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On Having Three Kids
By Jennifer Eyre White

Where I live, just north of Berkeley, hardly anyone has more than two kids. I suspect it's because so many families have two career-oriented parents, and kids are really bad for careers. Or maybe it's because it's so expensive to raise kids here. I dunno. Anyway, when Kennard and I decided to have a third child, we became something of an anomaly in our social circle. And after little Kirby was born six weeks ago, a lot of our friends started asking us, what's it like having three kids?

Here's what it's been like so far.

1. With three kids in the family, someone is always grumpy. Often, everyone is grumpy. When Kirby was five days old, we went on a family outing to Copeland's Sports Store (I'm having trouble remembering why we thought that was a good idea or what we wanted there). On the 15-minute drive home in the minivan, Kirby was screaming and Ben was whining, "I wan dat bike, I wan dat bike!" (we had made him get off dat bike and leave it at dat store). Riley was sulking in the back seat because we wouldn't buy her a sandwich at Togo's. Kennard looked at me and said, "Our family is starting to sound like the seven dwarves -- Screamy, Whiney, Sulky, Grouchy, and Sleepy." I'd like to think that I was Sleepy and he was Grouchy, but I can't be sure.

2. I hate it when people advise me to "sleep when the baby sleeps." What am I supposed to do with the other kids? Tie them up in the back yard?

3. Having three kids cuddled up to me on the couch feels like heaven.

4. There is always a little person in need of something. Food. A drink of water. A boob. A bath. A hug. A mouth, nose, or bottom wiped. A timeout. Electroshock therapy. Oh no, sorry, that's me.

5. La Leche League's book on "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" doesn't tell you how to nurse in combat situations. There is advice on keeping a toddler occupied while you nurse an infant, but that's not my problem. My problem is supervising two additional kids who often view nursing as an opportunity to try to maim each other. What I really needed a couple of days ago was something along the lines of: "If, while you are nursing your newborn, your toddler and school-aged child become engaged in a vicious fight over a pair of children's scissors, with your toddler attempting to stab his sister and the sister biting him on the arm hard enough to raise welts, do X-Y-Z."

What I did was to yell, "STOP THAT!" followed by, "STOP THAT GODDAMIT!" with no noticeable effect. I considered treating them like labrador retrievers and dumping a bucket of water on their heads. I considered ignoring them and letting it be a painful learning experience, one possibly including an educational trip to the emergency room. Finally, I lurched up from the couch, cradling Kirby in the crook of one arm so as not to dislodge him from my breast. I stomped over to Riley and Ben, pulled them apart with my free hand, and dragged the wailing Ben across the room to get him away from his sister. Problem solved, but I couldn't help wondering if there was a more elegant approach.

My tenacious little Kirby managed to hang on and maintain suction throughout the entire episode, though he must have felt like he was nursing on the high seas. His little head bobbed up and down, and he briefly opened one eye to look around, but he never let that nipple go. The bad news is that my nipple is now half an inch longer. The good news is that if this keeps up I'll soon be able to leave Kirby on the sofa with my nipple and it will stretch far enough for me to reach all the rooms in the house.

6. The third kid gets dragged around a lot. Our schedule looks like this: Take Ben to preschool. Take Riley to school. Pick Ben up. Pick Riley up. Take Riley to soccer or ice skating. Take Riley home. Do big families homeschool just to cut back on car trips?

7. Riley and Ben have become closer. Since I'm so tired and frequently nursing, I've begun recruiting Riley to help take care of Ben. She brushes his teeth in the morning and helps him get dressed. She holds his hand at the grocery store. One weekend she spent the night in his room, then got up with him at six the next morning. She poured him a bowl of Cheerios and turned on his Bob the Builder video and only woke me up an hour later when he began throwing things at her. She suddenly seems older and more competent. More confident. More useful.

8. Both of the kids -- and in fact all the kids we see -- adore Kirby. There's just something about a newborn that no-one can resist. Even a grouchy and sleepy third-time mom like me.

This essay originally appeared on

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Copyright 2007 Jennifer Eyre White
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