I could juggle when I was about eight. It was a bit of a trick to learn it, but once I finally did I was really proud of it. I kept practicing over and over, throwing higher and higher to show off my skill. Then I found out that juggling must involve at least three objects. This was more daunting. I tried for a while but stuff kept falling on the ground. I’m still trying.
That’s the short answer. Before the birth of my third child, numerous people told me it wasn’t that different than having two. I distinctly recall hearing, “One kid to two kids is the big transition. Two to three is no big deal.” I was not in touch with my eight-year-old self when I believed them. Or my 28-year-old self, who learned what adding a baby to a family means.
So when Hugh was born, it knocked me over. Honesty here: when my sweet mother told me over Skype she was going to come to England for his birth, I put my face down on the table and sobbed hysterically in sheer relief. I thought that was going to be the hard part. By the time she left for London to fly home again, I knew better. (Did I actually fling myself on the ground and cling to your ankles as you tried to leave or was that just happening in my head, Mom?)
It’s very like juggling, except jugglers like to work with objects the same size and weight. It’s a lot more like juggling a glass ball (the baby), a torch lit on both ends (the toddler), and a live squirrel (the pre-schooler). Many exciting things will happen and you will not be bored.
One example from my day. Two minutes before Alex walked in the door from work, I was juggling beautifully in the kitchen. Our toddler, who has a fever today, was watching Baby Einstein in his chair (Preview-of-Next-Time Hint: strap them in whenever possible. If God has given you a minivan and high chairs, use them frequently for his glory). Kindergartner was crafting at the kitchen table, dinner was cooking on the stove. (Where was our pre-schooler, wonder those few who are still with me. Excellent question, you are clearly already better at juggling than I.) My kindergartner suddenly yelled, “There’s Daddy!” and dashed for the front door, ripping it open. Sick toddler was startled and began to cry loudly and beat his head against his chair (we don’t know why he does this). I had started toward him when my preschooler entered the kitchen, wearing only a T-shirt, with long brown smears down her legs and a fistful of dirty baby wipes in each hand. “I had a little accident but I’s cleaned up the whole floor!” she proclaimed proudly and turned and ran from the room. I felt compelled to follow her to the downstairs loo (leaving dinner burning on the stove, the toddler screaming hysterically, and the kindergartner running out into the road after Daddy). I’ll spare you what I discovered when I arrived, saying only that she never has accidents anymore and was so shocked by the event herself that she “cleaned” before telling me.
Things spiral out of hand so quickly. My advice to you? Be prepared to find that the mathematicians are right: that three is, in fact, more than two. And try to avoid thinking of children as work.
One more child is more needs, more concerns, more time, more effort, more paper towels. Good thing it is also one more little soul in the image of its Creator, one more precious person to enrich our lives and our families, one more unique child to love and cherish and serve and learn from. When Norah was born, I used to stand over her crib at night, after she’d fallen asleep, and weep for sheer blessedness, suddenly aware, as I too rarely am, of the very great and precious gifts given us and how little we deserve them. That feeling hasn’t left me.
Adding a child will be harder than what you are doing now. And happier. The best piece of advice I was given when we were thinking about a fourth child concluded with this sentence: “So have another baby, and fold him into all the love and chaos, and watch God do it for you.”