Mostly, I love having three children. There are a few drawbacks; the shoe-shop bill, for instance, can easily reduce me to tears. As can the fact that the law of averages means that at least one of them will object – loudly – to every single suggestion that I make; and then there is the whole ‘outnumbered by your offspring’ issue…
When people see that I have three children, they are quite often given to commenting. In fact, a lot of people seem unable to stop themselves from commenting. Mothers with three kids are obviously fair game for this sort of opinion-giving. When mine were smaller, everyone used to say, ‘wow – you have got your hands full!’ This was true, and very often literally the case; sometimes I would be holding a child by each hand and be wearing Tilly in the sling. But the comments usually had a tone of ‘rather you than me!’ or ‘are you stark raving bonkers?’ or perhaps ‘all THREE are making quite a kerfuffle and you appear to be totally unable to control them.’
These days, I mostly get, ‘how on earth do you manage with three?’ On very rare occasions, the kids are miraculously standing beautifully behind me when people say this, looking relatively clean and sane. At times like this, I must look like some sort of supermum, and like to just shrug and say, ‘oh, you know, I get by…’ Of course, 99.9% of the time when people say this, the children are causing some sort of loud mayhem, and racing about half dressed and feral. And so I mutter something about wine, about embracing chaos, and loving a pack-mentality kind of family life, and generally attempt to leave the vicinity fairly quickly.
But there are many, many wonderful things about having three. They are a gang; a team. They look out for each other. They travel as a pack and are fiercely protective of each other. Having to assert themselves within a tight group of three has made them develop three very different, and strong, personalities. But best of all, they are great friends. The love getting up early at weekends and playing long and involved imaginary games involving Princess Leah, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. They like playing in the park together, riding their bikes together, and chasing each other round in circles…(no, really. I know.) Sometimes, they talk to each other using words that only they understand.
But lately, when people ask me how on earth I manage with three, I want to say that I honestly don’t know. I I want to say that sometimes I am so bored with shouting and disciplining them, trying to be fair and consistent and calm with all three but failing miserably, that I fantasise about booking myself a long holiday alone. I want to say that sometimes the effort involved in making sure that everybody eats a reasonable meal, gets some time to read their book, has their teeth cleaned and hair brushed nearly kills me. I want to say that sometimes I come back from the school nursery run feeling as if I have completed a half marathon. I want to say that sometimes I look at the laundry bin and want to weep. But I don’t say any of that. It’s not what people are asking.
I say ‘oh, you know, we manage.’ And sometimes it is more true than other times.
But despite all that, I wouldn’t be without them. Three may be a crowd. But it is a fun crowd.