In the run up to Pip’s arrival I found myself pottering around the internet looking for people talking about the arrival of their third child, how to manage the increased family size, how their older children coped, all the sorts of things that you want to know from those who’ve walked the path before you. And the overwhelming response that came back seemed to be something along the lines of:
“my friend/sister/colleague/random person that I once passed on the street had three children and it was definitely the third that broke them”
Helpful when you’re thirty something weeks pregnant!
I know everyone’s experience is different but I found the shift from one to two children to be huge. And by huge we mean hard work and challenging, and all of that with Elma being an easy going little girl who liked milk and sleeping.
It wasn’t anything either of the girls did or didn’t do to be honest, it was all part and parcel of my adjusting to being able to share myself out to two children with equally valid but frequently competing needs.
When Kitty arrived I’d just dived head first into motherhood and found that I loved it. She was H and my sole focus, and we were her everything, her comfort, her play fellows, the providers of food and cuddles and anything else she could ever need. And it wasn’t just that she was used to having her needs met immediately, or as near to immediate as we could manage, but we were used to meeting those needs straight away.
Enter one baby sister and the concept of “just wait a minute” and it’s no surprise that Kitty didn’t really know what was happening. And there in the middle of the melee sat a Mama trying to parent two children in exactly the same way she’d parented just one.
It didn’t work. And after my first morning at home with Kitty and Elma in which Kitty ran through everything she knew she wasn’t supposed to do in the space of about half an hour (she was only two, she hadn’t yet mastered mischief) I drove them half an hour away to meet H for lunch feeling rather desperate that I didn’t know how to do this and was never going to be able to be everything I wanted to be to these two gorgeous beautiful daughters.
Twenty odd months down the line I can laugh at my naïveté; we stepped back, reassessed and I long ago found my feet in sharing myself between two – to the point that taking care of just one child seems like unimaginable luxury!
But even knowing all of that I did wonder whether the jump from two to three would be as big, and that first day of just me and the tiny three just as much of a challenge.
Well we’re only one day in so it would be presumptive to suggest that I’ve got it nailed, but actually yesterday was lovely. The girls played hide and seek under my duvet while I fed Pip, we all pottered around in pyjamas and had toasty bagels and jam for breakfast, we read stories curled up on the sofa and I fed Pip, we went to town to buy some food for the weekend and run a couple of errands, and after lunch I tucked Pip in the sling and did the washing up while the girls played Duplo and then we all sat in the garden for the rest of the afternoon to play Moon Dough (even outside it’s extraordinary how much mess that stuff makes), and then had a go at the mini golf hole that H and Kitty built last weekend.
Kitty was a huge help, fetching things that I couldn’t reach when I was nursing and finding books and blankies for her sister, and she and Elma just seemed relaxed and happy to be back in some approximation of their usual routine; sometimes playing together, sometimes glaring furiously at each other, and more often than not giving way to bouts of unstoppable giggles – apparently Elma chasing the remains of her ice lolly across the dinner table really is that funny!
There were tears, but only of the usual sisterly “Mummy she has my …..!” variety, and a solid squeak from Pip when every traffic light in the entire world turned red and we took a bit longer to get home for milk than any of us would have liked, and I’m happy to say that all chocolate hobnob consumption was purely recreational!
And then after a bit of a late supper when we spotted the girls peering out of the front door “to look at the night”, we bundled everyone up, turned out all of the lights, lay on a quilt in the back garden and watched the sky as one by one the stars came out to play, two bats flittered and chased each other, a pigeon slowly flapped home to roost, and far above us the lights of a plane crawled across our little patch of deep blue.
With Pip lying back on my tummy, Elma curled into the crook of my arm and H next to me trying to point out stars to Kitty (with mixed success) it was the perfect end to the day, one of those moments when you feel in your gut that regardless of how things go in the day to day and in the full knowledge that there will be times when it all falls apart spectacularly,, overall it’s going to be OK.