I won’t say that parenting was easy with two.
Parenting is hard, whether you are rocking one bitty baby in your arms or managing the schedules of a flock of seven children. I will say, however, that we were surprisingly comfortable with two. We were baby wearers, organic eaters, and storybook readers. I even remember describing the bedtime hour as “peaceful” (you should see/hear our house at 8pm now!).
And then our third thundered into our world.
She was the first of our children to get a positive result from her heel prick test. Thankfully, a minor genetic deficiency…but frightening nonetheless to have to hold your baby three months fresh out of the womb down for a blood test. To be ushered into the offices of a specialist at a large children’s hospital in the next city over.
She was the only one of our three to scale bookcases, to go down slides headfirst, and to say “yes” before “no.” As in, “Yes, I can do everything my big sisters do – watch me.” She stands up in her highchair, takes all the pots out of the cupboards, and has been known to stay up until 10pm.
It wasn’t just her highly adventurous temperament though. It was the new family dynamic – where my husband and I couldn’t each “take one.” It was not having enough hands to hold at the grocery store. It was something I can’t quite put my finger on…only to say that having three children is distinctly different.
What our third child taught us is compassion. I understand now that there is a story behind all decisions. I can truly and deeply respect parents who lovingly choose to vaccinate or not, spank or not, homeschool or send to public school, etc. I understand the dad with the screaming toddler in the airport and the mom trying to catch her breath at the McDonalds Play Place.
I remember to listen because – more than I ever understood before – each child is as different as can be. A human being with unique DNA, wishes, hopes, dreams, failings, and gifts. Which is why birth is so breathtaking. No matter how many times a new child emerges covered in blood – every single time is a mystery and a gift.
When I ask for advice, I gravitate to moms of many because I know they’ve had to do this delicate dance over and over again. The moms of three – and especially four, five, and six plus – tend to have been humbled and, in turn, to respond with humility. They know this is no cake walk.
Because of my third child, I am a better person. Stronger. Gentler. A better listener. Unknowingly, she has brought me to my knees. In the moment I almost thought I had it all together, she reminded me that HE holds me together.