11 things Kate and Will should know about baby number three
Amid speculation about another royal baby, Anna Maxted explains why number three is a game-changer
It was telling that the Duke of Cambridge laughed bashfully - rather than faint to the floor - when a TV interviewer earlier this week broached the question of him having another child.
When the idea of Number Three isn't entirely abhorrent to the parents, it's a fair bet that in quieter moments (say, when both little ones are asleep), they will have entertained this wild idea.
The first born is a lifestyle shock; a second, as Prince William remarked earlier this year, is a "game-changer" - which makes a third a whole new ball game altogether.
Here are 11 things I've learned about bringing up three children.
1 Gulp! You and your partner are now outnumbered
For the next 16 years, there will always be a child roaring "Mum!" from the top of the stairs. You will be forever tripping over shoes, picking up towels and flushing toilets, with no apparent result. You will routinely beg favours from other parents to drive your three kids to concurrent sporting/social events in three counties, as this is not possible for two people, even with a second car.
2 Three children cannot "all play nicely"
Regardless of gender mix, there will always be one left out. If they're included in the fun, they are soon punished for it by the other two. My three boys often skip into the garden for a bat and bowl; parents of three dine out on such rare, precious, Swallows and Amazons moments (and only figuratively, because even Grandma can be reluctant to wrangle that many). Ten minutes later, the smallest will return, in high dudgeon, to the house, having been subjected to a hurtful accusations ("You baby!").
3 To cope with the chaos, you must embrace it
With two, parents can divide and conquer - at weekends, you can take one with you to the shops while husband takes the other to the pool. It's relatively civilised. With three, you must surrender to only ever going out en masse. As three will fight like cats in the car, deaf to reason, there's a peace in realising that you can no longer control your children.
This wearily acquired flexibility (rather than tearful resignation) makes you a better parent. If you are more relaxed, so are they. Consequently, Number Three will sleep beautifully (he has to learn to nod off by himself). He'll also be a hearty eater: when you have two hungry siblings, you learn fast that fussiness with food means no food.
4 You will get (a bit) of your life back
Even with two children, parents can be self-sacrificial, over-organising play dates and activities at the expense of adult leisure time. But Number Three heralds a volte face - a case of enough is enough. Number Three is fed on the trot, is dragged around the Tate Modern, listens to your music, is friends-by-proxy with the children of your friends. You're all happier for it.
5 Cherished principles fall by the wayside
At a tender age, Number Three will end up watching films with older siblings that are probably most unsuitable. Two children can still feasibly take turns to watch the box. But with three, you need a crowd-pleaser, not a screen-queue. You're sick of cartoons, so progress to Toy Story. And Second World War documentaries.
A week later, you'll trot downstairs to find your eight-year-old watching Gladiator. But that's apparently okay, because, as his eldest brother says: "I put my hands over his eyes at the scary bit."
6 Number Three will be mature for their age
Early exposure to first-hand accounts of the Blitz and the merciless banter of older siblings can bolster a child's cognitive development. Coming third creates a thirst for knowledge and for winning (or, indeed, aversion to losing). Essentially, standing your ground against older siblings requires true grit. Think of it as character-building.
7 Number Three might be a bad influence
Your youngest's worldliness may alarm parents of only children. They won't want their little first-born darling to play with your ruffian, even if they are of the same age. It will be painful when your youngest isn't invited to parties.
8 Having three isn't as pricey as you think
Number Three will cost you less than the other two, because this time you won't be buying a £200 swing chair, or a space-age buggy. If you already have "one of each", a George and a Charlotte, you're also in the happy position of knowing that someone's toys and clothes can be recycled. Friends may still take pity and give you their kids' cast-offs, which counts as a win.
9 But you'll still be poorer than imagined
Will and Kate need not worry, but for the rest of us, raising three is, despite those hand-me-downs, still grumblingly expensive. Shoes. Lost coats. Outings. Holidays. Three children somehow eat twice as much as two. Also, three child seats don't fit in the back of a 'normal' car.
10 Occasionally, someone will murmur the word "spoilt"
Of course you're protective, even indulgent, of your littlest. And they will be well aware of their prized position in the family, and take ruthless advantage; kids with two older siblings know how to develop a strategy.
But despite the noise, mess, expense, you know you're blessed when you have three. As one friend growled to a sour neighbour (whose response to the arrival of a third was "Another one?"): "Leave me to my joy!"
11 Consider yourself lucky
You'll cherish every moment of Number Three's existence because they will, probably, be your last baby.
You won't correct their spelling of scissors as "sizzers" until secondary school, and "bedusking" (for "disgusting") will join your family lexicon.
Number Three knows he's adored, but he is also resilient, for there are disappointments. My youngest still points hopefully at framed photographs of toothless infants, and asks: "Is that me?" To which the answer is, inevitably: "No: that's your big brother." You have less time, but you make more of it.