Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Extreme Parenting

Today I went to the grocery store with all three kids and I was feeling pretty hardcore. The guys stocking the produce were looking at me, standing there with one baby in a sling and two in a rocket cart, with horror and asking if I needed any help. "Just need to get to the leeks!" I said cheerfully. Yep. Not only am I shopping with three kids. I'm cooking things that require leeks. Hardcore. There were no major tantrums and Teddy slept through the whole experience. The only moments where I was a little worried about potential meltdowns came at the very end when we were in the checkout line. Charlie did not like my choice of checkout lanes. He does not choose which lane to go to based on how short the line is like I do. He chooses based on what Mylar balloon is floating above the magazine/candy rack. So, I moved our giant rocket ship cart to the lane with the race car balloon after some pretty loud protesting from Charlie.

Then the other potential meltdown came when Emma insisted I buy her a Paula Dean cooking magazine. Suddenly the girl who only will eat pizza, spaghetti, quesadillas and Dora yogurt, LOVES Paula Dean. She can't get enough of watching Paula make her recipes, but has no desire to actually eat any of it. I can kind of relate. There is something very comforting about watching Paula cook. I love how she takes off her mammoth diamond rings in order to mix a mountain of ground beef for her bacon covered meat loaf. She is fearless when it comes to using butter, cream cheese and mayonnaise. And she tosses Velveeta into just about anything without even a hint of irony. The thought of eating that stuff though...I can feel my arteries hardening just thinking about it.

I almost didn't buy Emma the magazine because I was feeling all hardcore, like I said earlier. Hardcore moms don't buy magazines in the checkout lane just because of a few tears. I took the magazine away and there was some crying, but eventually Emma got over it. Then I ended up reconsidering and buying the magazine anyway. If it had been candy or a race car balloon Emma wanted to buy, I would've stood my ground, but this was Paula Dean. I handed her the magazine and told her I'd changed my mind. She hugged the magazine to her chest like it was a long-lost bitty twin. All those holiday decorating tips and cookie recipes would be hers now, hers all hers! She positively beamed.

For the most part life with three kids has been a lot like life with two kids, just more extreme. We pretty much are back to our normal routine where the kids are constantly "playing" in that weird way of theirs: by giving the princesses a joy ride in their Kitchen Little refrigerator or by having tea parties on the stairs, right where you need to be walking so that you can change your six-week-old baby's diaper. I was never a huge fan of changing diapers, but Emma and Charlie have managed to make this chore that much more annoying. Every time I climb the stairs to change Teddy, they run to get their little stool so that they can be at a proper height to properly view the diaper change. This is annoying because they only have one step stool, so whoever does not run fast enough to get the stool is out of luck and totally not going to get to see the exciting diaper change. The stooless child invariably cries indignantly and attempts to push the child on the stool off of said stool. Totally annoying. If Charlie happens to be the one to get the stool first, then you have to be prepared to lift one foot up because he loves to plant a leg of the stool right in the middle of your foot. Six weeks in, I have mastered the art of the quick diaper change while standing on one foot.

Just when you get the baby down for his morning nap and have the selfish thought that it might be nice to have a shower and brush your teeth with this delicious bit of free time, Charlie throws open the door and makes his usual loud Charlie entrance to inquire what you're doing, waking not only your baby, but probably all the babies within a five mile radius.

It's definitely a challenge having three kids and it does keep things interesting. Bath time can get a little crazy if Teddy is crying in his bouncy seat and Emma and Charlie are both in need of a rinse or a towel. Who do you help first? On Thanksgiving morning Charlie got into bed to cuddle. Teddy had just finished eating and was sleeping in between me and Charlie. Charlie sat up and proceeded to puke all over Teddy and the bed. I just sat there screaming for a few seconds. I was in a total panic. Should I help Charlie or Teddy first? The puker or the pukee? Luckily it was a holiday and Brandon was home. I yelled for him and we managed to bathe both the baby and Charlie, strip the bed and watch Charlie puke a few more times in the span of about five minutes.

As I write this, Charlie is sitting on my lap and he keeps trying to type over my fingers. Emma is yelling for help upstairs and so I keep having to stop what I'm doing and go help her. My brain feels like a tree with a million branches that don't go anywhere. I feel like every thought I have is a fragment, like every attempt I make at cleaning my house or taking a shower is foiled. I'll put on one of my two shirts that fit right now and are breastfeeding friendly and it gets spit up on. All of these things would've driven me to the loony bin a few years ago...maybe even last year, but I have been in training for this level of parenting. I have been tested and honed by Emma and Charlie and now I am ready for anything Teddy can dish out. (Or spit out as the case may be).

It's hard to imagine Teddy being anything but the angelic little dear who is sweetly snoring in the swing right now. But I know better at this point. He won't always sleep our shopping trips away in a sling. He will have opinions about balloons and magazines and what I should make for dinner. He will most likely balk if puked on. Emma keeps asking me why we don't have hundreds of babies. Having hundreds of babies is sort of like a Paula Dean recipe: too much of a good thing. I'll stick with the three I have. They are definitely all I need for now.

I better go...I've got at least two baby blanket forts to clean up. Charlie has just exclaimed that he needs to go potty "the stand-up way" (which he is not proficient at) and dinner time is in 2 hours, so I better get cracking on those leeks. Probably what will happen though is that Teddy will wake up any second and I will end up sitting in the glider breastfeeding for a nice long stretch, staring at the huge mess all around me, thinking of all the things that need to be done and cleaned and taken care of. And I will sigh with the realization that though no one else probably would, I love my life.