The Leftovers

The snow this year. They love it. “They” being the twins. Nolan hates it. The kid who can’t stop moving also can’t stand confinement. All that snow pant-boots-fleece jacket-waterproof jacket-hat-AND-mittens business is too much for him. He can’t run and he can’t move and he can’t even stand having mittens on, which means he pulls them off only to whine afterward because his hands are cold. After an epic Battle of the Mittens (on-off-on-off-on-off-off-off-sigh) I take him inside where he breathes a visible sigh of relief and takes off running again, the second he’s free from those darn snow pants.

2017 12 15 Both Snow 01.jpg

But back to Caden and Brooklyn. They adore the snow. As soon as Caden wakes up from his nap he demands to go outside. He’s usually not fully awake yet — still wiping sleep from tired eyes, his voice scratchy — yet he’s ready to forgo his afternoon snack and any chance of screen time to dig and throw and run and slide in all that white stuff. Each morning he looks out the window, “It snowed again!” he declares, whether it really is fresh powder or the same old snow from days before.

2017 12 18 Caden Snow 01.jpg

They love it. Nolan hates it. I'm left feeling torn on how to spend our time. It’s pretty pointless for me to spend the better part of ten minutes bundling a kid up when he lasts outside for less than two. He stands in one spot in utter misery for a moment or two before grabbing my hand and leading me toward the house. “I’side,” he declares (inside, for those of us who can pronounce our “n”s).

Luckily I have Tyson who works from home and doesn’t mind me stashing Nolan in his office for a bit while I attempt to knock the snow-fever out of the other two's systems. But I don’t feel comfortable doing so for long: Tyson is still working, which means Nolan is kept occupied (and more importantly: quiet) with more than his fair share of Little Baby Bum

I remind myself that the first two years are kind of a crapshoot when it comes to snow. Those little bodies aren’t quite in proportion yet. The twins didn’t much care for the snow until they were on the verge of three, when their legs had lengthened out and they were able to move in the snow with (some) ease. Someday I will be able to throw them all outside in the cold and they won't return for a couple of hours. I'll have a quiet, warm house while they master that whole sledding business, have an epic snowball fight, build a snowman. When they return they’ll be able to remove all the damp snow gear by themselves while I greet them with hot chocolate and a smile.

For now, it’s a balance and a battle of wills. The young energetic toddler vs. the enthusiastic preschoolers. Inside vs. out. One vs. two, with me in the middle. Who will get their way today?

+++++

I told Tyson recently that I feel like I could be a really good parent to one child. A single child who would get the benefit of the good parenting techniques I read up on. One who, when they need discipline, reaps the full benefit of a conversation about right and wrong and the consequences of their actions, without the interruption of a sister screaming from the bathroom that she needs help wiping and a brother who wanders over in the midst of that serious discussion to whack them over the head with a wooden piece of train track. Which leads to an attempt at the same discussion with a different kid about right from wrong, consequences, actions, etc. Or just some redirection. If I could only focus on the needs of one, instead of being pulled in three different directions simultaneously.

My attention is divided, is what I'm getting at. The battle for mommy is often won by whoever is the loudest, most demanding, most polite, most severely injured, or the smelliest. Using screen time as a break for one often results in screen time for all. I feel that we could do so much more if we didn’t have to focus on this kid's nap schedule, if journeying out in public wasn't quite so draining with all of Nolan's energy, if I could just focus on completing a single task instead of picking up the threads of six half-finished ones.

+++++

Three kids in two years is a pretty quick way to grow a family. In some ways I’m used to it. Surprise it's twins! meant getting used to chaos from the start. In other ways, I’m jealous of those with one toddler or a bigger age gap. (Bigger age gap meaning anywhere north of the two-minute mark.) The idea of focusing on a single child, uninterrupted, is absolutely novel to me.

It's easy for me to feel like my entire parenting career has been about giving one child or another the leftovers. (Not of the edible variety, although there are plenty of those, too.) My leftovers: leftover time or energy or attention. Beginning this parenting journey with not one but two babies teaches you how to divide that attention pretty quickly. To prioritize needs and balance your energy when you are outnumbered from the start. I often feel that no one gets my full attention, though both hands are always busy, my lap is full, and my ears long for the sound of quiet.

+++++

At its worst, I feel they are disadvantaged. Surely a child who can capture their parents’ undivided attention with ease is better off in the world. They must be more intelligent, have a calmer disposition. They're probably small prodigies at gymnastics, without a mommy who has to bounce back and forth between two children in the same class with a third on her hip. Almost certainly they spend more time on age-appropriate learning activities and less in front of the screen. At the very least they're probably bathed more frequently.

But at its best, I look around and realize how good this whole close-in-age business is for them. What a cohesive unit these three are. I can barely remember life without Nolan. They are their own little gang, our very own pack, nearly inseparable. (Until the twins try to play some sort of make-believe or tower-building game that Nolan just can’t take part in. Then they call for me to keep him “astracted”.) He runs along with the twins so seamlessly (that combined with his giant size) it can’t be long before I get the “are they triplets” question on a regular basis.

{A rare sighting of a Nolan in the snow. It lasted less than four minutes.}

Over the summer, Caden and Brooklyn frequently approached other kids at the playground to ask their names. When the question was reversed one would answer immediately with, “We’re Caden and Brooklyn and Nolan.” Always all three. Caden-and-Brooklyn-and-Nolan given in the same breath. (Once Brooklyn responded with, “We’re just Caden and Brooklyn and Nolan. We’re not monsters.” Depends on the day, I thought while the older girl looked on with confusion.)

+++++

They’re actually thriving despite, or because of, the chaos. We have our fair share of tantrums yet overall they tend to handle conflict better than most kids their ages. They’re all well-spoken and bubbling over with words and excitement. Nolan even counted up to ten last week. (I give full credit to the twins, whose current habit of counting everything in sight is in vogue at our house.) They’re inclusive and curious, adventuresome and independent, and overall too smart for their own good. 

Maybe I do give them the leftovers more often than I'd like. Many days, that’s all I feel I have to give. It seems to be enough. It is enough. Leftovers or not, they’re doing just fine. It's enough. It has to be. And if Nolan has to watch Wheels on the Bus twelve times in a row for us to get those rosy cheeks and a good snowball fight in, so be it.