GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES

Just as GREG BRUCE be­gins to feel set­tled as a fa­ther of two, he re­alises his world is about to be shaken all over again

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS -

Colum­nist Greg Bruce pon­ders what life will be like as a fa­ther of three

Alit­tle over three years ago I had no ba­bies and in a lit­tle over six weeks I will have three. I know that this is nei­ther an un­usual num­ber of ba­bies nor an un­usual pe­riod of time over which to have them, but that doesn’t make it any less fright­en­ing. One day dur­ing the Christ­mas/new Year pe­riod, I took my two daugh­ters to the play­ground and while I was squat­ting in a bark gar­den try­ing to find a leak­ing wa­ter bot­tle on a pud­dle of wet clothes at the bot­tom of an over­stuffed nappy bag, a woman with kind, tired eyes tapped me on the shoul­der and told me I could share the ad­ja­cent pic­nic ta­ble with her. A gang of three chil­dren in­ter­mit­tently as­sailed her with re­quests. She told me that the three had been born within three years of each other. The youngest was now two and a half. When I told her I was soon to have a sim­i­lar sized group and gap be­tween them, and asked her for ad­vice or sup­port, she looked at me apolo­get­i­cally and told me that it gets bet­ter when the youngest can wipe their own bum. She had those kind eyes and I could see that they recog­nised the fear in my own eyes and she was try­ing to re­as­sure me. Also, her youngest was two and a half, which would be aw­fully young to be wip­ing his own bum – I don’t think I ac­com­plished that same goal much be­fore start­ing school. For par­ents con­sid­er­ing go­ing from two chil­dren to three, no topic is more in­ter­est­ing than whether that is sur­viv­able. The anx­ious par­ent, just com­ing to grips with life as a fa­ther of two, might seek re­as­sur­ance from ac­quain­tances and strangers who are ei­ther in it up to their eye­balls or who re­cently have been. The feed­back is un­equiv­o­cally mixed and, I’ve come to re­alise, re­flects more about the par­ent than it does about the child. One fa­ther of three I was chat­ting with re­cently told me not to be­lieve the peo­ple who tell me life is about to get dra­mat­i­cally harder: “By hav­ing two,” he said, “you’ve al­ready given up every­thing to be a par­ent. How much harder could it be?” The ques­tion was sup­posed to be rhetor­i­cal, but was it? I think back to the time when I was wait­ing for my first baby and a friend who had one child of six or seven told me, “It’s easy. Easy and won­der­ful.” He looked at the mother of his child and said some­thing like “Isn’t that right?” I’ve never for­got­ten the way her mur­mur of agree­ment dis­agreed so com­pletely with the look on her face. I only have two chil­dren and al­ready I feel life and the time to live it spray­ing ev­ery­where, out of con­trol, like a ram­pant, high pres­sure shower hose. But then, the other day, in one of the most joy­ful mo­ments of my life, I walked into my three and a half year old’s bed­room to see her putting her 18-month-old sis­ter into her py­ja­mas. Noth­ing stays the same for ever. As some things get harder, other things get eas­ier. This is the story not just of par­ent­hood but of life. Soon enough, so many peo­ple have told me, I will look back on this chaotic time and miss it, but when you are deep in the dif­fi­cul­ties of par­ent­ing, that can be a hard con­cept to ap­pre­ci­ate. Un­til re­cently, I could only imag­ine my el­dest child as a baby, but now she can get her­self in the car and half buckle her­self into her car seat, she can go to the toi­let largely by her­self, she can get her­self dressed in the morn­ing and she can play in­de­pen­dently for short but much ap­pre­ci­ated stretches on Satur­days while her sis­ter sleeps and I read the news­pa­per. Some­times, in these and other mo­ments of quiet respite, I flash back to when she was a small baby, sleep­less and overly de­mand­ing, with two par­ents at the ends of their teth­ers, and, although I know that things were hard then, I can re­mem­ber only the joy. 

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