First of all, even though my older kids are pretty self-contained and help me a lot, three kids is easier than four. Having any one of them gone made it feel easier to take care of the remaining children. This principle of relativity doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. My neighbor has 9 kids. Her husband often takes the older kids on camping trips. When she is left home with “just” 5 little girls, it feels like a break to her.
I missed each of my kids when they were gone, but everything felt simpler. With 4 kids there’s always one that needs something— food, help, a ride somewhere.
But I’m not saying having three kids would be a breeze. Because if you have three kids you feel maxed out, and two seems like a break. See? It’s relative. I guess this says something about how our capacity is stretched beyond what we think we can handle with the birth of a child.
My youngest kids have been pal-ing around a lot more. Ellen, age 5, and Ben, age 9, will be the only two at elementary school this year. Ben is usually quiet and reserved. I’ve noticed that he has come out of his shell quite a bit this summer and I think it’s from hanging out more with his little sister. Being the big brother and the “expert” on going to school has given him a lot of confidence. Ellen is exuberant and weird and my most outgoing child. I think it’s rubbing off on Ben. They have private jokes now and they have been reminding me of each other with their mannerisms and facial expressions.
Ellen has been less emotional and is throwing fewer tantrums. I think playing with Legos, doing puppet shows, and dressing up in costumes with Ben is more age-appropriate for her than trailing after her 12-year-old sister and her friends. I love the influence of an older sister on Ellen, but trying to keep up with a tween can sometimes be frustrating for a 5-year-old [or anyone].
It’s been fun to observe this dynamic and it reinforces to me that my kids are their own selves. They have relationships with each of their siblings and they are more than just an extension of me. Which is good because some day I’ll be dead.