What You Learn from Having Kids

How to juggle having not one, not two, but three kids

Princess Charlotte. Picture / AP.

It was telling that the Duke of Cambridge laughed bashfully when a TV interviewer broached the question of his having another child. When the idea of Number Three isn’t entirely abhorrent to the parents, it’s a fair bet that in quieter moments (say, when both little ones are asleep), they will have entertained this wild idea. The first-born is a lifestyle shock; a second, as Prince William once remarked, is a “game-changer” — which makes a third a whole new ball game. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about bringing up three children.

1. Gulp! You and your partner are now outnumbered
For the next 16 years, there will always be a child roaring “Mum!” from the top of the stairs. You will be forever tripping over shoes, picking up towels and flushing toilets. You will routinely beg favours from other parents to drive your three kids to concurrent sporting/social events in three suburbs, as this is not possible for two people, even with a second car.

2. Three children cannot “all play nicely”
Regardless of gender mix, there will always be one left out. If they’re included in the fun, they are soon punished for it by the other two.

3. To cope with the chaos, you must embrace it
With two, parents can divide and conquer — at weekends, you can take one to the shops while husband takes the other to the pool. It’s relatively civilised. With three, you must surrender to only ever going out en masse. As three will fight like cats in the car, deaf to reason, there’s a peace in realising that you can no longer control your children. Consequently, Number Three will sleep beautifully (they have to learn to nod off by themselves). They will also be a hearty eater: when you have two hungry siblings, you learn fast that fussiness with food means no food.

4. You will get (a bit) of your life back
Even with two children, parents can be self-sacrificial, over-organising play dates and activities at the expense of adult leisure time. But Number Three heralds a volte face — a case of enough is enough. Number Three is fed on the trot, is dragged around the museum, listens to your music, is friends-by-proxy with the children of your friends. You’re all happier for it.

5. Cherished principles fall by the wayside
At a tender age, Number Three will end up watching films with older siblings that are most unsuitable. Two children can still feasibly take turns to watch the box. But with three, you need a crowd-pleaser, not a screen-queue. You’re sick of cartoons, so progress to Toy Story. And World War II documentaries. A week later, you’ll trot downstairs to find your 8-year-old watching Gladiator. But that’s apparently okay, because, as his eldest brother says: “I put my hands over his eyes at the scary bit.”

6. Number Three will be mature for their age
Early exposure to the merciless banter of older siblings can bolster a child’s cognitive development. Coming third creates a thirst for knowledge and for winning (or, indeed, aversion to losing). Essentially, standing your ground against older siblings requires true grit: keep telling yourself that it’s character-building.

7. Number Three might be a bad influence
Your youngest’s worldliness may alarm parents of only children. They won’t want their little first-born darling to play with your ruffian, even though they are exactly the same age. It will be painful when your youngest isn’t invited to parties.

8. Having three isn’t as pricey as you think…
Number Three will cost less than the other two, because you won’t be buying a $200 swing, or a space-age buggy. If you have “one of each”, a George and a Charlotte, you know that toys and clothes can be recycled.

9. …But you’ll still be poorer than you can ever imagine
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge need not worry, but raising three is still grumblingly expensive. Shoes. Lost coats. Outings. Holidays. Three children somehow eat twice as much as two. Also, three child seats don’t fit in the back of a “normal” car.

10. Consider yourself lucky
Despite the noise, mess, expense, you’ll cherish every moment of Number Three’s existence because they will, probably, be your last baby. You won’t correct their spelling of scissors as “sizzers” until secondary school, and “bedusking” (for “disgusting”) will join your family lexicon. One day you’ll look back and be glad you had three.

— The Daily Telegraph

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