Having a third child bonded our entire family in unexpected ways.

My two oldest children are almost exactly three years apart. We were very lucky, and our plan worked as we had hoped. They arrived on a schedule that fit our careers. 

Nearly four years after the arrival of my second child, we were on the cusp of the parents’ dream: a single drop-off. We would be done paying high childcare bills, and both of our kids would be at the same school.

And then, we learned about our little dino surprise, as I like to call him (and it fits, given his propensity to let out a quiet, “roaaaaaarrrr” when asked what a dinosaur says).

We were thrown, and we had to reevaluate everything.

After the initial shock (and morning sickness) wore off, we started preparing for life as a family of five. We took a multi-day, multi-state road trip, knowing that wouldn’t be possible again for a few years, and we bought a three-row SUV to better suit the needs of our newly large family.

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And then, there he was, this tiny (OK, over nine-pound) gift. We immediately fell in love with his gummy smile, his soft bald head, and the weight of him in our arms as he slept.  

My oldest, at seven, stepped even more fully into his role as a big brother. He was at his happiest sitting on the couch holding his baby brother.

My daughter, at four, was in awe of this tiny creature and wanted to be near me at all times when I held our newborn.

This baby of the family is ours.

As an only child, I am often confused and befuddled by sibling dynamics, but with our third child, I get what’s happening. I thought our family was complete with four, but I quickly realized how wrong I really was and how much we all needed this child in our lives.

We still had a newborn when the force of a global pandemic hit the United States, and along with our whole community, we hunkered down for the long haul. We tightened around each other. 

My oldest built countless LEGO RVs. My daughter baked with me anytime she had the opportunity (which, in lockdown, was frequent). The baby grewhe learned to crawl across the living room to his brother, he started scribbling next to his sister as she colored, and as soon as he learned to walk, he ran through the house, giggling in the most glorious way as his siblings chased him.

God made an incredible choice by blessing our family with this wondrous boy.

Our youngest is now almost two (how did that go so quickly?), and our love for him has only grown. He refers to his older siblings as “BubbaSissy,” all in one happy word.  

Our 9-year-old gets up each morning with the baby. He gets him breakfast and plays with him; he’s even been known to change a diaper.

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When the toddler starts playing with a baby doll, our 6-year-old grabs a doll, a blanket, and a tea set and immediately settles in to play “babies” with her little brother. She finds any spare moment to tickle him and really loves to be in charge of washing his hair when they take a bath. 

Even the dog has added the littlest one into the regular rotation of rooms she sleeps in each night.

He is ours.

When we started 2019, we were not expecting a third child, and we certainly weren’t expecting to restart the baby years during a pandemic. 

But, as a family, we have surrounded this little one with so much love, and in the process, we love each other better.

With three children, I have to make a more intentional effort to spend time with each of them on their own. So that bedtime doesn’t extend into the middle of the night, my husband has to play a specific role in the nightly routine. The two oldest have started helping with dinner in more serious ways, whether making the salad or deciding on the meal and doing most of the prep work.

As the two older children grew, we developed busier and later schedules, and our exhaustion was breaking us. Now, we all settle in a bit early at night since we have built our lives around a toddler. We practice quiet time so the baby can take a napmy husband and I read or garden while the two oldest play or build LEGO. I say no to more and more commitments that take me away from this lovely family of mine.

The rhythm of our family has shifted, and we all benefit from this magical addition.

Sarah Knutson

Sarah Knutson is a mama to three wildings. She is a teacher, writer, photographer, and avid camper living in Napa Valley. She loves late summer nights, snuggling by the fireplace, and always has ingredients on hand to make brownies. You can follow her adventures at Roaring Mama Lion to read more about her experiences as a mom and winemaker's wife.