3 is the magic number… (or 1, or 4 or 2)


I walked into the sitting room yesterday to find Tobes watching a DVD. Okay this isn’t earth shattering in itself but when I left him on the sofa he was watching the telly so he’d obviously taken the DVD out of the box, put it in the machine and loaded it. He sat there so coolly and nonchalant as if this were perfectly normal…

He’s our no 3. The third son and I would say the one with the biggest personality. He had his 3rd birthday the other week and both Hubbie and I spent the day in utter confusion asking each other ‘how did that happen?’, ‘When did he stop being a baby?’ With our first son we lived, felt and breathed every minute from his birth to at least 3 years so how on earth had Tobes got to 3 without us realising it? He’s very independent in that if there’s a problem he sees no reason why he should bother anyone with it. He goes out to play and comes back with bruised knees and when I fuss and ask him how he’s hurt himself he appears not to know and not really to care. If he wants a drink he pulls over the stool in the kitchen to the cupboard with the plastic beakers in, get one down after climbing up, sorts the Ribena out and fills it with water from the tap. He doesn’t see that he’s only 3 as the 2 older brothers do these simple things and he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t.

That’s exactly one of his main problems in life though. He’s a big person living in a 3 year olds body. His brothers go to rugby, go to swimming lessons, are learning to ride a horse all things that start when you’re 4. This may as well be eternity for Tobes as his timescales are much more immediate. He trails around after the bigger boys watching them from the side-lines wishing his life away so he could join them. It isn’t fair being no 3.

His pregnancy announcement was greeted (as it would have been) with ‘oh you’re expecting again?’ rather than the 1st pregnancy which was ‘wow! Your first baby, how exciting!’ his birth was surrounded with arrangements for older brothers rather than huge preparation for him. He came home from hospital and slotted in. No routine was created for him as he had to fit the one that already existed. He rarely has anything new living in the hand-me-downs of Hen and Ollie and this continues through clothes into, bedding and round to toys. It’s so difficult to buy something for his birthday when he’s a boy and the toys aren’t that varied and he’s the 3rd boy. But worse than that Tobes was sat on lap the other day whilst I was typing and he was asking about all the faces behind the glass in the photo frames on the old mahogany chest by the desk. ‘That’s your great-great grandad’ I said, ‘and who’s that Mummy?’ he asked pointing to the various baby pictures, ‘That’s Ollie, That’s Henny, that’s Ollie no that’s not you that’s Ollie again – don’t you look alike?’ his face fell as he’d reached the last photo and I asked him what was wrong and he quietly said ‘but where am I?’

He was right: nowhere on the chest was a framed, cared about, picture of him in fact, when I looked around, nowhere in the house was a framed, cared about, picture of him. How on earth had I missed that? Easily actually when you lived from day to day with school runs and routines, reading, spellings, swimming, horse-riding, bath time and bed to get up and do it all again the next day. I forge ahead with my no 1 and even no 2 but not no 3.

How mean am I..?

I take 100’s of photos but don’t have 1 in the house of my third son. I spent time each day with the 2 elder boys in fussing them into the cars –Tobes just gets in – making sure they get their book bags and coats and extra things that they need to take in – Tobes just sits there with a book and yes he does batter his elder brother with it sometimes but there is no fussing over him.

Don’t get me wrong he’s no shrinking violet the other day I was folding washing in the middle room next to the kitchen when I heard the back door go. I went in to find Tobes standing at the door saying ‘I’ve finished my sandwiches now, can I have my cake?’ I had only just gone into the middle room and had left him with 2 sandwiches and he had thrown them somewhere out the back door. I asked him so many times in different ways and all he kept saying was ‘ They are in my tummy, why are you arguing with me about this?’ Hmmmm, definitely a boy who when his mother was listening to reading and working on spellings he was listening to how things work and taking it all in.

I was the youngest of 3 and I know how the rot sets in. Child number 1 learn to walk first, goes to school first, rides a bike first all these are exciting things. By the time I learned to ride a bike neither of my parents taught me, my older brother did! When brother number 1 got his exam results we all went out to dinner, when he got a job he was bought a new (albeit shinny) suit. Brother number 2 was also taken out to dinner and had a suit. Me? Nothing. Nothing at all. I was once bought a dictionary for passing my grade 5 ‘cello but apart from that I can’t remember anything. Yes there was a messy divorce in between brother number 2 getting a job and me doing anything but it still hurt that no-one celebrated.

I need to do more. For goodness sake I need to have a photo of Tobes up in the house at the very least! I need to find him something that he can do that his brothers wait around for him, that they sit and watch him and have to be quiet and feign congratulations when he achieves something. I need to make sure he gets to choose days out occasionally rather than just being tagged onto the older boy’s days. A dose of Peppa Pig world would do the older 2 a world of good in knowing the world of days out doesn’t belong to them.

I need to fill in a baby book, I need to buy a memory box – another painful moment as the other boys have the same type of box with all their special baby things in and Tobes has nothing (the special things are in the garage and about the house but not lovingly put in a box for all to see.

Sometimes it’s not about being singled out, standing with your head above the parapet of a family but more being the same. Tobes (and I) just wanted to be the same as our brothers. The rites of passage given to them were eagerly waited for by us and although they didn’t really ever happen for me I can make it happen for Tobes. I need to get down to Tobes thinking and remember how it felt. He’s starting ‘school’ (nursery but as it’s where his brothers go, and he will wear the uniform to make him belong hell it’s school in his eyes) in September and Hubbie is taking the day off as he did for the other boys and I will make him take sports day off, be there at parents evening and, if it’s possible, take him school so he knows about the planets display in his classroom, can find his peg should the shit hit the fan and I’m indisposed but most of all make Tobes the same as his brothers by doing the same things for him as we/he did for them. This is security, this is love. No 3 son needs to know that 3 is a magic number just as much as 2 or 1…

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About littlewhitecottage

Emma is a qualified teacher with 14 years of teaching in many different settings. From teaching adults and children at a music school to choosing to work in a demanding primary school that was failing (which meant moving from an outstanding school – her colleagues were aghast!) to running her own sewing business for the last 5 ½ years teaching all ages how to sew: Emma loves to teach.
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2 Responses to 3 is the magic number… (or 1, or 4 or 2)

  1. Great blog, definitely got me thinking as Baby no 3 is due in 12 weeks! Will have everything ready and we are all excited, 2 big brothers and lots of love awaits ‘it’! The other 2 will be at Big school and so it will just be me and baby doing all the things I did with my 1st and 2nd. It just maybe a bit calmer during the day! x

  2. I have 3 kiddies too and know what you mean, it is a bit easier here as there is a 5 year gap with my last two so that means my third is a bit like the first in a way as I get time with her on her own. MInd you I feel sorry for my poor second child who seemed to get overlooked in a haze of zombie state. I think parents always feel guilty no matter how hard they try – don’t beat yourself up x

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