As a mom to eight-year-old triplets and an 11-year-old, it is a constant struggle to make sure that everyone is getting their rightful attention from my husband and me. In my household, like many others, there is a regular complaint about someone feeling left out. Life just isn’t always fair.
Over the past few years, my 11-year-old has shared with me that she feels like she has no one: She says, “Mommy you have Daddy, the triplets all have each other, and I have no one. I wish I were a twin so I won’t be left out.”
It breaks my heart.
Then there is the issue of play dates. The dreaded play date is giving me more grey hairs than I deserve. One of the triplets will be invited to have a sleepover, but the others will not get so lucky. In my house, my 11-year-old frequently has sleepovers and “get-togethers” as they call it since the term “play dates” is for babies I hear. My son, who is one of the triplets, is getting a lot of playdates because he is the only boy and tends to get invited to different social events. My other two girl triplets are always left out. They say, “Why doesn’t anyone invite us over to play? Why are we always left out?”
My heart breaks a little all over again.
Here are six simple solutions for helping when your multiples or singleton feels left out:
One-on-one time: I cannot stress this enough. The more children you have, the harder it is to find one-on-one time with your children. Most of the people I know have two children and for them, one-on-one time is easily achievable with two parents in the picture. For those of us with three or more kids, one-on-one time needs to be a more scheduled affair. I take turns spending one-on-one time with each of my children. We plan a special day or evening out doing whatever they want to do. This doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but when it does, my children feel very special.
Steal special moments at home: Sometimes it is just doing homework with them, or baking a cake together, that makes them feel included. Each night I ask my kids, “Who would like to help me make dinner?” then that child and I spend an hour together creating something special. When we sit down and work on a book report together without interruptions, it is a surprisingly nice way for me to connect with my kids and give them my undivided attention.
Staycation: When two of my kids get a playdate or sleepover, and the other two feel left out, I try to create a fun time at home for us. We make pizzas, and they get to pick out a movie to watch. Sometimes we create a fort in their room, and they can pretend they are camping out. It works every time!
Running Errands: When I need to make a quick trip to the grocery store or pharmacy, I always ask which of my four kids wants to come with me. Sometimes it is a tough sell, but if I can get someone out the door with me, it is a great way to spend special time with them. And you never know, there may just be some ice cream cones included.
Rotation: As a parent It is difficult to maintain fairness without feeling like you may go insane. If two of my kids get to have a friend over, the other two ask why they don’t get a play date. One simple solution would be not to do any play dates. While I love this idea, it is not practical. Instead, we rotate play dates; one weekend, two of my kids get to invite friends over, and the next weekend the other two get a play date. This does not happen every weekend, but I try to provide equal distribution of play
Being siblings to multiples: Multiples definitely have their special language and close relationships with each other. My daughter struggles with being left out of their playing. She feels like the third (or fourth!) wheel. I try to rectify this by allowing her more social interaction with friends than the triplets get. At the end of the day, the triplets have built-in play dates, while my older daughter does not. I also encourage pairing off into twos for play time in my house. It always is a great dynamic when each child has one sibling to play with. There are fewer hurt feelings and less sibling rivalry.
The dynamics in the household when raising multiples is inevitably different and sometimes more complex than in singleton houses. It’s important to be aware that in these family relationships, feelings get hurt, and kids feel treated unequally or left out of the crowd. While you will never be able to make all kids feel special all the time, that is not how life works; you can alleviate some of the problems with just awareness and simple tactics.
Megan Woolsey is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated, writer, and publisher living in Northern California with a very supportive husband and a wild bunch of red-headed children – a set of triplets and their big sister. Megan has been published in The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Bonbon Break, Mamalode, In The Powder Room and is an essayist in two anthologies.