Monday, August 31, 2015

One and one and one is three

When we found out we were pregnant with our third baby, I knew things were about to change. I expected the shift...well...I expected a shift. I'm not sure I knew exactly what was going to change though, other than everything.

Everyone makes the comment that going from two to three kids is changing from "man coverage" to "zone defense". And in my (super) short time dealing with three of my own little humans, I've found that with some things, that's exactly right. Keeping track of them in public, getting meals ready for the group, shuffling through the bedtime routine...lots of this can be executed en masse, or at least like a little assembly line, just tacking one more on than before. Or, as is often the case in our house, we just divide and conquer a little differently than before (typically I deal with the baby, Dustin handles the "big" kids). Zones.

And throwing one more on the pile, and shuffling through things the best we can is ok in a lot of areas. Because with tasks, just getting to the goal somehow (or preventing crisis) is plenty. If everyone is dressed, who cares if clothes match, or are on backwards, or if the toddler has squished herself and her belly into one of the baby's onesies? (true story. she insisted: I not too big!). Things get done, a little sloppier maybe, but done. And that's just fine. To give the analogy its due, we may not be winning games, but we're at lease preventing a blow out. (that last part is metaphorical, because literal blow-outs are happening on the regular around here...not sure if our defense strategy can help with that much).

 But with the emotional side of parenting, the actual caring, beyond the care-taking, that's an individual effort which can't be streamlined or batch processed. Having three kids (or two, or sixteen, I presume) actually still comes with the need and expectation of man-to-man coverage. And providing that? Is hard.

So when I say I expected the shift...I mean I expected to be tired. I had learned from my naive ways of before that adding one more baby actually feels nothing like adding one more baby, but rather seems like exponential growth. I figured I'd feel torn between the wants and needs of three little humans, and I anticipated being run ragged by the end of each day trying to keep up with them all. But I didn't prepare for the emotional tugging that comes with three kids.

I didn't know what it would feel like to want to snuggle my newborn all day every day, while simultaneously wanting to roughhouse with my toddler, and also listen to the wild stories of my preschooler. I knew I wouldn't be able to do it all, but I didn't grasp how it would feel to struggle to be fully present for each of them. I'm sure I felt something similar, when going from one kid to two, but one more seems to magnify it even more. It's one thing to dole out snacks to them, making efforts to make sure things are as fair as possible. It's another thing to try to dole out affection, making sure everyone gets an equal piece of me. The truth is, I don't want to give them pieces of me. I want to love them each with my whole heart, and both of my arms, and two ears, and eyes... I somehow want to give them each all of me.

A few days ago, at bedtime, Piper asked me softly: "Mama? Can we chat for a few minutes?" And I realized that while we had technically been together that day, we hadn't really spent time together. I had made sure she was dressed, and helped get her breakfast, and waved to her as Dustin drove her off to school. And while I prepped dinner I had asked about her day, and while I nursed Miller I told her I loved the picture she drew. But in the midst of all that doing there wasn't a lot of just being. She was asking me now to spend time with her- just her- singly and wholly focused. And that prompted me to remember not only how much she needs that, but also how much I want to give it to her. (Fin is slightly less articulate or nuanced in her requests, but her utterances of "Help me? Hold me. Pat me. Kisses?" let me know she still craves that one-on-one time too).

So we're still working on finding our new normal around here. We'll continue the zone coverage to manage the day to day logistics of feeding/clothing/bathing/general keeping-alive-ing of three kids. And in the meantime I'll work on what it looks like to be the mom of three, but also the mom of one. And one. And one. 

Those of you with multiple kids- Do you struggle with dividing your attention and splitting your heart? Do you have tips on how to give everyone your best? I'd love to hear!

I'm thrilled to be partnering with Lily Jade makers of beautiful bags and supporters of all types of mamas. {Madeline diaper bag care of Lily Jade. All thoughts (and struggles) are my own}
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