“You’ve got your hands full”

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You’ve got your hands full – quite possibly the most annoying overused phrase known to man. Or perhaps it’s just me, as most annoying to “all men” would be an over exaggeration but you get my gist. I’m talking about the woman in the chemist, the next door neighbour, the man walking his dog on the street, the midwife, the health visitor, the postman. “You’ve got your hands full”, always accompanied with a little laugh, like they seriously think they’re the first person to come up with this revelation. Or perhaps with an all knowing gasp, as in “you had three children, you nutcase? I stopped at 2 kids as that was bad enough”. Never one to offend or be rude (I hope) I politely reply with the obligatory chuckle, along with “yes, I know”, when in actual fact what I REALLY want to say is: “No s#%t, Sherlock!”

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I appreciate this makes me sound as if I’m having a bad day and I promise you I’m not. If anything, it somewhat bemuses me. For truthfully, everyone’s right in what they’re saying. I HAVE got my hands full and like everyone pre-empted when I was pregnant, it IS hard work. And here’s the thing. So far, aside from being pretty knackered from the sleepless nights and the all-time low of not showering and using a baby wipe to “freshen up”, you know what? I reckon I’m doing ok. I mean I’m never gonna win mother of the year, mind you, but I’m doing ok.

Anyway, I have had some lovely messages from followers of our blog and page, sending their congratulations and asking how we’re getting on. So I thought it was about time for an update.

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Rather ridiculously, we moved house when Florence was 10 days old. It was, of course, meant to happen months beforehand but hey, these things never go to plan, right? I had a planned caesarean so other than trying to manage the unpacking AND the children, we got through it… With lots of help from family… And copious amounts of wine. Wine has helped a lot. Oscar is totally in love with Florence and will often go and sit next to her chair and stroke her head or hold her hand. Alfie on the other hand, is not. He ignores her the whole time but every so often, if I’m feeding her or holding her, he’ll give her a little tap. A tap or put a bowl/blanket over her head, whatever mood takes him. I’ve said it before, but every day is survival. If we’re all fed, watered and happy at the end of the day, then we’ve done well. Sometimes, I do feel that with having three kids, one of them is always missing out. If I spend too much time playing with the boys, Flo’s neglected but then equally, if my attention is turned to Flo for too long, Oscar and Alfie are more than likely getting up to mischief together somewhere in the house or garden.

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You see, I’d say right now, Oscar and Alfie are pretty well matched. At just over 16 months apart, I reckon both physically and developmentally, my two little pickles are now almost on a par.

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I wonder if my house will ever be tidy again? Will I ever make a meal from scratch? (not that I ever did but I might one day, right?) Will I ever sit down in the evenings and relax again? Around 5pm Flo decides she doesn’t want to be put down and fusses/feeds constantly (a hard time of the day when you need to get two boys their tea and ready for bed) so all hell is always in danger of breaking loose. At 7pm, the boys bedtime, I’d always had my “me” time. My time to spend talking to Chris. Now, I have Flo, still fussing and feeding until she finally gives in and goes to sleep, my evenings are the furthest thing from peaceful.

I’ve come to a realisation since having Flo. And I’m guessing it’s because I’ve been trying to juggle looking after a newborn and two toddlers, that looking after Oscar, as lovely as he is, requires just a different level of care to the other two. He is literally always on the go.

And I know a lot of people are going to say, he’s three, Sarah. This is normal three year old behaviour and they might be right. But just recently, having had days where I have either just Oscar and Flo (because Alfie has been in nursery) or just Alfie and Flo (because Oscar’s been in nursery), on the days I have had Oscar, I realise I can’t ever really let my guard down.

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Not to say that Alfie’s easy. He’s not. He understands exactly what I’m telling him or what I ask of him. He tantrums like the best of them and if left to his own devices, would run off at the drop of a hat. He might say a few words now but equally he gets frustrated that I don’t always understand what he’s trying to tell me. He acts, I suspect, just as any other 21 month old might do but I think the difference is that I can read Alfie a little better, whereas Oscar’s just that little more unpredictable.

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Although Oscar understands what I ask of him, sometimes he gets side-tracked. I can ask him to go and get his shoes but if there’s something on the way to picking up his shoes, that takes his attention, then the shoes are forgotten. His energy levels are high and at times, managing that energy can be tough. And that’s not to say he’s not doing well but I’ve realised there are a lot of things he still does, that other three year olds have grown out of. For example, if I’m not looking, he’ll sit and take out all the baby wipes from a packet, just because he can. Or if we’re in the park, I have to shadow him the whole time, just in case he runs out of the gate and darts across the road. And if for a moment I do take my eyes off him, even for a couple of seconds, he could just decide to lie down in the park and lick the tarmac, which I found him doing the other day! Again, just because he can.

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What I’m trying to say is that, yes Alfie is a handful at the moment but if all goes as it “typically” should, he will grow out of it. We won’t always have to watch him as closely as we do and in time, we can relax. Yes Flo is a newborn and needs and relies on me for everything, but again this will be over in the blink of an eye. Which leads me to wonder – will Oscar always need to be watched? I’m sure he won’t but I guess it may still be quite some time before we get there. It seems a while off before I’ll be able to go upstairs and leave him downstairs without worrying that the kitchen door is definitely shut so that he can’t go into the drawer with the knives in it or open the front door and wander (run) out while I’m not looking.

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I know all parents worry about their children’s welfare and this isn’t meant to come across as doom and gloom but I guess it’s about looking at the facts. I have three children, three years old and under, one of whom has additional needs and who needs me to be his protector. It’s not about wishing the time away, because believe me, every evening when Flo’s having her fussy five minutes (hours), I look into that little face of hers and try to soak up every second because I know she won’t be this teeny baby in my arms for long (and because seriously, I give you my word, there will be no more Roberts babies that’s for sure. I.am.done). And when Alfie’s having a meltdown because he wants to watch Peter Rabbit on the TV and not the episode of Postman Pat I’ve put on for him instead, I try to keep calm and remember it won’t be too long before he can tell me EXACTLY what he wants.

But with Oz, for how brilliantly he’s doing, I realise, for him and I, time moves a little more slowly. I want him to stay small so I will always be there to protect him and not have to think too much about the future and what lies ahead for him but sometimes, if I’m truly honest, I wish it was just that little bit easier. Not just for me, but for him.

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I always knew having three would be hard and although Oscar and Alfie are pretty equal at the moment in the amount of care they need, albeit in slightly different ways, I guess I know that with Alfie it’ll probably pass a lot quicker than with Oz. I have no doubt that Oscar will grow into a fine young man. Both confident and capable. I guess I won’t know for some time though what the future holds so for now I must try to remember to live for today and in the moment. Yes, at times I feel run ragged and yes, at times, the guilt I feel about realising I could do more or spend more quality time with all my children, is all consuming but seeing them all together and all happy, is worth every second I spend picking Oscar up from the tarmac (I’ve only caught him licking it once, he’s not that weird, I promise).

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So what I’m saying is, life can be hard sometimes but this IS life and when I look around, compared to what some people are going through, I haven’t got it bad at all. Oscar’s happy and loved and so I have to run a little faster to catch up with him? At least it’ll help shift the baby weight – every cloud right?!

Just the other day, I was pushing the double buggy. Oscar was at nursery and Alfie and Flo were both fast asleep being pushed along. A well-meaning old lady stopped me on the street, peered in and uttered those 5 words that have been grating on me for the last six weeks. I laughed, perhaps a little louder than I should have for I realised, she thought I had my hands full and she could only see two of them!! She hadn’t seen my Oscar. The one that constantly keeps me on my toes, who I know I always need to be that step ahead of and whose hand I hold a little tighter for fear of him letting go.
“You’ve got your hands full,” she said with a gasp… If only she knew.

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9 comments

  1. Lilian   •  

    Hi Sarah I always say it!!!!! Not any more xxxx

  2. Jolanda   •  

    My english is not so very good.becaus i live in the netherlands. but i reed your story and i love it. SO happy family. Xx

  3. Jane   •  

    Lovely post – I am a mum to three, and hear it all the time – that and, when do you sleep?

    Sleep is something I gave up for Lent a long time ago and forgot to start again!

  4. Natalie   •  

    That extra chromosome does have a lot to answer for! It’s certainly packed with mischief and a unique set of rules! My lad coming up for 11 with DS needs that extra eye on him all the time, despite the fact his younger brother is 7 he requires less supervision and watching.

    A three yr old with Downs is a constant demand upon you, but it does slowly get easier in many ways, and you’ll find as your others grow and overtake him that things do become much easier.

    My children are now 17, 12, almost 11 and 7 and things are getting easier as generally out and about my main focus can be on Jake.

    They are so much fun though and that really out weights the difficulties we encounter a,OMG the way!

  5. Mrs ATWWAH   •  

    It sounds like chaos but that you are coping. As you say as long as they, and you, are fed, watered and safe, you’ve done your job.

    Great pics, the bowl one made me chuckle. Poor girl, in years to come they will be looking out for her, not putting bowls on her head.

  6. Mary   •  

    Maybe one of those people just wanted to acknowledge how lucky you are to have four wonderful children. To have a house full of children. How lucky you are to have your hands full. I have said this and always mean it as a positive. In other words it’s great to be a mother/father to four children.

  7. olga braut   •  

    You write beautifully and spot on. I also have three, older than yours but still…. Three girls, 10, 6 and 3,5. My youngest, little Selma is born with Down Syndrome. She is doing so well, but I get you when you write that you can´t quite let your guards down. Selma will turn on the shower just because she can, she will also empty all the wipes, or run off if she got the chance. She listens, but I never know for sure what she will be up to if I am not watching her..
    <3 <3

  8. Jess Paterson   •  

    Wow, you have your hands full! JOKE! But seriously, you are managing a lot there and I’m very touched to read how you are still trying to soak up Florence’s newborn-ness while you can. I have three too but with bigger age gaps (aged 7 and under), but I know how hard it is to give enough attention to them all, which is obviously particularly hard with Oscar’s unpredictability. Good luck with it all – and good luck with the MADS!

  9. Keri   •  

    OMG I can’t ever hear this phrase without cringing!

    I once introduced a bf to my dad when I was 17 my dad said “you’ll have your hands full with our Keri”. The thing is, I was already a 34F and was wearing a low cut top at the time. All three of us seemed to ‘get’ the unintended double meaning at once and it was just so awkward, poor dad!

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