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The Parenting Game: Zone Defense

As we were preparing for our third child, we thought we were ready. We were experienced parents. We had a plan. But all that was challenged even before she was born. I experienced early labor, and Danielle had chicken pox. I had false labor (I still remember getting the hospital bill for false labor while I was still pregnant!), and Ashley had chicken pox! Finally, a week overdue and the fourth time in the hospital, we had our third girl, Lindsey.

(Learn about Double Team Defense and Man-to-Man Defense if you missed them.)
Mom of 3 under 3!

As this photo was taken, I was confident we could do it. Dan always wondered how we were going to handle a 30-month-old, a 16-month-old and a newborn. But I believed we could do it. We were experienced parents. We had figured out ‘mommy time’ and ‘daddy time.’ But, I didn’t realize that you can’t play man-to-man defense with three children and two parents. We had moved into Zone Defense. (Yes, I admit, as I look at this picture now, I was crazy!)

Zone Defense in sports is when a player guards an allotted area of the field of play and guards an opponent only when they are in that area. As we adjusted to Zone Defense in parenting, I would take the couch and breastfeed Lindsey. Dan would take the floor area and play with Ashley and Danielle. As we remembered to switch off and give Dan time to bond with baby Lindsey, we would switch playing fields. It always seemed the older two had to share a parent, but that was the best we could do.

The best example of Zone Defense was our bath time routine. It took both of us to run our bath time routine smoothly. I had the changing area and Dan at the bath area. First Danielle and then Ashley would run naked from my changing area down the hall to the bathroom where Dan had just finished filling the tub. As they started playing in the tub I would carry Lindsey into the bathroom and lay her into the tub. The girls would play and sing in the tub as Dan washed them up, youngest to oldest, while I prepped their pajamas. Then, I would collect a towel-wrapped baby Lindsey. I would dress her, breastfed her and lay her down to sleep. Meanwhile, the older girls loved having extra time to play in the tub while Dan finished washing their hair. I returned to the bathroom to collect Ashley and got her started into her PJ’s in the big girl’s room. Soon, Danielle would walk in with a towel wrapped around her, and I would help Danielle dry off as she worked to put on her pajamas on her own. Dan walked in just in time to start the bedtime routine after he had finished cleaning up the bathroom.

This parenting technique takes both parents. It took both of us to handle getting three little girls through their baths, and many other day to day routines. It also helped to accept a lower standard. With one child or even two children we did baths every single night. But with 3 little girls we quickly learned that they don’t HAVE to have a bath every night. If one of us wasn’t home, we would just skip baths and just handle bedtime, which was hard enough on your own.

The most important thing is to remember that this is just a stage! Our girls learned that whoever was the loudest got the one-on-one attention while the other two had to share. Over time we were able to decide one-on-one time as the parents, instead of reacting to a scream. Zone Defense required us to be flexible and willing to jump in wherever we were needed. We were able to make it through this stage, and many many bath time routines, by using Zone Defense.


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