3 under 4

The best word to describe our adjustment to life with three kids -- all of whom are under age 4 -- is juggle. 

It's been a juggle. An ongoing education in accepting the good-enough. It's OK if the girls go to bed one night without brushing their teeth. In fact, one night after Archie was born, we didn't even bother with pajamas. They just went to bed in the clothes they'd worn all day.

And. Nothing. Happened. #theywerejustfine

We're still figuring out our new norm. I'm trying to be patient with that process.

But what was immediate: the girls' love for their brother. 

We dove right in, treating him as another member of the family, albeit the tiniest. He even donned a party hat at 10 days old to help ring in Ted's birthday. 

What's that cliche? Full hands, full heart? 

That's Ted right here -- and, you know, trying to avoid a fire. 

The good news: The conventional wisdom that it's easier to transition from two to three kids than it is to leap from one to two has proven true.

Absolutely. 

Ted and I have practice demonstrating to an older sibling how to embrace a new baby. I remember doing this with Maria when Jane was born -- talking to the baby, involving her, trying to make it fun -- and the muscle memory kicked in this time around. 

"We'll take good care of you in the Ries family," Maria told Archie his first day home from the hospital. "You have nothing to worry about." 

She's been so good with him. I haven't attempted to outsource diaper duty yet, but more importantly, Maria talks to him constantly and is the most darling teacher. I'll overhear her explaining teeth, or chocolate, or the fact that everyone poops.  

She put his first sock on the other day. (Don't you love all the firsts with a newborn?) As she did, she said to him: "I promise you'll never get blisters." 

The other day she told me: "I think we should have seven babies. And then, after your tummy is all stretched out, we'll have a party, and I'll dance in circles."

This was my first attempt photographing all three.

Not easy. Especially when the girls' shirts have messages you're trying to capture, forward facing.

 We've already been on a couple family outings. I remember how scary that felt when Jane was a newborn -- and this is even more of a process, as far as packing and prep -- but it feels good to attempt. We even pulled off decent, everyone-stayed-in-the-pew church behavior.

And I took ALL THREE to the grocery store on my own. 

(It went super well, actually -- Archie slept the whole time and Jane was content sitting in the top of the cart. I imagine future trips will be more challenging.)

Jane is now a big sister -- a very little big sister -- and the role suits her well.

Her first word each morning is Archie. 

 

Occasionally she needs some redirecting. 

 

But she has pure love for this baby.

Ted has been amazing. He is always there right when and where I need him as we attempt this three-kid juggle. 

On a practical level, my trusty infant carrier makes such a difference. Archie likes it as much as both his sisters did. Puts the baby right to sleep and allows me to unload the dishwasher periodically. 

As to sleep, I'm not getting much at night. He's still up at 2-hour intervals often. A 3-hour stretch is welcome.

We're learning the boy things. I've been peed on many times. Jane fell victim one morning. (She is fascinated by diaper changes...and all things Archie.)

A nasty bug hit us this week, requiring the clean-up of additional bodily fluids on top of the regular ones we're dealing with here. 

But catch me in a good moment -- like after I've taken a nap or enjoyed a hot bath -- and I'd tell you: It doesn't get much better than this.

 


  Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and three young children in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at christina@mnparent.com.