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Dear third child: Thank you for going with the flow when life gets busy

Your attitude has helped me become a better mother.

Dear third child: Thank you for going with the flow when life gets busy

Oh the life of a third child! Always last on the busy totem pole that is our family of five.


So much of my third child’s life is dictated by his two older siblings’ schedules, schooling and activities. And it’s been that way since day one for him. So while he doesn’t know life any other way, I can easily spot the differences between how life went for my first versus my third.

Stepping back and thinking about it, makes me realize just how well my third child goes with the flow of life. Because of necessity, he has become a generally laid back kid who can transition from one thing to the next with ease.

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And it’s safe to say that, also out of necessity, I have become a more easygoing mother.

With my first, nap time was absolutely sacred and nothing, besides a natural disaster, would give me reason to wake my child from her precious sleep. I would be late to playdates and classes or cancel a trip to the store just so my little one got every single minute of sleep she desired.

With my third, being woken up from his naps literally has happened on an almost daily basis since he was an infant. Whether it’s because someone needs to be picked up or dropped off, the amount of times he is woken from a deep sleep and rushed out the door far outnumber the times he’s been allowed to sleep as long as he desires.

Yet he has never complained about this, and instead, goes with the flow. He gently rubs the sleep out of his eyes, lets me get him dressed and we scoot out the house—all generally at a rushed, fast pace.

And I have learned that while sleep is important, kids are adaptable and can be flexible. Instead of being at the mercy of naps and a strict schedule, being able to flow with the day is actually more relaxing that stressing out about “messing” up a schedule.

With my first, she was enrolled in every baby and toddler class imaginable because I was confident they would spark her imagination, creativity and development. Together we did countless music, soccer, gymnastic and art classes. And I eagerly videotaped and photographed every moment and all the firsts she experienced in these sweet classes.

With my third, he is lucky if he gets to participate from the background of his older siblings’ classes that he has always attended as a spectator. And classes for himself? I didn’t enroll him in a class that was solely for him until he was almost 2 years old. And I am pretty sure we ended up missing a quarter of the classes due to his older siblings being sick or having conflicts of some sort.

Yet again, he has never complained, he just goes with the flow. He happily plays with an activity I provide him at one of these classes, or just enjoys cheering for his siblings. And when he does have his own classes, he soaks up those moments for himself.

I have learned to not feel guilty that not all three kids get the same experiences or amount of classes as one another. Instead, I will do the best I can to give each child their fair share of activities, while also understanding that my older kids will have busier schedules than my youngest. And I am okay with that. (And I think he is, too. ?)

With my first, we always would ease into the day when she woke up in the morning. A few snuggles in my bed, maybe even a show as we cuddled warmly under the blankets together. Then for breakfast, her wish was my command.

With my third, most days he is plucked out of his crib because we need to get his siblings out the door and to school on time. For breakfast, often a cereal bar or baggie of Cheerios on the go is the best we can do.

And he again cooperates and goes with the flow so naturally. (And maybe has an addiction to strawberry cereal bars as a result of life on the move.)

While I miss those slow leisurely mornings, I know that ship has sailed for now. As a family of five, life beckons. I am doing my best to juggle all the balls, get everyone where they need to be in the morning, and am attempting to do it with a happy, laid back attitude.

With my first, I carefully thought through every outfit for my daughter and planned ahead from season to season to make sure she had the appropriate gear and accessories that matched. When we left the house, I also made sure she looked completely presentable with a clean face.

With my third, he lives in the hand-me-down clothes from his older brother and I let him make his own style decisions. He wants to wear a totally clashing outfit with rain boots in the summer? I don’t protest. He wants to wear swim goggles to the store? Sure, as long as we get that loaf of bread we need. He wants to wear a baseball helmet to school pick up? No problem, as long as we get there before the bell rings.

If his version of “going with the flow” involves inserting his own opinions and style, that’s fine with me. I’ve decided to “let him be him.”

I’ve learned to not care what others think and to tell you the truth, it’s been liberating. As a mother of three kids, going with the flow means allowing your kids to express themselves as they are and to embrace that as a parent, b helmets and all.

So thanks my sweet third child for always going with the flow, even on those days you needed the extra sleep. I am pretty sure I’ve actually benefited the most by your example of being flexible and adaptable. Your attitude has helped me become a better mother, so I want to truly thank you.

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Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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