Six months. It’s been six months since we became a family of five. It’s been amazing. And so hard. We’re outnumbered by our kids, and with infant twins, someone always needs something. It’s hard not to feel guilty when needs go unmet or attention is diverted. Every minute I savor holding Evan, snuggling him and making him giggle, I feel guilty for not showering Kate with the same affection. When I am soothing Kate, and Evan begins to cry, I feel guilty for not picking him up to calm him down. And as we juggle the demands of the twins, trying not to let Addie get lost in the shuffle of diaper changes, bottles, and crying babies, I feel guilty when I ask her to be independent. To forgo playing with me so that I can take care of her brother and sister. To put their needs ahead of hers.
Last week we went on a family outing to Marshalls. Because when you’ve got three kids three and under, any trip out of the house is an outing. While we were browsing for storage baskets, Kate started to cry. I picked her up to console her, only to discover she’d had a pooplosion of epic proportions – up to her neck and through two layers of clothing. Awesome. Naturally there was no changing table in the bathroom (really Marshalls? Know your audience!), so we asked to use a dressing room. Just as all five of us squeezed into the room, and I began dismantling Kate’s pooplosion, Evan woke up and began howling for his bottle, while Addison began hopping up and down, crying out, “I need to use the potty… NOW!!!”
And so the moment of guilt hit. All three kids had immediate needs, yet one was not going to have that need met. Addie was an easy choice – letting her pee on the floor of Marshall’s was not an option. (Though maybe they would have deserved it a little for not having a changing table in the bathroom, which would have made our situation much easier. Instead, Kendra had to trek across the store to the bathroom while I dealt with the twins.) I made the decision to let Evan cry it out while I cleaned up Kate.
Evan didn’t have to wait long before Kendra and Addie were back, and he got his bottle. In fact, none of them ever really have to wait very long before one of us has our hands free. The guilt? That’s what we put on ourselves. We hold onto that guilt because we want so badly to be “doing it right.” Yet we forget that we are doing it right. Doing what’s right for us. For our kids. The hard part is learning to let go of the guilt. But we’re learning. Learning to be patient with ourselves as we balance the needs of three kids. Learning that a lack of free hands does not mean a lack of love or attention. Letting go of what we can’t do, and learning to savor the moments.