We welcomed baby number three this past July. As you can guess, there was lots of input and advice from everyone about how to handle officially being outnumbered as parents. Yes, it was true that man-to-man defense would no longer be an option. We were officially moving to zone defense, whether we liked it or not.
We have been operating in zone defense with our three kids, age 4 and under, for officially 6 months (yesterday!) and here are some of my biggest takeaways when you have more kids than caretakers…in numbers.
10,000 vs 500
Did you know that three kids produce what feels like 10,000 pieces of laundry a week? I really thought we couldn’t get more of it. But somehow, a little baby comes along and BAM. What I have found that works to not get completely overwhelmed? We try to do laundry two times a week. What I’d like to tell you is that it’s all folded immediately – but in all reality, it usually sits in the laundry basket, and I instruct our older children to just pull out their clean clothes from there. Cutting down that whole “putting laundry away” step has greatly improved my efficiency. When you do have time to organize the 10,000 socks, pants, shirts, bibs… make sure your third baby is chill enough to do it with you.
But those 10,000 pieces of clothes, even if they are strewn all over your house constantly, when everyone is dressed in their Sunday best and you get a perfect (or not so perfect) picture of your whole family, your heart is full.
30 vs 20
Guess what? Three kids is officially when your kids have more fingers than you. What does that mean? You and your partner now have THIRTY fingers that you have to be on the look out for. Thirty little sausages that can pick up things they aren’t supposed to and shove it right into their mouth. Or get placed right in the WRONG place at the WRONG time and they are slammed in a door (EEK). Get your eyes checked regularly – you need that mom hawk vision to catch the mishaps hopefully* before they happen. And you need to not feel bad when some little finger does get smashed – because HELLO there are 30 of them you are trying to watch out for now.
But the feeling of those itty bitty baby fingers in your hand and the moment when you’re too cool preschooler that is growing up too fast requests that you hold their hand, your heart is full.
6 vs 4
Oh yes. There are now six ears around to listen to EVERYTHING you say. Even that little stuff (or profanities – no one is judging) that you mumble under your breath when you figure they are across the room and aren’t listening. OF COURSE that is the moment when they choose to actually listen. A week later at preschool pick up, the teacher mentions little Johnny has been yelling that same cuss word (you didn’t think they heard) on the playground. Oh wait… is that just us? #awkward
But when you read to them and they ask for one more book to listen to or when you hear them talking to a friend or family member and you hear them say sweet words that you have said to them, your heart is full.
Another 6 vs 4 that everyone can relate to: FEET. Oh my gosh – SO many feet now. That means there are six socks and six shoes that must get put on three kids every time you walk out the door. I swear a little part of me dies when it’s time to leave because no fail, someone’s shoe is missing. Or on the wrong foot. Or they just took it off and threw it across the room. Or the baby has it in their mouth instead of on their foot. It’s never ending. My only advice for you here is attempt to teach them to do it themselves. And pray they will. Or let them go one time in the snow without socks and shoes and then after they are done crying about how cold their feet are – remind them this is why shoes exist and why we MUST wear them for the next 4 years.
But on those weekend mornings when they all climb into bed with you way too early and your toes touch all 30 of theirs underneath the covers, your heart is full.
3 vs 2
When you’re outnumbered you officially have more brains to teach and more hearts to mold. This is when it gets real. Teaching your kids those lessons that they have to learn and the alphabet and how to read and match colors and the dreaded… math. While yes, teachers help with that, you’re their parent and it’s frightening! But then their hearts. You are the ones that teach them how to love and be compassionate and care for others. This is the one that keeps me up at night, especially after a day when one of your kids was not-so-nice to another kid at school. You wonder, what could I have done different to teach them better?
But then there are those moments. When they do something or tell you something that you have no idea they knew (like name states or presidents or match colors you’ve been working on!) and you smile and pat yourself (or their teachers!) on the back.
And the best, when out of nowhere they sweetly kiss their new baby brother or sister on the forehead. Or they tell you how much they love you. Or they pray for another friend that was sad or hurt.
Being outnumbered as a parent absolutely has its challenges.But with a little mindset change, you can see the good in it. Is it frightening and are there times when one of your kids runs off and you think the other parent was watching them? Oh yes, been there, done that. But if you choose to focus on the amazing blessings you’ve been granted, you might just realize that even though the ratios are completely against you, the things your have to be thankful for have multiplied in ways you never thought possible.