Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Do, Fight, Go: What I’ve learned parenting 3 under 3


A week ago I started writing a post called “What happens when you treat staying at home with your kids like a job.” Or something like that. The title was a mess. The concept was blasé. The post sounded like every other stay at home parent who’s ever tried to find meaning in the endless rounds of cheerios and diapers and play dough.

I never finished it.

I have a hard time finishing anything right now. My twins are at a very mobile thirteen months, and my preschooler (who’s not going to preschool yet) has ramped up her curiosity to a new level - namely, the third shelf of the pantry and the top of the refrigerator.

Which brings me back to the post I was trying to write. What my former job taught me about managing my days at home was helpful; it just wasn’t that interesting.

But have I stopped to think about what I’ve learned from staying at home with my preschooler and twins? It’s been almost a year and a half of this complete life change. There has to be something.

So after we put everyone to bed, I promised myself thought space. Yes. I had to make a date with my mind to think. It’s getting real, folks.

Here’s what I came up with.

Lesson #1: Do it now 
I caught this one in realtime, sweeping post-lunch eggs up off the floor. I was trying to convince myself to leave the booster chair trays in the sink and the crumbs on the floor so I could sit down for a while. (Not to play, but to rest my back, which goes out a lot. Because lifting twins. Sigh.)

I lost the argument to the whip crack of my brain. Hands down, the best advice I received about having twins was to never put off till later what you have time to do now. Later might be an upturned plant and four dirty hands. Later might be fussy and impossible to put down. Later might smell like vomit in the car seat.

Later can never be counted on.

When you have the time, do the things that need to be done. Wash the dishes. Wipe the trays. Vaccuum. Pay the bill. Write the thank you note. Answer the text. Kiss your loves. Now.

Lesson #2: We are the champions

Awhile back, I read an amazing story about a mother who championed her son through cancer. One of the lines that stuck with me went something like this – My son didn’t need me to be scared. My son needed me to believe he was going to get better.

Every day, frustrations rise up in my house. Sharing is a constant battle. The twins are in a don’t-want-it-gonna-chuck-it phase. My preschooler begrudges eating her food and staying in her bed at night. 6:00 pm and after can be a warzone.

But my girls don’t need me to get frustrated. They need me to believe that if I show them how to set their cups on their trays, someday they’ll do it too. My preschooler needs me to be firm about her two choices for dinner. She needs to hear me say, “Please stay in bed. I know you can do this, honey.”

Something happens when I stop expecting my girls to do the wrong thing and just keep championing their ability to do it right. Eventually, they get it.

Lesson #3: Get out of here 
We live in a big world. But one of my biggest difficulties being a stay at home parent was that everything felt small. Limited. Exhausting. That is, until I realized there was something in the job description I’d overlooked. Along with chief nose wiper, head chef, and main crayon sharpener, I was now the cruise ship director.

Accordingly, I make plans. We play with friends twice a week, more if needed. Despite the effort, we go to the grocery store. To church. The library. The zoo. The bagel shop.

This ship isn’t sinking on my watch, dang it.

If my world feels small, I’ll never be able to teach my girls how big it actually is. We need to interact with family, with friends, and with the Target store clerk. We need new faces and experiences to remind us that home is only a miniscule island in a giant sea – that there is far more than just us out there.

Parenting three under three is a challenge. But until just lately, I hadn’t stopped to assess how that challenge was shaping me as a person. I was so grateful to find that underneath all our routine, a living, breathing, grateful me still exists. And that, my friends, feels like something worth writing all the way down.

Rachel Riebe, wife and mama of identical twins and a preschooler, has changed approximately 2,968 diapers this year. She is a freelance writer and poet working on her MFA in Creative Writing. She, her family, and ten gregarious chickens live on a hobby farm in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. She blogs about life’s (mis)adventures at www.fellowpassengers.com and shares pics of them on Instagram @rachelriebe.


  1. Rachel, I love this. EVERYTHING about it. You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Amber you know all too well the crazy things our littles can teach us!

  2. I am a new twin mom whose boys were born 2 months after my oldest son turned 2 years old. It is so refreshing to read a post from a mom who has walked in my shoes and is thriving, especially as we fumble through the newborn phase with the twins!

    1. Clarisse, sounds like you understand how hectic things can get! Keep your head up - I won't tell you the first year will fly by (mine certainly didn't!) but every month is a new bit of independence and joy.

  3. Do it now. Best advice I've been given in awhile & so straight forward. How easy it is to be lazy & let things pile up. After reading this I will be headed straight to the kitchen to load the dishwasher & sweep the floor. Do it now. Thank you for the encouragement!

    1. Amber, way to rock it! There are so many times I want to skip doing what has to be done, and once in a while that's okay... but most of the time I'm so thankful I've taken the time to finish stuff and move on. It makes starting over that much easier. :)

  4. Hi Rachel! Thanks for the awesome lessons. Even as a mom who works full-time out of the house, I was touched by the things you shared, especially about not getting frustrated and instead championing the babies.

    1. Sharisse, I'm so glad you connected with them. The not getting frustrated piece is one of the hardest for me - I think it's the double demands that make it toughest. But it's so worth it when I can remember to look past the bad behavior and show them the good that's just waiting to be learned.