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Power of Three

Three kids is when the overwhelm hits — you’re outnumbered

I once asked a mentor of mine what her hardest transition was.

“Hands down, it was two to three. That’s when they outnumber you,” she quipped.

Tempted to ask what she meant by that, but too shy to display my ignorance, I kept quiet.

Then I had my third — and I no longer needed to ask.

Three is when not only you and your husband are outnumbered, but your own hands are too. So even if you’ve figured out how to wash the dishes while holding a baby and pouring a cup of apple juice, there’s still someone unaccounted for (who may or may not be playing with a permanent marker).

Three is when one needs the bathroom, one is crying because his tower just broke, and one needs a bottle, but you are frozen in the middle of the kitchen trying to figure out who can wait the longest without disastrous consequences.

Three is when it’s time to put the kids to sleep, and each has his heart set on sleeping in Mommy or Daddy’s bed, but you can no longer split it one and one. So either you or your husband (or both) wake up in a twisted knot of blankets, kids, and pillows, and you spend the rest of the day competing over who is more tired.

Three is when you make the naive attempt to put them all to bed at once, and they inevitably wake each other up, one after the other, in perfect succession. They couldn’t have planned this, could they?

Three is when you can’t fit everyone plus all your shopping bags in a double stroller, and so one kid tags alongside, which means your little procession takes up the entire sidewalk. You create a walking traffic jam and earn the disapproving stares of everyone who obviously never tried to take three kids grocery shopping.

Three is when it’s 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday, and you’ve miraculously satisfied the needs of the picky eater and the colicky baby, but there’s one kid left who wants his very own omelet, and you still haven’t eaten since you woke up at six.

Three is when you can’t for the life of you imagine flying as a family because the oldest isn’t old enough to push a luggage cart and the youngest is still a lap kid. Melatonin, anyone?

Three is when you’ve hit the point that you don’t think any more coffee can fit in your body at four in the afternoon, but you’ve got to keep your eyes open, because even though two kids decided to take a nap, there’s still one more who needs help with his homework or just some Mommy time.

But then, in that rare instance when you are alone with child one, two, or three, you stop and stare into his eyes. You are reminded that each child is his very own world, and this one shines as bright as the sun.

You learn to appreciate these quiet times, and as the second hand ticks away, you wish the clock would stop before the pleasure ends.

It’s when your kitchen table feels full and the five-seater car is complete.

Three is when you relish the feeling of being surrounded by kids (right, left, and lap) as you read a bedtime story or daven brachos together on Shabbos morning. And even as they argue over who gets to sit where, you are so grateful to be sandwiched between the loves of your life.

Three is when you realize that the hardest part of your daily journey is also the source of the greatest joy, a joy that cannot be calculated by mathematical equations. Because the returns are not additional or exponential. They are infinite.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 797)

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