Multiples


One of the most common questions I (and the children themselves) get about the triplets concerns their birth order. Who is the oldest? Who is the baby? Truthfully, they look dumbfounded when they are asked these questions because they don’t know who was born first. They are really just grasping the concept of what being a “triplet” means. They understand that they all have the same birthday and that they were all in my tummy at the same time. But they also don’t understand that this is uncommon or different from most other children. That about sums up all that they know. They don’t see themselves as an older, middle, and younger sibling. They see themselves, collectively, as the oldest and Luke as the youngest (oh yes, they do not let him forget that he’s still only two years old!).

TripletsAs I’ve started to realize this, I have wondered whether or not this is my doing or not. I think that birth order studies are fascinating. Although I know the stereotypes for oldest, middle, and youngest children are not all-encompassing, it has been my experience that lots of people do exhibit characteristics that are consistent with their birth order. I myself am an oldest child and I feel that I exhibit many of the common oldest child traits. Dependable, controlling, rule-following, and ambitious are just a few of the characteristics I feel I have that mark me with the brand of “the oldest.”

So how does that relate to a situation where multiples are involved? Sure, there is a birth order (Peyton-Sam-Adah, from oldest to youngest), but does the difference of a minute between each of their births really destine them to those assigned birth orders? In my short four years of experience, my answer is no. Although all three of the triplets have distinctly different personalities and characteristics, I would have to say that they all three seem to exhibit the traits of an oldest child. And as I thought about it some more, I think a lot of it boils down to how we have been raising them.

The triplets were our first children, so I think we treat them, collectively, how parents would treat their firstborn. We expect a lot of them. We want them to “act their age” and be responsible. We expect them to “know better”, learn things quickly and follow the rules. In essence, I think WE are one of the main reasons that they all seem to act like the oldest child … because of our expectations. Is this a good or a bad thing? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I think it’s a good thing that we expect the same things (like acceptable behavior, manners, obedience, etc.) out of all three of them instead of expecting different things based on their oldest, middle, and baby birth order. I also believe that all children need variances in parenting according to their own personalities, but I do not think that we should have different expectations for each child’s behavior based on these personality differences. I want all of my children to have good manners, respect adults and have empathy for others, and I know I may have to teach all of that in different ways based on their differing personalities. But that doesn’t mean my expectations for each of them are different … the difference comes in the means to get to that end.

So yes, I do think that there is a birth order that plays out in our triplets. They all tend to exhibit traits of the oldest child, albeit in varying ways. This makes me wonder if other higher order multiples’ parents see birth order characteristics in their children as well. Are there birth order differences among the multiples themselves or do they tend to be like Peyton, Sam and Adah and collectively share a birth order? I’d be curious if anyone with (or without!) multiples has any opinions or observations on this subject as well.

Long live the firstborns!

Advertisements

I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. This should be nothing new to those of you who know me…I was always much more likely to sit inside than head out for recess. I always loved studying and genuinely enjoyed going to class. Although I’m glad to be done with school, my inner nerd comes out every once in awhile.

I was in a training session for work the other day and we took a learning styles assessment. I love personal assessments, because they teach me to think about my own style in new ways. I don’t think I learned anything groundbreaking from this particular assessment, but there was a section about learning styles and parenting that I thought was interesting. Also, for other nerds out there, you can read more about learning styles and experiential learning here.

We all learn and make sense of the world in different ways. There are four learning styles (learning by doing, learning by experiencing, learning by reflecting, and learning by thinking). You can probably think of your preferred learning style just from the descriptions. When we parent, we will most often teach in the style that we prefer. But are we being sensitive to how our children would like to learn? Or should we try to strengthen weaker styles with our kids? Here is a brief description of the styles for kids:

Learning Styles

After reading through the styles, do you have any inclinations about your kids? Of course, the best approach with your kids is using a blend of styles. Interesting stuff, huh? Told you I was a nerd.

I’ve always expected a lot out of my kids. They don’t need to be perfect, but I want them to grow up into respectful, humble, successful people. I feel like setting the bar high will give them big goals to shoot for and will help them realize that they can do anything they desire as long as they have passion and work as hard as they can. But I’ve found that these grandiose plans I have for their future lives also start creeping into their little preschool lives as well. I start having “expectations” for my three year old triplets. I hear myself saying, “He’s almost four years old, he should be able to put on his shoes and socks without help,” or “Don’t most kids this age know how to write their name? Is she behind if she isn’t doing that yet?” I start the never-ending battle of Compare-My-Child-to-Your-Child and the expectations begin to mount.

Although I think it’s healthy (and necessary) to expect certain things from your kids, I’ve learned that countless lists of expectations get you nowhere. Expecting things like manners and obedience is a given, but who cares if my kid can’t draw a circle when he’s 18 months old like little Sally can (damn that Sally and her advanced fine motor skills!)? My triplets have fielded the brunt of my advanced expectations because they have collectively served as my first “child.” I was a first child and a lot was always expected of me. I always felt like I had to measure up to a set of prescribed expectations and I find myself asking my triplets to do the same thing! You would think that I would have learned. As for my youngest child, expectations have been thrown completely out the window. I find myself not expecting him to accomplish or master certain things nearly as early as I expected them from the triplets. Can I chalk it up to parental experience? My own laziness? Finally seeing the light? Regardless, I’ve learned that expectations can be great, just don’t define your kids by their timely achievement of them.

My children have always tended to be friendly little people. I think it’s partly due to the fact that they’re used to being around a lot of people all the time and part of it is their personalities. There is comfort in numbers. You’re always prone to be more friendly if you have more friends (or brothers and sisters) with you all of the time. I love that they are friendly and always willing to meet new people and have new experiences. What I don’t love is all of these stories in the news recently about child abuse.

It makes me sick that we have to worry so much about child predators today. And it’s not just strangers on the street. Children are more likely to be abused by someone they know than by someone they don’t know. So how do I explain this to my kids who are in preschool? I still want them to be friendly and outgoing with new people and situations, but I also want them to be able to recognize when things aren’t as they should be.

I feel like preschool is a bit young to be telling children about all of the horrible things that could happen to them if they aren’t careful. We have pretty much stuck with talking about what things they should keep private (meaning things that only Mommy, Daddy, and the child should see or touch) and how they should never be out of Mommy and Daddy’s sight. I know this will get harder as they get older. There will be many more opportunities for them to be in other adults’ supervision. My goal is to make sure my kids are in schools and programs (sports, dance, scouts, etc.) that are taking the steps to protect children from predators. Things like background checks and on-on-one policies should be the norm for any reputable organization that cares about protecting children. Personally, I don’t ever want my child to be in a one-on-one situation with an adult unless it is absolutely unavoidable. I consider it my job to protect my children from predators, and that includes preparing them by talking with them as well as not placing them in a situation where they could be vulnerable.

My heart aches for all of the children I constantly hear of that have been victims of abuse. I will do anything to make sure that children, both mine and others, can be protected. Do you have any methods or ideas for teaching your children about the dangers of child predators? How do you talk to young children about being safe without making them scared of all new people or new situations?

When we were expecting triplets, there was much debate in our house about what we hoped the genders of the kids would be. Odds were that we’d have a mix of boys and girls, but really we didn’t know what we wanted or expected. We talked a lot about what we would want if they were all the same gender. Joanne was in the boy camp – convinced that they would be “easier.” (Disclaimer: The scale of easy in our household is often skewed. We’re not well.) The image of three boys running around the house with underwear on their heads making farting noises didn’t do much for my psyche, so I was in the girl camp.

If the triplets were all the same gender, I wanted girls. I know, I know, living with three teenage women under one roof was once a form of torture used by the CIA. Then there’s paying for three weddings (thus my strong advocacy for convents). Maybe I thought I would be exiled from the house in 2020, only to return as an expat when the girls left for college. Of course, none of this really mattered, because Sam came through with a Y chromosome. And I love my boys, even when they giggle about “poopy.” (Wasn’t that supposed to happen much later?) Deep down, though, I just wanted the chance to be a father to a little girl.

What I really wanted was to hear my girls call me “daddy.” There’s just something about when those little alto voices called me “daddy.” It somehow validated who I was as a parent, what I taught them, how I was raising them. It also amplified their innocence and little-ness. After all, I wasn’t ready to assume join them on the dance floor for the father-daughter dance – not just yet.

All of these musings were dashed a few weeks ago when Peyton called me “dad.” Dad? Not cool – I was crestfallen. I cannot be a “dad” already – it’s too soon! Can you blame me? I mean, these are the things that typically follow that three letter word:

  • Can I borrow the car?
  • Stop bothering me!
  • Can I have some money?
  • Get out of my room!
  • You’re embarrassing me!
  •  Go away!
  • Get off the phone!
  • It’s not a party – it’s just going to be a couple of friends.
She only said it once, but neurosis has set in, and I’m determined to reverse the course of this recent malady. Hopefully they’ll call me daddy again soon/forever.

INTP.

For all you psychology majors out there, you know what that means. It’s my personality summed up in a nutshell according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, an INTP tends to be quite and reserved and keep their focus on the big picture instead of the details. INTPs also give more weight to objective criteria as opposed to personal preference and try to delay important decisions in order to keep their options open should circumstances change.

Before kids, I was happy with my little ole INTP life. I was used to it. I knew how I dealt with certain situations and I knew what things made me comfortable and uncomfortable. I had built a life with a husband who understood, respected, and was compatible with my personality. Enter: The kids.

Once we had children, everything changed. Gone were the days of my predictable INTP life. I had gone from zero kids to four in a matter of 16 months and Dr. Myers and Dr. Briggs just didn’t know how to categorize me anymore. I was a walking personality disaster courtesy of the changes multiple children brought to my life. Who was I anymore? Definitely NOT an INTP. My tendency to be quite and reserved was moved aside in order to make room for a more gregarious personality that was necessitated by four children. I couldn’t be quiet when chaos was constantly erupting around me. I also couldn’t be shy and reserved when I had strangers approaching me to offer everything from advice to scathing comments when they would see me with four small children in public. I now lived my life from detail to detail instead of the INTP philosophy of focusing on the big picture. There was also no more delaying when it came to making important decisions. If a choice had to be made, it had to be made NOW … no more hemming and hawing over the possibilities and future options.

Where was my nice, predictable life that I had grown so accustomed to? I now found myself conversing with complete strangers, only thinking as far ahead as the next meal or nap time, and making important decisions in a matter of seconds. The introduction of four little people into my life had made me into a completely different person. Someone I didn’t know. At first, I wasn’t sure how to handle these changes. I liked the old me. But you know what? I liked these four new little people in my life too. I liked them a lot. And if a little change of personality was what was needed to bring them into my life, I figured I could handle this “new” me. I could hatch from my safe little INTP shell and become something that would mesh with my kids and my new, now crazy, life.

So now what’s my personality type? Who knows! It changes daily with whatever circumstance I’m placed in. I’ve learned to love the unpredictability and just roll with the punches. I guess you could say I’ve morphed from an INTP into a PALS (Peyton-Adah-Luke-Sam). The kids determine my personality now. And I’ve come to embrace and love it. They are a part of me and have changed my life in the process. My personality is a reflection of them … and I’m only better for it.