The Theory of Relativity as it Pertains to the Departure of Toddlerhood

Jack, Kirby and Sam back in the day.

Everything’s relative. This pregnancy should be a piece of cake compared to the last one, our friends would tell us. And they were right. Because this pregnancy was much easier. No scares. No progesterone shots. No round-the-clock contraction monitoring. No hospitalized bed rest. No problems.

Even so, this pregnancy was harder to endure.

Still, everything’s relative. Taking care of just one baby will be so easy compared to taking care of three, our friends would tell us. And they were right. I mean, there’s a reason for the faint smile that creeps across my face after each successful 2 am bottle. It’s because I remember the days when I’d still have two more hungry customers waiting not-so-patiently in line.

Even so, taking care of Grand Finale has been harder than taking care of the triplets. At least that’s what I’ve found to be the case so far.

It turns out that when predicting the relative ease in both of the aforementioned scenarios, everyone (ourselves included) forgot to take into account the triplets who set such a difficult standard to begin with. The ones who are now full-blown toddlers. For they didn’t magically disappear during the pregnancy (not that we wanted them to), nor did they suddenly decide to turn over a new and silently cooperative leaf the moment we brought Grand Finale home. Instead, they continued to set the same difficult standard and made certain that it blanketed everything around them.

As a result, counterintuitively, the singleton pregnancy was harder than the triplet pregnancy, and taking care of one infant is more difficult than taking care of three. But everything’s still relative. Even if the relation between any two things isn’t exactly what you’d expect.

Take size, for example. When Grand Finale was born he weighed 7lbs 5oz, a relative giant compared to the triplets, who were so small (the boys were 4lbs 9oz, Kirby, 3lbs 5oz) that I was actually scared to even handle them in those first few days. Just putting a diaper on their bottomless little bodies was an exercise of unfathomable caution.

My little peanut on her birthday. So sweet.

Yep, Grand Finale initially came off as quite the Gulliver to those tiny Lilliputians. And yet it didn’t take long for the tables to turn — for him to become the measuring stick to show me just how big the triplets have become. Don’t get me wrong. Grand Finale didn’t suddenly make me realize that the triplets weren’t babies anymore. I’ve known that for quite sometime. But he did make me realize that they won’t be toddlers for very much longer.

It’s through his slight body that I’ve discovered their pudgy ones are becoming leaner. That their faces aren’t quite as round as they once were. That their sentences are getting longer as their fuses get shorter. All of those revealed in the light of Grand Finale’s infancy.

Lately, I find myself constantly examining them for further signs of their evolution. And they’re not hard to find. They’re beginning to rebel, you know. Not just the in-fighting with one another, but honest-to-goodness rebellion — challenging their big sister, their mother and me (to name but a few) with ever increasing frequency.

They’re still sweet of course. Because they’re mine and they’ll always be sweet no matter what they do. And although they’ve each had an episode or two, there’s still no need for a disclaimer such as the one I began this paragraph with. For they’ve not jumped off of the Good Ship Lollypop just yet. They do know where the plank is, however. And they are, indeed, enthralled by the sea which beckons from below. But they’re still onboard.

At least for now.

Anyone who’s ever visited my blog might already know how much I love backpacking. And one reason is because backpacking, like everything else, is relative. And trekking up and down 1500-foot inclines during 15-mile days makes me appreciate just how comfortable my real life is. How easy it is. Yet, life in the woods is a lot less complicated than my convoluted life, so oddly, sometimes it’s the exact opposite. Sometimes backpacking seems easier. More arduous, but easier nonetheless.

That’s not to say there aren’t complications on each trip. For there are. Like whenever there’s a long stretch between water sources, thus forcing me to conserve whatever I have left. To savor it, even. Especially if the stretch is a tough one.

I carry that water in a bladder which resides inside my backpack — its hose poking out the top, descending from above my right shoulder and resting upon my chest. Since the bladder is out of sight, I can never tell exactly how much I have left, though I can tell when it’s running low as it becomes more difficult to pull. But even so, I know there’s still some left. Enough for the occasional and judicious sip.

So during those waterless stretches, when my thirst can no longer take it, I’ll bring the nozzle to my parched lips and take a tentative pull. And I’m always amazed at how good it feels, the sensation of the water I hope never runs out hitting the back of my dry throat. It’s far better than the other sips that are taken under normal circumstances if for no other reason than how appreciated it is.

When Caroline and I first started dating, she told me that she dreaded the day when Alli was no longer a toddler, and I must admit, I didn’t quite get it back then. But I get it now. Because it’s finally here for me, too. Right around the corner, in fact. And I feel the same way about the triplets leaving toddlerhood. I’m dreading it.

But I also know there’s still some time left. So I take that occasional, judicious sip, predictably amazed by how good it feels. As overjoyed as I am appreciative that there’s still some left. Thankful for every last drop I get to savor. Because I know soon enough, I’ll put that nozzle to my lips and take that tentative pull only to find that there’s nothing left.

And at that point, my trio will have officially graduated to their next developmental stage. And when that happens, I hope I’ll always remember their toddlerhood, at least enough to reflect upon it as I assess the other eras in their life.

I think I will.

Because everything’s relative.

Jack, Kirby, Sam


Jack, Kirby, Sam

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • Margiemccarthy6

    The days are long an the years are short. I don’t know who first said that, but he was a WISE guy or gal. Enjoy the littles, John!

  • Margiemccarthy6

    The days are long an the years are short. I don’t know who first said that, but he was a WISE guy or gal. Enjoy the littles, John!

    • http://johncaveosborne.com John Cave Osborne

      i absolutely love that. it’s funny, i thought about referencing how odd it is that i’m dreading their toddlerhood’s departure given that it also causes us great consternation. what a wonderful quote. thanks for leaving it. and i will enjoy the littles!

      • Carolyn B

        We have a 6 week old little “surprise”  boy and 22 month old triplet girls. It was almost nauseating when people constantly said how easy one baby would be and how easy the pregnancy would be.  So not true, for all the reasons you mentioned and the others that you know.  We find this little guy much more of a mystery than the three girls during infancy anyway.  I loved the post because we are in the heart of toddlerhood, and although it poses it’s challenges it is so incredibly fun.  Thanks to your reminder of the fast passing of time, I am going to be a little quicker to grab my video camera to catch the hilarious things toddlers do. 

        • john cave osborne

          @CarolynB okay, so first off HUGE UPS for being a triplet mom. AND, furthermore, HUGE UPS on being just like C and me for following up triplets with a surprise. and, furthermore, furthermore HUGE HUGE GIGANTIC ups on having four kids under 2 years old. HOLY COW.

          yes, funny how everyone assumes that one is a lay up compared to three, immediately forgetting about the three and the unique challenges that always lurk on account of them. we talk about this all the time in our family — our oldest, Caroline and me, that is — that it’s just hard to get it unless you’re here. not here for a visit, or here for a meal, or here, even for a weekend. you gotta be here to get it. totally here. constantly here. to feel the energy, the onslaught. to appreciate the toll it takes.

          so, yes, it is “almost nauseating” when people constantly say things like “oh, this guy must be easy for you.” but they mean well. it’s just that you and i are part of a deal that’s… hard to get.

          but what’s not hard to get is how even the difficult times we face will be ones that we miss. so to that end, i’m with you 100%. let’s both keep that video camera handy. thanks so much for your comment. i love hearing from triplet peeps.

        • http://johncaveosborne.com John Cave Osborne

          tried to reply to this the other day and i don’t think it took, so wanted to try again. forgive me if you’ve already gotten it:

          @CarolynB okay, so first off HUGE UPS for being a triplet mom. AND, furthermore, HUGE UPS on being just like C and me for following up triplets with a surprise. and, furthermore, furthermore HUGE HUGE GIGANTIC ups on having four kids under 2 years old. HOLY COW.

          yes, funny how everyone assumes that one is a lay up compared to three, immediately forgetting about the three and the unique challenges that always lurk on account of them. we talk about this all the time in our family — our oldest, Caroline and me, that is — that it’s just hard to get it unless you’re here. not here for a visit, or here for a meal, or here, even for a weekend. you gotta be here to get it. totally here. constantly here. to feel the energy, the onslaught. to appreciate the toll it takes.

          so, yes, it is “almost nauseating” when people constantly say things like “oh, this guy must be easy for you.” but they mean well. it’s just that you and i are part of a deal that’s… hard to get.

          but what’s not hard to get is how even the difficult times we face will be ones that we miss. so to that end, i’m with you 100%. let’s both keep that video camera handy. thanks so much for your comment. i love hearing from triplet peeps.

  • Melissa

    Thank you for this post. My little guy is 3 1/2 and also leaving toddlerhood. Sooner than I would like, he will be joining his MUCH older brother (15 yrs. old) and the days of them as babies & toddlers will just be memories. Glad we’re not the only ones with toddlers that are demanding.

    • john cave osborne

      melissa, i’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get reply to this, but i wanted to let you know that i appreciated the sentiments expressed in your comment very much. it’s weird, isn’t it? that juggle between not wishing time away, yet wishing things would get easier, at least as it pertains to toddlerhood. i get it that i don’t get it when it comes to parenting beyond age 10 (as that’s how old my oldest is), but i suspect that each era will have difficulties such that a parent could catch him or herself saying “if only it were 6 months from now, then we won’t be dealing with this…” but the truth is we’re always dealing with something. again. i get that i don’t get it, but that’s kinda my theory on the unknown. so as much as i struggle with (how did you put it?) *demanding* toddlers, i also absolutely covet them and will miss these days immensely.

    • http://johncaveosborne.com John Cave Osborne

      melissa, i’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get reply to this, but i wanted to let you know that i appreciated the sentiments expressed in your comment very much. it’s weird, isn’t it? that juggle between not wishing time away, yet wishing things would get easier, at least as it pertains to toddlerhood. i get it that i don’t get it when it comes to parenting beyond age 10 (as that’s how old my oldest is), but i suspect that each era will have difficulties such that a parent could catch him or herself saying “if only it were 6 months from now, then we won’t be dealing with this…” but the truth is we’re always dealing with something. again. i get that i don’t get it, but that’s kinda my theory on the unknown. so as much as i struggle with (how did you put it?) *demanding* toddlers, i also absolutely covet them and will miss these days immensely.