I believe congratulations are in order - HRH, Kate Middleton, The Duchess, Duchey to her husband (I imagine), has had her third child. A hat trick of the kid variety! Welcome to the world fifth in line to the throne, can I grab you a coffee for the queue? I believe it might be a fairly long wait.
There is a strange perception amongst those of us serving on the parental battlefield that the more you reproduce, the more competent a parent you are. It’s as if your offspring act as additional soldiers joining the troop and you become stronger as a unit - ploughing on through life like the calvary galloping towards war, flags raised.
Please humour me for a moment whilst I totally shatter that illusion.
Allow me to reassure you, although we may have occasional delusions of being great leaders of a band of warriors bred from our loins (delusions arising mainly because we are so bloody tired from thrice as many night-time get ups as first time round), we are actually more like ring leaders of a circus. A circus wherein the elephants keep wandering off in different directions, one of the acrobats has developed a serious attitude problem and we get a little cocky on opening night with safety procedures and end up being eaten by the lion. It’s all the fun of the fair having a trio of kids, if fun means chaos and fair means parenthood. So basically it’s all the chaos of parenthood. Business as usual.
You’d think that we’d be better prepared this time round. This is not our first rodeo. But no, please can I reassure anyone watching a parent of three and thinking, ‘how on earth do they do it?’, that the parent of three is thinking, ‘how on earth do I do it? I mean how do I actually do it? Is it even doable?’, several (hundred) times a day.
The problem with children is that they are human beings. And child human beings are all completely different, unique and diverse in every aspect of their person. They like different things, they respond differently to situations and they sleep and eat at different times. Just like adults. For the same reason that whilst reading this article some of you are saying, ‘why is this idiot woman allowed to write’, whereas others of you (in my somewhat vivid imagination) are saying, ‘this woman is brilliant, can she be my BFF?’. (Yes. Yes she can.) Third time round you have a completely different kettle of fish and can be just as thrown by the baby stage as first time round (or more, as to be honest if I was handed a kettle a fish in the delivery suite I’d be very thrown indeed).
Moreover, even if we were to conceive an identical clone of our first two children, we have never parented a baby with two siblings before, so we are still winging it from labour room to toddlerhood, terrible two’s to teenagers. We may know how to use a car seat (something that totally threw me first time round) but do we know how to fit three car seats in? Do we know how to position ourselves into back breaking positions to climb over little bodies to plug in multiple seat belts whilst ensuring not to smother siblings with our backside? Do we know which order to place our three musketeers in the back to ensure minimum amounts of fighting/pinching/bickering? No, no we don’t. A newborn can only be used as a physical fight blocker between two siblings for so long before they become a willing participant in family fight club, trust bruv (or sis).
Occasionally you find someone who ‘gets it’; who understands that us parents of three are totally winging it by the seat of our (now waterproof) pants. This happened to me the other day in, of all places, my local leisure centre. It was the school holidays and I had taken my kids, at the time one, three and six years old, swimming. I was refused entry to the pool on the basis that I was ‘out of ratio’. The lady from the leisure centre informed me that for safety reasons one adult could only take two under eight’s swimming. I held back from telling her that being ‘out of ratio’ was the story of my life, thanked her for her understanding and asked if one of her life guards could accompany me home. If she thinks we are out of ratio at the swimming pool she should see the health and safety issues this presents at home… I’m joking, sort of, but if the swimming pool health and safety ratio ‘gets’ that parents of three are gliding across the water with our feet paddling frantically beneath the surface (although NOT in a swimming pool, obviously) then perhaps so should everyone else.
Parents of multiple children are not wonder-parents, we do not wear our knickers on top of our tights intentionally. We are just slightly tired, slightly older versions of the first time mum.
Winging it with the rest of them.