Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Busy is...

With three kids, when people ask me, "How are things going?" I often respond by simply saying, "Busy."

But that's such a meaningless response - barely a step up from the flaccid "fine." So, looking back over the past few weeks, I thought I'd try to define what "busy" is to me.

Busy is picking up kids in the afternoon and providing popsicles on Fridays, even if they're goofy.
Busy is making sure homework gets done. And knowing one can use Pokemon to your advantage in such endeavors.
Busy is taking kids to gymnastics, play practice, girl scouts, and tennis...
...and then going that extra mile to get a great shot of one of the youngsters that you then spend an hour tweaking to get it just right.
Busy is spending 15 minutes looking for your baby's socks, only to find out she's holding on to both of them.
Busy is teaching someone who doesn't know how to sit how to sit.
Busy is teaching someone who doesn't know how to eat how to eat...
...and dealing with kids who know how to eat but are for some reason scared of baked blueberries.
Busy is keeping track of a pacifier that your two-year-old never used a day in his life but suddenly becomes obsessed with while shopping in Costco.
Busy is using toys to prop up your baby's bottle because you're having to deal with a nutjob who now loves pacifiers.
Busy is making a nutritious bento for your daughter (and eventually your son and other daughter as well) six days a week.
Busy is waking up early every Saturday so your daughter can attend Japanese school.
Busy is making sure your boy makes it to his favorite event, Cars and Coffee, the first Sunday of every month.
Busy is engineering a way to fit all three kids into a vintage 911 for Cars and Coffee when your wife is on call and stuck at the hospital.
Busy is celebrating the first time your eldest child finally figures out how to pump a swing by herself.
Busy is escaping with the entire family to the Bay when it's too hot...
 ...helping your daughter dig a poor man's beach chair in the sand...
...and giving up your own poor man's beach chair to your wife and baby so you can clean up beach toys and chase down the boy.
Busy is getting the lighting and timing just right because, damn, your baby looks just like Boo from Monster's Inc.
"Busy" these days is a lot of things. But more than anything else, "busy" is just plain "good."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Three's a Crowd, Chaos, and Comforting

It's been over six months since our game changer, baby number three (better know as Mari), arrived on the scene. We knew that the shift to three would present some additional challenges - bunk beds, a larger car, extended daycare, etc. - but didn't realize just how significant the change would be.

Talking with parents who have three kids, or kids from larger families, I've learned that, on average, having three kids takes you through the looking glass. Packing kids on top of that number adds to the workload, but at least you remain in that same altered reality you entered with number three (and no, I'm not willing to test this hypothesis).

With two kids, at least in a two-parent household, the tables are leveled. Even if there's the rare total meltdown with both kids, there are two supposedly older and wiser adults who can step in , one per child. With just one parent on call, it's still relatively manageable. 95% of the time, one child will lose it, but the other one will be stable enough to set aside while you wrangle the troublemaker. For instance, in the pic below, we all know that this sweetness will quickly end with one child running off, tripping, or pushing the other into a pole. That will generally leave one child needing assistance, and the other laughing or nursing a grudge.
With two kids, you still have a chance of getting a decent first-day-of-school picture (never will more than one of my children smile for a camera at a time).
Two kids can also work on a puzzle together, sometimes actually solving it faster than either would have done on his or her own.
And, once one of them gets older, they can even read together.
Of course, it helps if the older sibling is kind enough to choose a book the younger one will like (Mimi chose "Cars" for Kuri below).
And even fights with two kids can be solved if at least one is willing to let go a bit. In getting ready for Japanese school, we needed to give Mimi my backpack because she had so much to take. Kuri immediately saw this and needed to take part.
Thankfully, Mimi was kind enough to let Kuri try it on.
Now, of course, life with two kids does not normally go this easily. Usually, there's kicking and screaming softened by constant cajoling to help them get along. But at least with two, you can usually avert a meltdown or help a child understand how they might be able to have more fun by sharing (which, as all parents know, isn't always true. Sorry kids.).

With two kids I often thought of parenting as an "us vs. them" kind of arrangement. A very loving one, naturally, but still, I thought, "I'm the dad and I'm going to maintain control. You're the kids, and I'll eventually get my way." But now, with three kids, I'm beginning to realize how ridiculous this is. It's like facing a power play in hockey, but for the whole game. You're constantly a man down. As such, "winning" isn't the end goal. Survival - that's the strategy.

Thankfully, three kids can play well together, especially when the first two monsters absolutely adore the baby.
Below is the best picture I could get with three kids. I took over 15. Even so, we have one smile, one funny face, and one "looking at the camera." For me, that's success.
You also sometimes get moments like these. Sumie and Kuri would occasionally cuddle, but Mari has really brought them together. I had thought that the third would just be an additional factor to handle (and she often is), but what I didn't expect was how she'd act as a bridge for her brother and sister - helping them develop their own relationship and consideration for each other.
Six months ago, there were activities I knew I'd have to attempt on my own with three kids that scared me to death. One of those was attempting a Costco run. I remember the first time I look just Mimi and Kuri to Costco. When we left, with both kids and their father still alive, I was immensely proud. But three? How would that work? Surprisingly well, actually. I'm not sure if I'm learning, but it does seem to be getting easier.
If your hobby is classic cars, three kids can pose a challenge. I bought the kind of Porsche I did specifically so that I could take more than one kid at a time. Amazingly, even with three and all their car seats and strollers, it still works. Yes, it takes about 20 minutes to load the car, but you can actually get out there with all of them. That's pretty remarkable.
Three has been an eye-opener. I think I'm getting better at being a dad, but, more importantly, I think Mimi, Kuri, and Mari have taught me something important about my job as a father: let go. When Mari first came I thought I'd be overwhelmed. And, to be honest, I often felt like I was.  But as time has moved on, I've realized that looking at this life with kids like a power play, one in which I can never really win, has been liberating. I'm not going to win. And more than that, I don't need to. Rather, I just need to play the game as well as I can. Though we're playing against each other, we're really part of the same team. If the kids eventually win, if they put up the good fight, then I'll win, too.