It’s pretty much a known fact that the diminutive size of First Newborns is, like Napoleon and smallpox, in inverse proportion to the upheaval they cause in people’s lives. While said newborns occupy their copious leisure time with sleeping, eating, and pooping, newly-minted parents create any number of mental crises over these seemingly innocent characteristics of newborn daily life. They obsess over whether the poop is too much or too little and the milk produced or consumed is too much or too little. Sleep can be too much or too little for the newborn, but is almost always too little for the parents. In general, new parents are often struck dumb by the destruction to their lives cased by something that weighs less than a bowling ball and can’t even be used for recreational purposes.
The arrival of second babies is much easier in one sense, since, by the time of Second’s arrival, parents are pretty much at ease about poop (whatever is produced is merely cleaned up, rather than analyzed and discussed), feeding (whatever is ingested is fine, as long as it isn’t then spewed back into a parent’s face) and sleep (none is expected, so there no surprises). But that doesn’t mean parents are home free. The focus simply shifts from neuroses over sleep/feed/poop issues to even larger issues with how Beloved First will manage to survive Second, with his fragile ego intact. Books are read, videos are watched, and the result is that, in spite of the best efforts of parents, First views Second like a flea infestation, only a lot louder.
Since most families nowadays produce no more than two offspring, it isn’t common for parents to experience what happens when Third comes along. Life in the Boomer Lane, herself, produced a Third, and so she knows of what she speaks. LBL’s Third lived in a different world than that of his two siblings. LBL drew a line in the sand over everything First did or didn’t do, since whatever he did or didn’t do was a matter of global significance. Second was serene, unaware that First, under the guise of “hugging” his baby sister, was actively involved in attempts to cut off Second’s air supply. Third pretty much grew up eating dirt and amusing himself with watching First and Second Battle for dominance over food, toys, books, parental attention, and air space. The house they grew up in was a mini version of Game of Thrones, with the person seated on the Iron Throne changing hourly.
Now, LBL’s Only Daughter has just produced her own Third. LBL has been staying with the family, helping out. Her daily routine consists of emptying the dishwasher,doing laundry, giving First and Second breakfast, tidying up, picking First and Second up from school, holding Third and changing him whenever she can, building forts and tents, playing endless games of Monopoly Junior, and verbalizing various countdowns (You have up to five to get your pajamas on/I’ll count to three and the iPad has to be turned off/Who can put toys away by the count of 10?). Extras include taking First and Second to the zoo/park/playground/ movies/bookstore/breakfast, and attending Grandparents Day at the elementary school. Even more special extras include taking the family Cat to the vet for shots, then inadvertently leaving the cat there when she returned home.
First and Second continue to exist in their present world of being best friends, while accusing each other daily of various atrocities. Neither seems threatened in the least by the presence of Third. Third, for his part, sleeps, eats and poops with regularity, all amidst the backdrop of loud boy energy, broken only by bursts of even louder boy energy.
Third had already, by a few days in age, fitted himself seamlessly into the general scheme of things. In the days that have followed, he makes few demands and most likely hears the sounds of a backyard hockey game as a gentle lullaby. The family was eating dinner the other evening, while Third was in his infant seat, on the floor. At some point, Only Daughter looked down and noted, “Oh, the baby has corn on his head.”
That, pretty much, said it all.