Third time’s a charm. 1,2,3 – GO! The three amigos. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Celery, carrots, and onions. Huey, Duey, and Louey. The Three Little Pigs. Even the tri-cornered hat. Three is a magic number!
Unless you have three children. Then, apparently, it drives you out of your gourd.
My husband sent me the link to the article above in an e-mail one day with the subject line, “interesting article . . .” Well, the ellipses said everything.
The article, though, doesn’t give any specific reasons why, I thought – at least none I hadn’t already known. My husband and I had already joked that we’d moved from man-on-man defense to zone defense once we had three. I already told people that the only thing that helped going from two to three was that you already knew how to keep multiple balls in the air – but that, now, there was always a ball in the air. The woman quoted who said it was easy going from one to two? Yeah, no. I swear my second is still a light sleeper because I was constantly shrieking at her sister to stay away from her as a newborn (can you say undiagnosed case of some sort of postpartum something? No wonder the $#*% the fan with the third).
As far as the benefits of having four, I already reap some of those now with three. A Dr. Taylor in the article says about perfectionism that “‘there’s just not enough space in your head’ once you have at least four children.” There is no available space in my brain. Burn photos or video to a DVD? I knew how to do that once. That knowledge oozed out my ear during one of the twenty minute periods of sleep of some child’s infancy. And forget head space – what of physical or mental energy? Once upon a time I hung sheetrock at Habitat for Humanity home sites, after scoring and snapping it myself. I fought vehemently to do things around the house my way. Now if the home improvement fairy comes and takes care of things, I don’t really care as long as it gets done (with the possible exception of painting/decorating). Something’s gotta give.
And that’s where I do agree with something Dr. Taylor says. “The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities. You have to let go.” There is confidence in repetition, practice. I didn’t worry about ‘breaking’ my baby after countless diaper changes and pulling little arms through tiny shirt sleeves. I didn’t freak out as much over breast feeding and whether they were getting enough to eat. But did I worry if I was doing enough? Not doing the damage that would land my kids in their own form of therapy someday? Heck, yeah. That didn’t change with multiple kiddos. That increased. Still, for self-preservation – and really, theirs too – you do have to let go.
A dear friend, who had her three children three steps ahead of mine, and therefore in the as-cool-as-a-cucumber phase while I was just entering the anal-retentive, told me when I had my third, that I was much more relaxed. When I relayed the story to my father-in-law, hinting that she’d called me anal-retentive, he agreed! I hadn’t seen what everyone else had. People laugh now because I’m so laissez-faire with everyday concerns. When my impatient five year-old says she wants a snack so emphatically that it sounds like she’s gone without food for days, I say, ‘That’s nice.” After the thud, I wait for the scream or wail. If my child wants to go to school looking like it’s mismatch day everyday of year, more power to her.
I could be accused of being lax. I could be accused of swinging the pendulum so far away from anal-retentive, it’s a tad too much. But somedays I feel like I’m living inside an episode of The Three Stooges.
I can’t be all things to everyone. I sure as hell can’t be perfect. And I’m not going to try for a fourth to test this article’s theories!