For Maria, who asked how we are doing

           It is 9:17 PM as I write this.  The boys have been in bed for an hour and a half. Lilah finished nursing almost an hour ago.  The laundry has been hung on racks that I will put out in the sun tomorrow morning.  The dishwasher has been unloaded.  My teeth are brushed and flossed.

            I should be wrapping it up, heading off to bed, as the day will start far too early tomorrow.  I am up before six, pumping my daily five ounces before the children begin to emerge, one by one, from their rooms.  Days are long, even with the au pair’s help, especially when J is out of town.  I have help from a lovely young woman, but I am all the parent available for three small people who very much need parenting. 

            Lilah – so very attached to me right now.  Does she have hearing problems, or is she not yet babbling because I never get a chance to talk or sing to her?  Did she start crawling at 5 months because we kept putting her down and she had to find something to do to entertain herself?

           Benjamin, who has generously rediscovered his mother’s existence.  Potty training is going as well as can be expected, if by “well” you mean “sucking all the life out of our au pair and me without showing any results.”  And, he is almost three but cannot recognize any letters because, well, I have not taken the time because who would I be taking it from? 

           Zachary.  Oh, my.  Where did that mean streak come from?  The one that had phrases like “I am never going to play with you” and “you are stupid” tripping off of your tongue.  And where did it go, somewhere around 12:28 this afternoon?  How did you suddenly earn yourself five stickers in one day? 

           The one would be reading by now, if I just spent a little more time having him read every day.  The other would know his letters if I took fifteen minutes to help him.  The baby would be babbling if she got more conversation.

           Yet, when the youngest two are down for their naps, I often take a nap myself, leaving Zachary to be read to by or do art with our au pair.  I am just so tired.  Or, when all is calm, I prep for dinner dinner, sort the laundry, work on an article… pick your poison… instead of giving the one-on-one parenting moment each of them needs.

           Somehow, though, Benjamin has learned to count objects well, which seems kind of late compared to his brother, but I think he knew how to do it for awhile but just hadn’t found anything he felt much like counting.  And, he is consistently recognizing a few letters, although I don’t remember teaching that to him.

           Lilah, it seems, has finally started in on the D sound.  Not that her brothers are ever going to give her time to talk.

           And Zachary.  My little man.  When I wasn’t looking he reached the end of preschool, and he graduates in two weeks.  He will have to leave behind the teacher who has buoyed him ever since we moved to Los Angeles.  He will be thrown into more complex social situations without the support that has strengthened him.  He will have to meet all new children, follow all new routines.  I think he knows and it scares the living shit out of him, but he gamely practices the songs for graduation.

           This afternoon, I read Benjamin two books and played the drive-the-fire-truck-to-the-letter game.  I praised Zachary for good behavior and talked through a problem he had.  But I had to leave Lilah on the floor playing by herself to do so.

          And tomorrow?  One of the boys will get less of me than he would like.  But, now it is 9:39, and I really ought to be getting to sleep.

25 responses to “For Maria, who asked how we are doing

  1. that balance, is always a little precarious. they have so many needs and we are just one. But, it will happen.

  2. sleep well, friend.

  3. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your daily life. You really have your hands full, and I am continually impressed by all that you do. Your kids have an amazing mother.

    (I’m also amazed by how quickly you can write a post. I think I may be the slowest writer ever.)

  4. Emily, dear Emily. You are hard on yourself. There are too many woulds and shoulds here. I prescribe an agenda-free day of just love and laughter.

  5. I agree with de. This time is so short, and mommy guilt too pervasive. You’re doing a great job- that’s not hard to see from this end of the internet!

  6. Even if you had all the extra time in the world to spend with each of them, you would find something else to feel guility about. It’s a mom thing. I don’t know why we do it to ourselves, but we do. Your kids sound great. 20 years from now, they won’t remember learning letters or numbers, but will remember laughs, hugs and kisses. Nothing else matters.

  7. I have to believe it will get easier. I HAVE TO.

  8. lifeineden

    You are doing just fine. My mom had 3 boys in three years, then another girl 2 years later (then 2 years a boy, then 5 years me). My oldest brother didn’t know his colors at 5 when entering kindergarten. It is family legend how she had to teach it to him just before starting. We all grew up, we all became productive, fairly normal adults (most of the time).

    I know how you feel. I had horrible guilt that the twins were still not crawling at 8 months-age-adjusted as The Snake did at 6 months and was walking by 10. Then I had an evaluation and they told me how they are spot on for their age adjusted status. Just cause your first was early doesn’t mean your last is behind. And Ben will learn his letters when he feels like it — he strikes me as one who needs to want to do it before it will be done. 🙂

    Hang in there friend, your kids will be amazing. Just give them time.

  9. They’ll be fine. I’m one of three. Mom went through major, suicidal depression in the middle of raising us – and she was a stay-at-home mom with 3 homeschooled kids. Believe me when I say there were WEEKS where it probably seemed like we didn’t get enough attention. But we all turned out ok. (And honestly, doesn’t every parent mess up their kids in some way? Just a little? My mom used to say, half-seriously, that it wasn’t her job to make sure we turned out without problems – it was her job to make sure we turned out well enough to hold down jobs to pay for our own therapy! Ha!)

    You might feel like you’re not spending enough time with the kids, but on the other hand, they’re learning about themselves: what they can handle on their own, and what they can’t. And they’re also learning to lean on each other, which will serve them well their whole lives. (OK, it might be hard to see that last part now, but I PROMISE they’re learning it. Voice of experience, right here. ;D) And they’ll still know that they can lean on you, too.

    Hang in there. You’re a good mom. They’ll be ok.

  10. This transition to three is so hard, with someone always not getting the attention they deserve. When I am tempted to feel guilty, I just realize that our ideas of what our children need come from a society of safety and luxury. I don’t have to worry about my children having enough food, being safe, having a roof over their heads, or any number of other horrible things. Suddenly, I no longer care if Hobbes knows his letters.

    So I am learning to let the mommy-guilt go and to realize that most of the standards we have for good parenting in America are ridiculous. We have turned parenting into a profession at which one can succeed or fail based on the stupidest criteria. My kids can handle a lot more than I think they can and probably are better off with less attention and more free time to play/explore/beat up their brothers than I think they are.

    And don’t get me started on the standards for what kids should know by Kindergarten. I think I remember playing in Kindergarten and learning how to socialize…not learning how to read! I even very clearly remember that we learned our letters. Sure, I already knew them (and how to read), but I still thought it was fun.

    So relax and enjoy them as best you can. With sleep deprivation, potty training, breastfeeding, cooking, and cleaning up, we both have enough to worry about. Your kids will be just fine…and so will mine.

    Oh, and I have a theory that kids either learn to move or talk first. Super-early talkers (like my Calvin) are usually super-late crawlers (10 months), and the opposite seems to be true, too. Since Lilah crawled so early, her brain was too busy with that to worry about speech. It’ll come.

  11. Ah, the balancing act. It’s so…stressful some days. Other days, I’m fine with it.


    Hang in there.

  12. Again, I am one of seven kids (with only a ten-year spread from oldest to youngest, no multiples). I can’t remember one-on-one time with either of my parents but I look back on my childhood with incredible fondness. I don’t remember feeling like they weren’t spending enough time with me. They loved me and parented well– even if I had to share them with my six sibs.

    With my three, I try to keep in mind that they are learning lessons about sharing, being in give-and-take relationships, etc. etc. that they would not be learning if they were only children. So yes– they surely would have gotten more one-on-one attention from us if they had no siblings but there’s a flip side to.o

  13. They are safe. They are loved. They will grow into themselves in their own time and very well.

  14. As usual, my comment will consist of a whole lotta “yeah, what they said.”. I find the idea that you’re worrying about them not knowing letters or babbling enough because of you perplexing — and some of the stuff I worry about regarding my brood would probably seem nonsensical to you. I sort of go on the assumption that the fact that you’re worrying about not being a good enough parent makes you, by default, a good enough parent. Many child development experts (which I always ignore and ridicule, except when I agree with them) agree that a policy of benign neglect is excellent for children. That’s why I read so much. Good for them — good for me. And if you’re not going to have a nap and leave one of the kids with the au pair for a bit, what the heck do you have the au pair for?

  15. Somehow 2nd, 3rd and however many kids, find their way too. They just do it differently than the first one does. It is easy to compare our kids, but it really does no good. Bailey wouldn’t tell me she knew her colors until a few months ago. Or her numbers. I thought it was me, because holy crap she is going to be five this summer. Nope, she knows them, she just doesn’t care to show us. Stubborn Cancer child.

    They just do it differently, because well, if they did what their siblings did, it’d be boring.

    And just so you know, Harrison is starting to say dada. But that’s pretty much it. But he is so mobile. Shrug. Try not to beat yourself up. They are all healthy, beautiful, smart children. You are doing something right.

  16. oy. my undying admiration for all you do.

  17. Emily, I agree with Allison’s comment above. We all feel mama guilt, especially when there’s three kids with so many needs. I’m trying to give up the guilt, though, and take care of myself, too. Nap when you need it, I say.

  18. I always think of you as a really great mom. I so, so understand the feeling of never quite measuring up, though.

    I only have the one, and I feel like a failure as a parent most every day. “Would he be biting if I didn’t give him an extra video instead of working on his letters so I could do a load of laundry?”

    “Would he be better if I’d disciplined him more effectively?”

    “Would his speech be delayed if I’d read more books to him?”

    “Should I have gotten him intervention long before now because of the aggression?”

    It’s like a litany of beating myself up.

    Anyway, sorry to dump all that here, but the point is I think you’re doing an amazing job.

  19. i feel this, this sense that i am not giving them the me they deserve.

    but the specifics, Emily? i think you may be laying blame on yourself for things you cannot control. Oscar never babbled, not really. by two he was barely speaking. we got tubes in his ears and at 3, he’s a stream of talk.

  20. Three is hard. And it doesn’t necessarily get easier– my 6yo is more independent but still often needs help managing his emotions and behavior; the middle one has developed quite a “squeaky wheel” routine, and the baby is astoundingly cheerful about entertaining himself for long stretches of time, but also at 14 months only has 4 words, and those are only understandable to us (and they are all in Spanish, despite the fact that I’m the one home with him all day… draw your own conclusions).

    Anyway, it’s hard, and it’s not perfect, but I think they will be all right– more than all right– we just keep doing what we can, even though it may not be as much as we’d like.

  21. Ahhh….. You actually made me feel so much better. It’s so nice knowing I’m not the only one who feels that way. But somehow we keep plugging along & it all works out…

  22. You’re being way too hard on yourself… your kids are happy… they know you love them… it will get easier.

    Of course, with number 3’s pending arrival, I have to believe this applies to me as well. 😉

  23. There’s only so much you can do. Their having space to be themselves is important, too. I didn’t have much of that!

  24. I only have one child, and I can’t do all the things you speak of, because of housework, yardwork, work I get paid for.

    My guilt gets me to do some SuperMom spurts here and there, but then the rest of life gets in the way. Be kinder to yourself, girl 😉

  25. Don’t feel so guilty. Mini is an only and she NEVER babbled. Didn’t say a peep until 10 months. Went straight from silence to “Hi”. And she’s reading DESPITE the fact that her mother works crazy hours and doesn’t sit down nearly enough to do it with her.

    They’re all different. They’re all doing great. No need to add guilt to your giant pile of responsibilities.