Being a first-time father was amazing for me. Becoming a father for the second time was also amazing, but not in the same way. Three times a father turned my life upside down.
I have two girls and a boy. When our first daughter was born, all of the emotions and thoughts of becoming a parent ran through my head. Every step of the way was special and unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. From the news that my wife was pregnant to the first time I laid eyes on my daughter, each milestone made me stop and appreciate how special it all was.
I talked to a friend shortly after finding out that our second child was on the way. He told me that it’s not as big of a deal the second time around. It’s not that a second child is any less special than the first; it’s just that it is not the same as becoming a father for the first time. The second pregnancy seemed to go by faster than the first, at least for me.
The experiences of the first child made everything seem familiar the next time around. Caring for a second baby was a little easier. We didn’t worry too much about doing something wrong because we had been through it before. We had already developed our way of doing things with our first born, and it was just a matter of sticking to what works for us and making small improvements here and there.
Having two children wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Yes, we had double trouble at times, but rough moments were often smoothed over quickly because we had experience. At this stage, our experience helped us handle the second child, much as the first pregnancy helped prepare us for the second.
My wife and I felt pretty good about ourselves at this point. We were in awe over the loving nature of Big Sister. We really enjoyed seeing our baby girl develop in similar ways as her sister, while noticing their differences as well. We were into all of the detail that go into raising a family. We cared about all of the little things.
Enter third child, a boy. The first year with three was much like having two. All of us enjoyed having a new baby in the house. Both girls became great big sisters, especially our second daughter. Everything again seemed familiar, except for some minor differences having a boy versus our girls. It was busy of course, but the girls helped a bit. Then, around the one-year mark, the dynamic changed.
I think the “terrible two’s” should be called the “terrible two years.” This period begins around age one and a half and continues until age three and a half. So, right on schedule, it began for us. Our son became mobile and curious, stubborn and defiant. He developed an ear-piercing shriek to communicate absolutely everything!
With just two children, the older one often remained content when the little one would throw a tantrum, and there were many moments when both children were happy. With three, peaceful moments seem extremely rare. When our boy is happy and content, the sisters often come up with something to fight, scream and cry over. There is never a shortage of tension in the house.
Even if it’s not fighting, our girls like to take turns picking up their baby brother. This usually brings another high pitched form of vocalization that insures my tinnitus will never go away.
With two, my wife and I had some quiet moments to collect our sanity and focus on the care of our children and ourselves. With three, there is so much chaos and so little quiet time that we just don’t have the mental capacity to care about the details in the same way we could with just one or two.
Instead, we choose to focus on the big things that matter most for us. We work on the small teaching moments as they come. This means that all the details we once could take time for might slip by unnoticed now.
Raising three children tests you in a way where experience doesn’t guarantee smooth handling of things. The fact that we miss some of the little “teachings” is not all bad news. The older kids teach the younger ones, and so far, I’ve been told that our children are very independent and self-confident.
I don’t think it’s anything to worry about or avoid doing if you are considering (or risking) a third child, but keep this in mind…once, twice, three times – it’s crazy!
By Brian Wilson
Brian is the father of three children. He teaches golf and coordinates a Zurich Dads’ group in his spare time. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org