lot of work, but as they’ve gotten older, they’ve also grown more helpful. Just yesterday, my 4 year old cleared the floors, my 6 year old mopped the kitchen, and my 8 year old vacuumed the carpets – including the stairs! And that not only helps with the load, but it’s also formative. Learning to help out as early as 2 years old (all our kids are 2 years apart – no, we didn’t plan that) has taught them selflessness and responsibility. Which, looping back, benefits all of us in the home. . .
- Buffer – Living in a full house actually means that there is more, not less social flexibility. We are a house of both extroverts and introverts. If one of us wants company, there’s always someone to hang out with. But if one of us wants to be alone, we don’t have to worry about leaving anyone alone; there’s always 3 other people to hang out with. There’s rarely a need to feel left out or overwhelmed (well, okay, when the 3 boys really start going at it, it can get overwhelming, but that’s when we just close the door – or I resort to one of my creative Chinese disciplinary measures). But come over and you’ll find that some hours are pretty raucous; but other times, each person is just playing quietly in their own corner of the house. And that works for us. . .
- Babysitting with Ease – Especially now that they’re older, taking care of my kids (or asking others to) is fairly easy. Easy you say? Well, just watching 1 child can actually be pretty taxing – you can often times feel the pressure to keep them entertained and out of trouble. But with 3, that’s no longer the case. Sure, there are more mouths to feed and when things get out of hand – it compounds rather quickly. But with 3, they’re never bored. They entertain each other. I’ve had to watch my kids while working for a good chunk of the last couple months – and while it’s easier not having to watch them, watching all 3 has always been more preferable to only watching 1. . .
- Moral Authority – Often times those with 1 or 2 kids will look at us and say stuff like, “I don’t know how you guys do it. I can hardly manage 1!” And then they go on to list all the things that make their kid/s especially difficult. And many times I just want to interject with some of my own thoughts (e.g., There’s no magic; we just do it). But usually I don’t. But it feels good to know that I could. And when I do — well, it’s not like I know nothin’. ..
- Fun – Playing with my 3 boys is fun. Most board games are made for 4 people. Many video games can now accomodate 4. Two is sufficient for wrestling, but 4 is more fun. Riding bikes, going to the park, making pancakes on Saturday mornings as a group is more fun. Even telling jokes and funny stories over dinner is more fun with a laughing chorus of 5 versus 3 or even 4. For us, the more has truly been the merrier. . ..
SO, YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE THREE CHILDREN? WE DID. So did our parents. And we love the fullness of our families. Now obviously, I don’t think we should be flippant about having kids. Kids are a gift as much as they are a trust from God. And yes, parenting is hard – that’s just the way it is. But sometimes we make it even harder with our own bad press. Yes, kids are a source of stress and exasperation (c.f., Laura), but they are equally a source of joy and help. Amen?
NOTE: Some people have mistaken this post as a rebuttal to Laura’s post. Just to reiterate, it’s not. This is a NON-REBUTTAL. I completely agree with what she wrote. Having kids is hard – having three is even harder. I could probably write an equally long post documenting just some of my recent travails – especially since we’ve been sans babysitter for the last 3 months (i.e., working from home). But while I think the stress and madness are real — so are the joys and, I dare say, benefits. So please don’t read this as a rebuttal to Laura’s post, but in tandem. I don’t expect everyone to agree (everyone’s experience is different), but this has been our experience, for both my wife and I.
Some people have also said that my kid are older and our experience gives them hope. I’m glad for that. It has definitely gotten easier – especially after our youngest got out of diapers. Press on parents! And if you wanna hear about how we’ve made it through these years: I’ve written about that too.