Three little boys

April 18, 1996|By MONA CHAREN

WASHINGTON -- Benjamin Joseph Parker made his appearance three and a half weeks early, weighing in at a robust 7 pounds, 5 ounces on February 27, 1996. He is beautiful and perfect in every way, and we are overjoyed. But this is not the baby I ordered.

No, sir. This child is fussy. I am not getting more than five hours of sleep a night. This morning, I sat down at 10 a.m. to write this column. It is now 11: 40, and he's finally asleep. Doesn't Ben realize that we have two older children, 4 and 2? Doesn't he know that in order to smoothly accommodate another child into the family, we needed a placid, perfectly easy baby?

Someone failed to get that message to Benjamin. He thinks being cute and having gorgeous big dark eyes is sufficient.

There were moments, in the first crazy days after we brought Ben home from the hospital, when I would awake in the morning at Jonathan's insistence (''I was talking loud to wake you up,'' he offers cheerfully), listen to David in his crib shouting, ''Get me out,'' hear Benjamin crying to be nursed and think, ''What ever made me think I wanted three children?''

Living with three little boys isn't just demanding or busy. It's a more or less permanent state of mayhem, sometimes controlled -- more often not.

When I get together with fellow parents who say they permit their children no television or videos, I say nothing. I once overheard a TV producer, who doesn't stay at home with her children, announce proudly that they watch no TV.

Everyone knows TV is terrible for children. ''Anything else they do is better,'' says my friend Bill Bennett. Well . . . he doesn't live with Jonathan. Sometimes television, particularly videos, amounts to the basic right of self-defense by the adults in our household.

What might they be doing if not watching a video? While I am nursing Benjamin, Jonathan and David might be engaged in one of their high-decibel disputes over a clothes hanger. ''It's mine!'' ''No, I was having a turn.'' I note with exasperation that hangers are not toys, are dangerous and must be returned to the closet. Howls of protest ensue (at least now they are united in fury at me).

Or they might be experimenting with magic markers on the white couch in the family room. Or they might have hold of the sink sprayer in the kitchen. Then there's Mommy's computer to explore -- or Mommy's closet. Anything, really, except their toys.

But turn on ''Bedknobs and Broomsticks,'' and my two older sons instantly transform themselves into little soldiers. With trash baskets on their heads for helmets, and Mega Blocks sticks for swords, Jonathan and David march around the house in tandem, chanting the tune from the movie.

Miss Frizzle

OK, I'll say it. Though conservatives aren't supposed to admit this, I don't think television, in moderation, is bad for kids. David's imagination has been wonderfully stimulated by ''The Magic Schoolbus.'' He assigns everyone in the family various characters to play. He is usually Carlos. I'm Phoebe. The baby sitter is Miss Frizzle. He knows some of the episodes by heart. Occasionally, say in the middle of eating an apple, David will look up and pronounce, ''Solar power making steam!''

A video provides a few moments respite from the avalanche of demands, requests, urgent needs and whims of two preschoolers. ''I want juice, please.'' ''May I play downstairs?'' rTC ''Where is my fireman hat?'' ''I want juice, please.'' ''Where are my blue sunglasses?'' ''I have a dirty diaper.'' ''May I watch 'Road Construction'?'' ''May I wear my Power Ranger costume?'' ''I want yogurt.'' ''Juicceee pleeease.''

The only danger for me now (I don't count missed appointments, forgotten details like paying taxes on time and chronic sloppiness) is becoming so caught up in coping with three little ones that I forget to be grateful.

Only five short years ago, we had no noise, no sleeplessness, no annoying bickering. What a terrible quiet it was. Through birth and adoption, we have filled our lives and our hearts to the brim. And though life today often feels chaotic, it is richer than I could ever have imagined.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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