From four dependent babies who wanted to be fed on demand, I am now a mother of four toddlers! My girls are all walking, self-feeding, and the only thing that stands in our way is toilet-training the triplets which I will get to soon enough. I have compiled a list of what the past year of mothering triplet babies and a toddler has taught me.
When you are faced with multiple problems like when three babies are screaming and your toddler just pee-ed on the floor, you can only despair for a minute and then face the urgent task which is getting rid of the pee first, followed by calming each screaming baby. Having to juggle so many children at once requires first, prioritisation followed by focus.
Before I delivered the babies, I told myself I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t raise four kids on my own when my husband was at work. I actually spent quite a bit of time looking into finding a helper or a nanny. My husband assured me we could do it, and if I couldn’t, he can, and when I watched him take care of all of us, he gave me the certainty and fortitude to carry on when he was at work. And on days that I failed, he would take leave and help me out. So you do need a solid team to tackle raising multiples. It is not possible to go at it alone. When faced with an arduous journey, one needs motivation, encouragement and more often than not, a shoulder to lean on. My husband and I are always in continuous conversation about childcare duties and what needs improving upon, so I can pick off where he left off, and vice versa. We are constantly changing hands so one person would get rest. He actually gives me more rest, to be honest.
Separate, separate, separate. Don’t give yourself more work to do by dressing multiples babies alike especially when they look alike. Also, call them by their first names and not T1 or T2, or ‘the triplets’. Every person deserves an individual and unique identity. Even when I sew clothes for the girls, no two pieces are the same. At most I have a general pattern that runs through the clothes like a garden theme, or a retro theme, but each girl has a different outfit.
Once a toddler is 1 year old, they should be given tasks. Our older toddler is never left out from childcare duties, she is heavily involved with them and she does what she can and to her best of her abilities. If she can’t, she will ask for help. This actually helps her bond with her siblings from day one and after one year, all three of them are really close to her. They look to her for guidance (or mischief). And they have learnt how to care from her and in turn, applied the same principles on how to care for each other. So put your toddler to work once the babies come home whether it is bringing the diapers, popping the pacifier, holding the milk bottle, cleaning spills on the floor, or wiping their sibling’s puke, trust me they feel proud when you give them a chance at independence. Plus, they make such great role models for the little ones to emulate. Just that day I requested Livia to get herself some utensils for dinner, and she brought utensils for everyone instead. It was such a small gesture, but I was beaming with pride at how much she has grown. Not to be braggy, but she also helps with household chores and I have never needed to clean up after her since she was 2 years old. Not only does she clean up after they are all done with playing, she puts the toys exactly where they belong rather than dumping them all haphazardly into bins.
Routines are underrated. Some parents enjoy doing things on baby’s demand, but for the practicalities of having such a big family, routines are necessary. With routines, you can schedule all the necessary things that is needed in a day and check it off your list without missing a beat. By the end of the day, everyone has played, read a book or two, been fed, bathed, napped and ready to go to bed. The adults too should not forget to pencil in some time for companionship and personal time. The kids also know what to expect next and know how to self-prepare themselves for it, so if its time to go down for a nap, they don’t protest.
Toys, however, are overrated. When you have this many kids, they find more enjoyment playing with each other and they are also learning essential social skills through play. We do have a lot of toys but I actually keep them all in the storage area and I bring out a different toy everyday for them to play with. Their imagination soars when you give them limited choices. Like a car becomes roller skates. Or Lego becomes cooking ingredients. We also make books easily accessible and available and for a while, that was a mistake because the triplets tore through the pages but now they are older, there is less tearing and more self-reading (or rather looking at pictures). So limit toys, read more and this helps expands their literacy, social skills and gets their neurons firing
I think the last thing I learnt was children really do go at their own pace and beat by their own drums. So never push them to do things they are not ready for, but at the same time give them ample exposure to take risks. With Livia, being a first-time mother, I was eager to see her grow quickly, but for the triplets, I truly sat back and did nothing and they hit milestones at the exact same moments as their sister. The only thing they really need from us other than basic instinctual needs is also lots of conversation and our presence.
The following year, I hope, would be less ‘extreme parenting’ than the last. The terrible twos seem to be making their appearance much earlier than expected. Whining in threes has started and I have to restart my whole gentle discipline approach with them, as I have done with Livia in the past, and wait for them to outgrow this confusion called growing up.