Day 227: Do you have 3 or more children?

How the hell does it work when there are more kids in the house than there are parents? We have two kids – one for each of us – so we can trade off depending on which one we like better at the moment (totally kinda kidding.) The worse case scenario is that we’re each the temporary single parent of one child. Anyone can deal with that. When you’re out numbered, the situation seems destined for mutiny.  No matter what you do, at least one of your unchaperoned kids is running around ripping the leaves off of house plants and eating detergent. You’d be in a constant state of:

“Oh shit, where’s my kid? Oh OK, there he is. Wait, where’s the the other one. No, not that one. The other one. Oh God.”

I’ve asked people with multiple kids how they do it and they usually say, “It just works out somehow.” That’s code for, “I have no idea how they are all still alive.” They never have a good, solid, thought out answer. It’s more of a “WOW, GOOOOOOD QUESTION. I have no idea how this all works. Do you have any coffee, or cyanide?” Sometimes the answer is, “Oh, well, they kind of take care of each other.” GREAT! A 4 year old taking care of a 2 year old. That should work out perfectly! Hey bud, where’s your brother? In a pillowcase? Did you poke holes in it for oxygen to get in? OK, good boy.

The answer must be that you have to lower your parenting standards. Every now and then, you have to let one or more of your kids be unattended while they climb the ivy on the side of your house. Somehow it slowly morphs from a home into some kind of insane foster care situation where you care just a little bit less about their well being. Here’s your food. Eat it or starve, it’s your choice. I have too many kids.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

104 comments On Day 227: Do you have 3 or more children?

  • With one kid you double cover and know if one of you slips the other has your backside.

    With two kids you play man-to-man. You're each on an island, but if you're good and have attitude you can shut your man down.

    With three you play zone defense. It's all about discipline. Don't leave your position to try to cover someone else's job because that leaves your responsibilities open and a weak spot in the defense, letting the bad guys score.

  • Single mother of three. Hopelessly outnumbered, yes. There is a 5 years gap between my eldest girl and my son, a 7 year gap between my son and my baby girl. Each child got a ton of one on one time with me, and while I often feel as though I am losing my mind, I don't really have much to say for any parent who claims to feel differently. Yes, there is more work involved, but there is far, far more love. Add to that the fact that when I am gone there will be three people left behind who can turn to each other and carry on squabbling, supporting, et cetera, and I really don't think there's anything else to say.

  • As a 4th child myself, I couldn't agree more … yes, growing up in a large family helps develop negotiating and compromising skills, and … yes, having a large family is only for overachievers!!! I have great memories of my noisy, active childhood, and we were always well fed & nourished, both emotionally & physically. But, as a parent of 2 college-age children, I have to say that I personally couldn't AFFORD more than 2. I don't know how my parents did it!!! (All 4 of us are college graduates & 3 have their Doctorate degrees. None of us had to take out loans until our graduate studies.) Start saving now & have your kids apply for every scholarship opportunity there is!!! In the meanwhile, enjoy the chaos!!! :-)

  • I laughed a lot, then I got a little offended. I have four kids under 8 and yes, they do watch out for each other. But I think that is part of being any sized family. I only had one brother but I was always watching out for him. That's how it works! I think my kids are learning to be compassionate and nurturing and that, as a human being, it is important to care about the well being of others. They also learn negotiating and compromising skills that will help them as adults. You should hear the way these kids work out who gets the last donut. My kids are deliriously happy. They ALWAYS have someone to play with and they love each other madly. Our home is full of laughter. And, ok, usually someone is screaming at 5-10 minute intervals, but is that really different from your house? More importantly, I have friends with a mere one or two kids who live by the "eat it or starve, it's your choice" model of parenting so I don't think that attitude is necessarily driven by the number of children. Just pointing out that not all big families have poor parenting standards as not all smaller families have good standards.

    • This is AWESOME! I TOTALLY AGREE AND I praise my kids for their compassion and concern for each other DAILY becauae I came from a family that was as big but not as tight as I hope mine will be. :-)

  • Speaking from experience, we have three kiddos. The reason we have three is we wanted four, and realized we might possibly go insane if we tried for one more. It is a crazy life, but with just two it was too easy. Couples who enjoy a good challenge or are overachievers are the ONLY ones who should try this…LOL. There are plenty of times that someone is screaming and acting crazy, but it is usually someone being mean to the their sibling to get more attention. The like to play the attention game, which usually results in someone hurting someone else. What we do have in our favor is four years between the last two, that happen to both be boys. My husband can conveniently put the youngest on his shoulders and like magic…we are back to having two. When that third child is removed it suddenly becomes quiet and everyone gets along, similar to just having one, but you still might have to tell them to stop touching each other in the back of the car. It's like people who have more than two dogs or cats, it is more work. But there is also more love in our house……and fighting.

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