5 Things I've Learned From My Toddler Triplets

Family Matters on 06.21.11
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Image: John Cave Osborne

My wife and I have had a rough go of it of late. You see, in addition to our nine-year-old, we also have three-year-old triplets, and they're currently turning our lives upside down. What’s more, we’re expecting our fifth child on July 20th. We realize that our situation is a far cry from 19 kids and 19 different personalities, but it's still hard for Caroline and me to imagine adding even a goldfish to our crazy mix, much less a real-live human being.

That’s not to say we’re not excited about surprise love child number five. We are. So much so that we’ve already come up with a name—Grand Finale Osborne. (Hey, it’s a lot better than our other choice—Nomar Kids Osborne.) But we're still wondering how we're going to manage it all. Luckily, we’ve had that concern before when Caroline was pregnant with the triplets, so we know there's nothing to worry about. Because not only have we been able to manage the triplets, we’ve also been able to learn quite a few things from them along the way. And here are but five examples.


1. Logic

rubix cubeSo if I just turn it this way one more time, then... Image: Chesterfan1230 via Creative Commons


As my buddy Andy recently noted, parents of multiples can field some pretty strange questions. These questions convey startling gaps of logic readily found within the general populous. The question asked most of us was this dandy: Triplets? How did that happen? 

I, for one, think it’s fairly obvious how babies happen, be they singletons, twins, triplets or multiples of higher orders, still. So I always delighted in answering this question in one of two ways: (1) Do you want me to draw a picture or should I just explain it? Or (2) My wife’s so pretty I wanted to get her pregnant three times. Oddly, Caroline made me stop going with answer number two. 

When Caroline became pregnant with Grand Finale, the triplets once again taught us about the shortcomings of logic, this time via a shortcoming of our own. See, we figured that this pregnancy would be a breeze compared to the triplet pregnancy. After all, carrying one baby couldn’t be harder than carrying three. Yet in that assumption, we forgot to factor in the three babies that Caroline had already carried. For they’re currently climbing all over their mama as if she were a knocked-up jungle gym. And that has made this pregnancy even more difficult than the triplet pregnancy. Go figure. 


2. Democracy 

triplets on the beachSomeone's almost always the odd man out. Image: John Cave Osborne


The triplets have taught us that democracy is alive and well if for no other reason than they’re the perfect number to deliver such a lesson. For there are any number of junctures during any given day when decisions must be made, and our wee threesome have turned to the democratic process to arrive at these decisions. Only they don’t cast a ballot. 

They pitch a fit. 

At least the odd triplet out does. For seldom is there ever a unanimous motion put forth by our constituents. That would require much more compromise than our primal little beings are willing to put forth. Plus, compromise would be way too quiet. 

Oh. And I don’t think they know what the word compromise means yet.


3. Pace

paceAha! She's ahead of him. Image: John Cave Osborne


When our little guys were born, Caroline and I vowed that we would not compare them to one another. Yet, whether we liked it or not, each provided an obvious measuring stick for the other two. But it wasn’t just the fact that they were obvious measuring sticks that lured us into making comparisons. It was the fact that to a certain extent, they were unavoidable. 

Because one would sit up first. One would crawl first. One would walk first. One would talk first. So unless we were deaf, dumb and blind we’d have no choice but to notice such milestones. And in so doing, we couldn't help but notice who had reached the milestone and who had not, thus often drawing conclusions therefrom. 

But just as soon as we were tricked into drawing such conclusions, whomever was lagging behind in one category would often start leading in another, thus causing us to reshuffle our deck of human development. Yet human development, it turns out, isn’t something to be micro analyzed by the week, month, or even year. Human development happens best when you simply let the human develop.

Life isn’t a contest. It’s a journey. And on that journey, each of us will have our own pace. So as long as we’re clipping along the best we’re able? That pace is absolutely perfect. 


4. Personal Property

matchbox carsI parked them here because they're mine. Don't touch 'em. Image: John Cave Osborne


Given that we had three babies at once, we didn’t feel the need to buy every single thing they would need in triplicate. Especially toys. So they all share the same lot. But the triplets have taught us a bit about personal property, namely that everyone likes to have some. Which means that each child has gravitated toward toys which he or she perceives to be his or her own. And there’s no greater example of this than our (absurdly large) collection of matchbox cars. Jack believes they're his. So each and every time Sam or Kirby wants to play with them, he does what any normal possessor of personal property would do.

He has a DEFCON 1 meltdown. 

Caroline and I are trying to work him through this and make him understand that the cars, in fact, are not his. At least not solely. They're communal property. So far, it’s been tough to get that point across. Could it be that the triplets' innate democratic tendencies have made them adverse to communism?


5. Infinity

triplets at the beachIt's endless. Image: John Cave Osborne


Moments before the triplets were born, my mind flashed back to our oldest daughter’s first baseball practice. The then-five-year-old was having cold feet, so I accompanied her to the infield for the first time. I felt so proud. Proud to be alongside her. Proud to simply love her. The image of us in the late afternoon sun—Alli slapping her mitt, me patting the top of the Oriole hat that covered her thick blond hair—froze in my mind, allowing me to admire it from every single angle.

Until a sinking feeling came over me.

How in the world could I duplicate that love three times over, I wondered. It’s physically impossible to be in more than one place at the same time. I’d never be able to simultaneously walk each of the triplets to the infield during their first baseball practice. I’d never be able to love the triplets like I loved Alli. Even if I could, they’d never be able to feel that love the same way because it would be divided by three. It’s not that I wouldn’t try. It’s just that it was impossible.

But it didn’t take the triplets long to teach me the most valuable of all the lessons they’ve taught me: doubling the size of your family overnight by quadrupling the number of children in it doesn’t affect the amount of love you can give each one. Because love is infinite, and infinity divided by any number is still infinity. 

So going from four to five? It won’t change a thing. Except, I suppose our sleep patterns. Not that they're all that great to begin with right now! Which means that we're ready for you, Grand Finale! We can't wait to learn the lessons you're destined to teach us. But just do us a favor.

Try to be receptive to the ones we're destined to teach you, okay?

What lessons have your children taught you? 

More on our influential children:

Getting Your Children to Talk? Easy. Getting Them to Talk About Their Day? Not So Much. 
Would You Let Your Children Choose Their Own Gender? 
What Will Privacy Mean for Our Children?