I know it may seem crazy, but when Laura and I decided to have kids, the conversation immediately jumped to having a larger family. No, not like the Duggers or Kate Plus 8, but we were both drawn to the number three. Having both come from 2 kid families, this would be a new adventure!
At the time, I kind of remember a number of articles going around the internet about how having three children was the new “in thing”. Three was the new two for the nuclear family and that lots and lot of suburbanite parents like us were choosing to have larger families. Now, I don’t really think this played much into our decision making, but rather I think we had both seen how close larger families seemed to be and I was certainly struck by the caring and time that plus-sized families seemed to make for one another.
Don’t get me wrong, we are close with both of our families. We certainly spend lots of time juggling schedules to ensure grandparents on either side are given sufficient face time with the kids. Sometimes this means that our kids are spoiled rotten (and not always in the good way) like this past weekend when Cate got to celebrate her birthday three times.
I can also say with 100% certainty that whenever we have needed them, our parents and siblings have been there for us. I really appreciated my brother helping us to demo the basement last year and my father coming to help me pull apart and load a full sized play structure in our minivan. It really is amazing how much crap you can shove in a minivan.
I also remember a number of people that I can only now describe as truly evil, telling me what’s one more when we were rocking it with our first two. They said: “Three is easy! You’re already know what to do with babies and the older ones are getting to an age where they can help out around the house.” Perhaps there is some miracle family living out there, who I can only assume own some sort of unicorn farm, dress in matching overalls and sing show tunes from the Sound of Music. But of course, that is not our house.
In my humble opinion, those people don’t exist and the folks who told us having another kid would be easy are just plain wrong. From the day our littlest one arrived, we have been plunged into a prolonged period of pure, unadulterated chaos. Our house is a gong show. It is like going into a fun house, a house of horrors and a dysfunctional daycare all at the same time. It’s a swirling kaleidoscope of laughter, tears, anger, mess, drama, joy and exhaustion.
We have come to refer to the period of time from when Angry Baby, as we refer to her, was born until her first birthday as the Year From Hell. It started 20 minutes into her young life when a heart complication forced a trip to the local children’s hospital. Thankfully after a few scary hours and 5 days in the NICU, the great doctors and nurses were able to get everything under control. However, this event seemed to be the starting point for months and months of sick kids, sibling rivalry, work stress and perhaps the most miserable Canadian winter I can remember.
Those same evil people kept saying, “Just ride it out! Once they all get a bit older things will get easier.” I am begrudgingly willing to admit that more recently I have started to see a few glimmering lights at the end of the tunnel. It does seem to be getting a bit easier to do a few of the things that used to seem so simple when we only had two kids, like go to the grocery store. Or perhaps, I have just started to get numb to the chaos. I will admit our house is certainly not the quietest one on the block and it's no surprise to get the stink eye when we go out to a restaurant for dinner.
When I think of those happy, close-knit larger families I had envisioned ours being, I am starting to realize that most of the encouragement came from families whose children were grown and had left the nest long ago. I have no idea if they went through the same prolonged little kid hurricane that we are experiencing and if I ask their parents, most seem to have a vague and fuzzy recollection of the younger years. I suspect this to be some sort of coping mechanism that I refer to as “Rose Coloured Memory Syndrome”.
While I don’t presume to know for those multiples, for us, it’s the age gaps between the kids driving a lot of the family friction. The seven year old isn’t interested in doing the things the baby can do. The four year old wants to do everything the seven year old does but the seven year old wants mostly nothing to do with the four year old. Finding an activity that we all want to do is something akin to find that matching sock in the laundry: You know it’s there but just can’t seem to find it and the more you look the more frustrated you get and the more laundry ends up piled up on the bed. In the end you just put on two different socks because it’s easier.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. I even secretly kind of love the chaos. We made a conscious decision to have three kids which I don’t regret for even one minute. I am however, going to continue to hold a deep seed grudge against those who said it was going to be easy while looking enviously at those Von Trappe families crooning down the highway in their stylish station wagons without a care in the world.