“I am number three, and I am free.”

December 12, 2012

Notable Stats

Reaction Time Degradation Rate (RTDR) – The decline in reaction time parents experience with each additional child. The third child is basically, on their own.

Mob Mentality Factor (MMF) – The multiplier that considers what happens when two or more pre-schoolers gang up on you.

You used to have time. Time to get there. Time to make that diving stop in the hole that keeps your child from falling down that flight of stairs. With the first child, to prevent injury, it was just as much about reaction time and athleticism as much as it was your newly minted instincts to constantly hover around their surroundings. You made sure that the only way a child got hurt was from your landing on top of him or her when you dove in front of a falling lamp.

Then something strange happens. You have a second child, you have a third child, and soon instead of relying on cat-like, sleep-deprived reactions, you rely on fear and volume. You yell so loud at your infant that is about to crawl down the stairs, that she is scared into not moving another inch. You could rely on mind control. You stare so hard in her general vicinity that she can feel your brain waves yanking her back from a nasty fall. Getting up out of your chair is no longer an option nor is it necessary.

After our first child, we witnessed it in the family of a parental mentor of ours, The Browns. The Browns had their third right before we had our first. When our son arrived, we would share babysitters with them. One day, their then-barely walking son was near the fireplace. He slipped and fell lightly and his Momma said from across the room, “Oh, buddy, that’s unfortunate.” That’s unfortunate? Is this the cucumber cool of a three time Mom? You don’t run over and intercept his fall with your head? You get to comment with play by play analysis on a slip and fall? Apparently so.

In part, it is really because you are outnumbered. Once the third comes, you realize that it is physically impossible to be in three places at one time. Yes, you herd them as much as possible to cut down on this reality. You put two maybe three in the same bathtub, or you spray them in the shower like you are power washing your deck, but there will be times when the vine of toddlerism just leaves one of them flying solo.

So the third one has to call her own shots, even when her decision-making results in a choice to put her face in the dog’s water bowl. You have to give her a little rope based on knowing that it fine that they cry a little, that it is no big deal that they are gnawing on a chair leg or her brother’s funky sock. Numerous trips to the doctor’s office or ER have taught you what is a big deal and what is not.

It is not negligence, it is not a lack of interest, it is parental necessity mixed with the wisdom of the notes you took from child one and two. Luck is involved too and you are OK with that. There was the one day when our eldest was extra freaking out at night after his new sister was home. We knew it was a mix of night fears and attention, so one night when I was putting both of them down, I had to put the baby in her crib well before she got to enjoy the extended first born version of bedtime. Our son, the first born, had music, books, bottles, a massage, and a practically a glass of 20 year old tawny as part of his bedtime routine. His second baby sister was now rushed into the crib, wide awake because I had to sprint over to his room to find out why he was screaming as if Pinkalicious had grown a second head. I dropped her in her crib and miraculously, she went to sleep on her own. Wait a minute…. She went to sleep on her own without the dog and pony show? Without the third reading of Where the Wild Things Are? That is correct, on her own.

Parenting is hard, parenting is wonderful, parenting is insanity that drove off of the rails, but I found that I get more optimistic with a child’s ability to raise herself with each new addition. Maybe it is my rationalization for those pockets of time that happen when you realize you physically cannot intercept everything. You just cannot be there and quite often, that third one is so busy trying to keep up with the other two, they don’t even notice.

- Doug Glanville

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