I've mentioned before that having children has been a humbling experience for me. I view that humbling experience as a good thing and essential in the process of growing in my faith. I wrote about my thoughts on having 3 children on my family's blog and I thought this would be a good time to share it on this blog as well...
When I go out in public with all 3 boys I draw attention. I am frequently asked..."Are they all yours?" Even our close church friends have made comments about the number of children we have, as if we are some backwoods people churning our own butter.
Now, if you were around me the first 6 months of having 3 young children I complained often. I even cried at a Christmas party when asked about how it was with 3 young boys. Once we changed up our school situation and got a little out of the newborn phase, things improved greatly.
Basically, I think with your first child you are just trying to figure the whole being a parent thing out. With your second you are trying to figure out the taking care of multiple children thing out. With just one or two you can still think, at times, that you have things under your control. For us we came to a "come to Jesus" moment in our marriage when our 2nd child was 8 months old. Then I hit my "fall on my knees...you are God and I am not" moment when our 3rd child was 6 months old. Having three children is challenging but right now I feel that the benefits outweigh the challenges.
Here is my theory laid out more specifically (based completely on our personal situation):
Child #1- Parents are terrified. We think every little decision we make is going to drastically impact the outcome of this precious angel. We over-control. We over-analyze. We are constantly with other parents talking about our kids just to make sure that we are okay and that our child is developing at the same rate as their child. We swing back and forth in our parenting strategies...using our first born as a parenting guinea pig. We hang on every word our pediatrician says as if it's life or death. We don't trust our instincts. We give that child oodles of attention (maybe to their detriment). We don't let them make their own mistakes because before they can make it we are right there telling them "no". Few first children experiment with the toilet. We sometimes forget to enjoy them because we are so worried about them meeting our expectations. We take pictures of every. little. thing. they do. We talk about them as if they are rocket scientist..."wait till you hear what johnny did! he pulled himself up on the coffee table and starting cruising!! can you believe it! he is amazing!".
Child #2-The first thing we worry about is if we will have enough room in our hearts to love another baby. "How is this child going to change my relationship with the first?" We are still so focused on child #1 that even our first thoughts of #2 are of the effects on #1!! Once the baby arrives we realize not only do we have enough room in our hearts...we feel we may love this child even more than we loved the first!!! This time around we've done it all before. We know that a newborn gets super fussy around 6 weeks and they really will stop crying soon enough. We know all the little "tricks" like myelicon drops for gassy tummies and how to swaddle so the baby can't wiggle out. We also know that this little baby is going to grow and develop in his own unique way and we can't control it. However, we are consumed this time around with how to manage two kiddos. Moms have to learn the art of entertaining #1 while feeding #2 for 45 minutes (remember #1 got all that undivided attention for a couple years and still expects it!). Moms have to plan even more when they go on outings...not only packing baby bottles, extra clothes, pacifers, etc but packing for the toddlers needs...snack cup, sippy, toys, diapers. When child #2 turns one year old we are thrilled to finally see that we've created siblings! We love listening to #2 giggle because of the antics of #1. Unfortunately, as #2 gets older we realize that he is spending a lot of time unsupervised. It shows in his obsession with the toilet...and not in a good way. We realize that life is busy with two kids and we haven't had a meaningful conversation with our spouse in months. We fit the stereotypical mold of a "family" 2 adults, 2 kids. We fit nicely at a table at restaurant. We consider the idea that perhaps this is our family and it feels doable. One parent per kid. We won't have to worry about anyone feeling left out or having his needs go unmet.
Child #3-Surprise!! more blessings in store! (disclaimer: for some families these things happen when they have one or two kids in their family...for us it was when we got to #3):
-As moms we love the postpartum room at the hospital. It's like vacation. We can watch what you want on t.v. Lie in bed all day for days . They bring you food and fresh water all day long! At least point you don't have oodles of visitors to entertain. Even the nursing staff doesn't bother you as much b/c it's your 3rd rodeo.
-We realize children #1 and #2 are buddies and can entertain themselves while #3 is fed for 45 minutes.
-We have to simplify our lives and our commitments.
-We have to ask others for help. Can't do it all on our own (Thanks Megan!)
-We come to the end of ourselves. We have to rely more on God! Daily. Hourly.
-We can't just "get by" anymore...we have to establish family rules. Obey.Honor. Be responsible.
-We have to expect our older children to do more for themselves...and they love feeling like they can contribute!
-We love spending time as a family because now we laugh even more. We don't need to be with other people to have a good time.
-We enjoy our third child more than we have enjoyed either of the two. (did i just type that?)
-We are more confident because we've walked each development step two times before.
-We have seen how different our children, from the same genetic input, can turn out.
-We can fully realize that it has NOTHING to do with us but everything to do with seeking God's plan for each child's life and loving each of their special talents and their imperfections.
I write this post not to make those who have less than 3 children to feel bad. I just want to express that we have found joy and deep satisfaction in having a larger family. I feel that our current culture discourages having children, let alone a large family. Bruce and I personally felt that God wanted us to have more than 2 and, fortunately, we have been blessed through that decision.
Of course it is HARD! Of course there are days that i want to throw in the towel and walk out of the house and not have 3 young boys and one big "boy" asking me to do 3,000 different things in one day. But I have come to realize that this is what God has for me right now. Just like i did with my previous career and with any other ministry I've been involved in. I am trying to do the best that I can do and rely on God and His Holy Spirit for strength and wisdom!