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How I Survive 3 Kids Under the Age of 4

Photograph by Twenty20

First of all, let's skip the whole, "Didn't you know what you were getting yourself into?" and "Don't you know how babies are made?" None of us truly know what’s in store for us when becoming parents, but I had a pretty good idea. And yes, I'm well aware how babies are made. How do you think I managed to have three of them in such a short amount of time? Oh, and then there's my least favorite question, "Were they planned?" Yes, each and every one—not that it matters or is anyone's business.

But I digress.

So, what's the secret to surviving three kids under the age of four all day without losing your shit? Besides ending my nights by indulging in a generously poured glass of wine, having the lowest expectations imaginable is key. Set that bar to the lowest setting. Are you there yet? Now set it even lower. When you think you can't go any lower, go just a little bit more. There you go. This is the space we live in.

We will never be that picture-perfect family on the cover of Parents magazine with carefully matching outfits where everyone is smiling and laughing on a beautifully decorated Pinterest-inspired set. Our photo shoot would depict one toddler knuckle deep in his nostril while the other toddler is attempting to eat some unrecognizable particle off the ground. The baby would undoubtedly be screaming with remnants of her most recent blowout up her back and seeping out the leg holes of what once was an adorable romper.

This is us.

Juggling the three on a good day resembles a delicate dance, elegantly waltzing between each of my kids in an attempt to tend to their immediate need. On a not-so-good day—which is more often than not—I'm running around like a lunatic, mentally weighing which child's need is the greatest at that particular moment. Earlier today, my eldest was yelling from the bathroom, requiring a good butt wiping, while my 2-year-old was insisting on a Band-Aid for an invisible boo-boo and my youngest, at a few weeks old, needed to be changed and nursed.

My house is always a mess and if there’s a smell, it’s most likely from a milk cup that went missing and is now curdling in the depths of some hiding spot somewhere. Oh, and the noise is unrelenting. Screams, cries, all-too-accurate dinosaur roars and animal sounds accompany the banging and slamming of doors, drawers and whatever else has now become musical instruments.

It’s constant. It’s never-ending. It’s always.

Suffice it so say, I never get a chance to sit down and I definitely am never alone. Ever.

Someone always needs a nap, to be changed or fed—it's just the nature of the beast. Although it sometimes can feel overwhelming to manage, you just learn to function on autopilot and move through the motions. You even learn to be resourceful. Instances where one of my offspring needs me at the same time as another, multitasking gets creative. It's amazing what you can do with only one hand or while nursing. I’ve been known to use my feet to pick up something off the ground or break up a fight between my two boys.

Throughout the night, the juggling act continues. There is no separation of days, but rather a constant continuation of events that spillover from the nighttime into the daytime. Who knows how many times a tiny tot will wander into our room or when they’ll decide to have an impromptu middle-of-the-night wrestling match. Then, of course, I'm on call whenever my youngest wakes for a feeding.

Always outnumbered and hands full, I'm usually a disheveled mess juggling an infant while chasing two tiny human beings as they run in opposite directions away from me.

Going anywhere is a complete shit show, which I've just learned to accept at this point. Leaving the house can be a production in and of itself. We are a lot of people with a ton of crap. Bags need to be prepped and packed. I’ll need to hunt down and wrangle up the kids who need to be changed, teeth brushed and endure the horrendous act of finding and putting their shoes on. I'll need to convince my eldest to pee and then pee again and somehow find time to nurse.

I’m exhausted before even stepping foot outside our house.

To get us to our destination, we depend on our super sweet minivan. Even though it's big, it just doesn't feel big enough. The Olympic sport of getting the carrier and two toddlers into their car seats is ridiculous. I feel like I'm competing in an obstacle course crawling and climbing in between seats and over rows. By the time I'm done, I’m sweating, hot and already too tired to go anywhere. Maybe we should invest in a shuttle bus.

And once we arrive, God have mercy on us all. As soon as I open the van’s sliding doors, it’s like releasing animals into the wild. Always outnumbered and hands full, I'm usually a disheveled mess juggling an infant while chasing two tiny human beings as they run in opposite directions away from me. Don’t worry, they always come back.

Everyone will get up around 5:30 a.m. and go to bed around 7:30 p.m. What happens in between those times? Your guess is as good as mine.

Most likely at some point a toddler will run around sans pants. I’ll probably catch my other tot attempting to lick his baby sister while pretending to be a cat. Almost certainly, they will raid my pantry, after which I’ll find their loot in a not-so-secret hiding place.

There’s no plan except to survive while bouncing from one improvised moment to the next. I had a lot more control over situations and environments when there was just one kid. The addition of the second child posed some challenges but I still managed. With three kids under the age of 4, I’m just happy to see the end of day.

With so much unpredictability that comes along with three kids that are so young, I’ve just learned to let whatever happen, happen.

I’ve learned to pick my battles, stay as flexible as possible and always be prepared to compromise. This keeps me sane along with an inappropriate sarcastic sense of humor and the classiest box wine around.

Most often it won't be pretty, but that's life. Meltdowns will happen. Toddler struggles will happen. Tears will happen. All of this is inevitable and I've just learned to roll with the chaos. During this phase, we fully embrace being that family. You know the one. The one you hear coming long before they arrive leaving a trail of crumbs along the way.

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