Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Parenting 3 kids is very challenging. It is a juggernaut of emotions, debilitating both mentally and physically, an assault on patience and calm, and a daily challenge to remember who you are as you don't get a minute to yourself.

My 3 are all at such different and difficult stages. I want to attempt to quantify them and explain why I think they are such hard work in a bid to help me to understand them better at this impossible time. I’m interested in the psychological factors that make them who they are, such as birth order and their natures versus the way Tom and I are nurturing them, wrongly or rightly.

I think clearer when I write things down. I cope with the overwhelm and stress  better. And I also remember things, so here goes…

The only thing the 3 of them have in common is they look alike, they are uncompromising, impatient and high energy. Oh and me, a stressed mum… and their dad, similarly frazzled by them.

First child. Jago, just turned 4
Bloody minded, seeks attention, thrills in negative attention, loves to wind people up, can be aggressive, very emotionally angry since turning 4. I’ve just been reading up about birth order and life scripts, and apparently the typical first child (if they’re not a compliant people-pleaser ), will be strong willed, rebellious and sullen and have trouble getting over their “dethroning” when the second sibling enters the scene. This according to Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist who was around at the turn of the 1900s.

Firstborn children are natural leaders and bossy because of the way they are thrust into a leadership role from the time they gain a younger sibling. My boy definitely is. He always needs to be in charge and tells friends what games and roles they’re playing, even much older boys. One of his friends include a 6 year old neighbour who he bosses around (the neighbour is the youngest of 3 so doesn’t mind Jago’s dominance).

In life, research says, firstborns will have trouble delegating; they will not trust others to do the job well enough. Interestingly, Jago’s most overused first word was “I’lldoit”. He thought it was just one word, he would repeat the sound until we gave in and let him have his way. He was a very strong, determined baby, walking at 10 months and refusing to be taught anything. Even now he won’t listen to me or let me show him how to do anything, such as how to hold a pen or how to zip up a coat.

Middle child. Tegan, 2 years 9 months
My middle child Tegan came exactly 17 months after my first. She was such an easy, grounded baby compared to Jago, serene and sociable. These days she is astute, sociable and charming but prone to thunderstorms if something doesn’t go her way – she’s in the middle of the Terrible Twos and refuses to take naps or go to bed early, so she’s always over-tired. She barely eats anything nutritious, refusing vegetables and protein, instead only eating dairy, cereals, pasta and demanding (but not getting, hence the thunderstorms) junk.

Apparently, middle born children often have the sense of not belonging and feel insecure, often seeking attention. I’ve never really thought of Tegan as needy but recently she’s been very clingy to me and over-dramatic in her demands. Perhaps her refusal to go to bed when her brothers do and her bad eating habits are part of her way of getting attention, albeit negatively.

It’s funny though, this week I’ve felt compelled to make her a nice bedroom of her own. Before, she had a halfway bedroom, with a cot and an oversized bed in a box room that had no room to play in. So I swapped the massive daybed with a friend, painted the single bed I got in return, my hubby made it fit in the small space and we added a few nice extras like shelves and hooks. Cost nothing. But my god her little face tonight when we unveiled the new room to her. I think she will feel like she belongs now. It’s like she’s come of age, deserving her own playroom finally, where she can keep all her things. I just hope it means she will stay sleeping in there, as normally she ends up in her brother’s top bunk or in with us.

Adler says the middle child often looks for direction from the first born child, well she certainly looks to him to lead and allows him to boss her around, often subservient to him, and common to middle children, she seems to be more creative. From my research into second children, the character trait that most describes Tegan is “incredibly self-sufficient” but she is also very caring and considerate of both her brothers.

The beauty of having a girl sandwiched between two boys is that her daddy and I will always think she is special and very precious. I hope she never feels like a second-class citizen and overlooked, like some of the studies say middle children feel. My intention is to do everything in my power to boost her self-esteem and her capabilities.

Third child. Lorcan 9 months.
There is almost 2 years between Tegan and Lorcan. Now, what about my third child? Earlier today I rescued him out of the toilet bowl, where he was splashing away happily, shredding the whole toilet paper and dumping it in the water. The rest of the day he screamed, nothing would appease him.

He screams so loud that he makes my nerves raw, my ears ring and my heart feel stabbed. My husband has always equated his scream to the sound of an angle grinder. It just cuts through you. It’s awful. This is pretty much all the time – when I’m dressing him, changing nappies, in the car, when I’m trying to get him to sleep, basically when he’s not in my arms. But then when he is in my arms, he’s either wriggling so I’m scared of dropping him or he’s screaming to get at my boobs.

Apparently the third child is harder on your body and emotions, because you’re so drained after the first two (that was definitely the case with me), so the pregnancy is worse and you’re also so busy with the other two, that you’re exhausted. I was in shock for the first half of my pregnancy with Lorcan, and feeling crap mentally and physically, not ready for another baby just yet.

I was hoping for an angel baby who would fit in nicely and give me an easy time of 3 kids. Lorci is so far away from that dream. In his case, the third child syndrome manifests itself in a refusal to be ignored. A refusal to be overlooked in any way. Noise levels like we never heard before. A heightened sensitivity to noise and pain. He came into our lives with a bang, screaming constantly for the first 6 weeks until the doc diagnosed silent reflux and gave us some Zantac. He calmed down slightly, but still won’t sleep properly, has been a nightmare the last two months as he’s cut teeth – been so clingy and screamy I’ve been very close to losing my mind. Most days I’m heard pleading with him to “stop screaming!” as all else fails and I resort to pointless exclamations of exasperation.

He’s so loud that the other two had to adapt their levels to be heard, so most of the time it becomes a screamfest competition around here, as they all compete for mummy’s frazzled attention. My most overused line at the moment is “Just a minute”. Most days now I celebrate them going to sleep with a glass of wine, telling myself that this is what I need to get through this fraught time.

All that I’ve read about last born third children is that they are over indulged and over-protected as the baby of the family. Lorci has never let me do that. He has terrorized me and made me wish he would grow up fast because he’s bloody hard work as a baby. To his credit, he is growing up superfast and is nearly walking at 9 months through no encouragement by me.

They say third children can lack self-confidence and independence, but my boy is fierce. He knows his mind and he knows his power and he’s not afraid to scream for hours and hours to get his way or to be heard. He is a force to be reckoned with. Just what did I do to deserve this I don’t know! He’s going to command armies or countries that one. I just hope he recognizes me as someone he needs in his life and doesn’t discard me along the way.

I find it eye-opening that once I started thinking about the kids in this way and started writing as a stream of consciousness, I started to get a bigger insight into their personalities and natures. I now understand them a little better via this process. This post is now etched into history on my archive, for me to look back on and reflect in years to come as they grow older.

I'm in the eye of the storm right now, but once I get through it, I will be amazed by their strength and their will power. They will be amazing - I just hope I can keep up.



Karien said...

If I'd just substitute the names I could copy this to my blog ;)
Can it really be because of their place in the family?
I think both our youngest are maybe a bit young to see about the lack of self confidence? Although I can never see her be like that, she has such a mind of her own and just gets on with it. We also had problems with her, screaming, around 6 months it started, until we found a dairy intolerance. Now she is still my worry child. Cries more than the others ever did, now that my nerves are already shattered and I struggle to deal. My middle one is the calm one, looks up to her brother, but underneath the big blue eyes she is stubborn as hell, and will resort to drama if things do not go her way. Mr oldest is the king. Demanding, smart, witty. He tries to rule the others but the girls will just smack him when they don't want to obey. haha.

Writer Chick said...

I think you have some great insight into your kids. Adorable pictures, too!

Remember that birth order definitely plays a role in the qualities your child develops, but it isn't, of course, the only variable that influences them. Also, middle children typically get a bad rap. My research (I co-authored a book on middles) shows that BECUAUSE they get less parental attention than the other birth orders they often turn out more independent, more creative-thinkers, savvy risk takers and great negotiators than the others. www.katrinschumann.com

Tree said...

Hey Katrin, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read. Great to get your input, after all you are a published author/expert on the subject. I see you have 3 kids yourself - I'm the youngest of 2 in our family, so the whole middle thing is totally new to me. Intrigued by the possibilities though.. Do you blog? x