I know you’ve all been dying for my opinion on the next thing I felt like talking about…
Actually I was just organizing these thoughts for friend and decided I wanted them here for me too.
One of my largest frustrations during my second pregnancy was the discovery that none of the new-baby books in my library assumed there was more than one child in the picture.
On one level this is fair: those most likely to read how-to books are those who haven’t done it before, i.e., first-time parents. But this was the first time I was about to be outnumbered by my own children, so I was seeking guidance too. (Leaving utterly aside the assumption I might not need guidance since I had a child a whole 17.5 months older than the newest one.)
“Every good and perfect gift comes from above,” so I’m convinced God gave me the idea of looking in the twins section of the pregnancy/parenting books. Here were books that assumed my soon-to-be reality: more than one child with equally self-centered wills.
This reading was very helpful to me and helped me establish a core part of my parenting style that has carried me into three children with hardly a hiccup.
That part is mainly this: when there is more than one need/scream/tragedy, how will you handle it? The two main options (actually, I can’t think of any others) are complete one project (child) then move to the next, or juggle both until both are done.
In parenting, I’m a finish-one-first type. While each youngest was still a baby, that one usually got “instant priority,” but now we’re more of an assembly line: dealing with things as they arise, teaching each child to wait (Anyone who can count is now required to count to seven before they can call a parent’s name the second time. Beautiful change).
Another thing that helped me (and I may have written before about this at some point) was putting catastrophes and “moments of dependency” in perspective. I use a clock to do this.
After 2+ years with three children, my initial theory developed after 2-weeks with two has only been confirmed:
No bloodless crisis lasts longer than 10-minutes. Most of them last less than 3-minutes.
The only difficulty is remembering to mark time.
I’m “older and wiser” now, so this is no longer the need it was, but back when I had two children, as soon as both children were screaming (this frequently happened when one was in the middle of a diaper change) my eyes automatically went to a clock, and I mentally reminded myself: 15-minutes. One-quarter of a circle. I can endure anything for 15-minutes.
And I would finish what I was working on and deal with the other child’s crisis. If I was feeling particularly low on faith I would give it 20-minutes instead of 15, but it never failed to be unnecessary.
Moving from two kids to three was not the challenge to me it was to my husband, and I would go so far as to say this is true for most marriages: Mother has already come around to the new reality of being out-numbered but still in-control (Right?), Dad, statistically speaking, has rarely felt outnumbered by his own children because usually when he’s around so is Mother, so there’s still a “comfortable” 1-to-1 ratio.
This is the point where it might be helpful for Dad to mentally prepare himself the way Mom should between #1 and #2: Choose how you will respond before the situation, inevitably, arises.
The primary thing that helped me the third time around (other than the class based on this DVD) was remembering distinctly that Melody— baby #2— was exactly 3 months old when I had a deliciously productive day alone with the children.
Understand, you who are uninitiated, that productive is a subjective term. I wouldn’t show you a to-do list, but I had a euphoric sense of accomplishment that evening, and that is what I remember.
Knowing this, I gave myself a window of three months after Elisha was born. I reminded myself that then it took me three months when I had “just” two and my grandma over 2-3xs a week. Now with three children and helping with that grandmother in the hospital, I knew shouldn’t expect to normalize sooner than I did with #2.
In the creative-writing class I mentioned earlier, the teacher gave us the jist of a quote from American poet William Stafford:
“No one would have writer’s block if their standards were as low as mine.”
And as pitiful as such a thing may sound I’ve applied this to being “together:”
No one would feel pressured to do too much after birth if their standards were as low as mine.
There are seasons, especially if you have the support of your beloved, where it’s really hard for your standards to be too low.
As I said, I shouldn’t, couldn’t, have expected to reach a stasis sooner with #3 than I did with #2. But I did.
To this day I am convinced it was special grace for a trying time (my Grandmother was dying), but there was a part of me that felt encouraged, too. Like God was showing me that my hands can grow, and He’s not asking me to merely survive.
We who are believers have partnered with God on this journey and he will make all provision. It’s not our responsibility to “hold it together.” That’s in Jesus’ job description, and we can trust Him to do it.
What a great article! I especially liked your idea of having them count to seven. I think that will eliminate a lot of “noise stress” in our house.
Love the post! I totally agree with you on the letting yourself relax a bit in the beginning. My mom (who had 9) told me that it always took her about 6 months before she felt like things were falling into place and that’s about what happened with 3, and 4 with me. It so helped mewhen she told me that.
I also love the count to 7 thing. And I am a huge fan of your 15 minute idea. So very awesome!
What a brilliant post! Thanks so much for sharing these pricless insights.
Thanks for pointing my way here – this is helpful. It will help to think through the “one at a time” vs “juggle both” thing, and the 15 minutes idea is a great reminder. Although I have to say, when my first son was an infant, it was “normal for him to scream (and I mean scream, not cry!) for several hours at a time. Oh, how I hope to not have a repeat of that. :)