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Dear Dylan: Here's what I have learned by being the mom of three boys

You're gonna need a bigger boat... and a lot of patience.
/ Source: TODAY

Dear Dylan,

Congratulations on the news you and Brian have welcomed your third baby boy, Russell! What an incredible blessing for your whole family.

I am sending you a hearty welcome to the Society of Moms of Three Boys. I was in your shoes about 14 years ago, cuddling my newly born third baby boy with my own 5-year-old and 3-year-old already running me a little ragged at home. I hope you will indulge me as I share some unsolicited wisdom (get used to that) now that all three of my baby boys are teenagers.

1. Practice your comebacks now

People mean well. "You sure do have your hands full!" they will say with a smile when they see you out with Calvin, Oliver, and Russell, and you will wonder if the smile is genuine or sarcastic. "Going to keep trying for a girl?" they will ask, even while you are still swollen like a water balloon in that awesome (not) postpartum period where you still feel pregnant.

It is worth thinking now about how you will respond. You might feel a lot of emotions about the comments you receive from strangers — and even friends and relatives — about the composition of your family. Most importantly, you will need to make sure Calvin and Oliver and, eventually, Russell don't absorb the message that they are any less dear to you because they are all boys.

Yes, my hands were very full, but in the best way possible.
Yes, my hands were very full, but in the best way possible.Courtesy Allison Slater Tate

And the comments never end, by the way — they just change to questions about how big your grocery bill is or how you will afford all the car insurance. Being the mom of three boys will always be a part of your identity now.

2. You're gonna need a bigger boat

I know Brian is a fan of the movie "Jaws," which is a good thing, because he will understand what I mean when I say this: Three boys mean bigger and more of everything. More Legos. More food. More balls. More crayons. More SPACE. This would be true with three girls as well, but boys just seem to expand to fit whatever room they are in at the moment, and now you will have three of them.

The clichés about your grocery bills really are true, too. Boys eat a LOT, as do their friends. You'll never need to worry you ordered too much pizza or too many chicken wings. That amount does not exist. Think about which warehouse store membership you want to buy now; Costco has been my best friend for a long time.

By the way, the odds are, you'll someday be the shortest person in your household. I need to tell you that while it is a little terrifying as that happens (How do you discipline someone who is looking down at you while you do it? Practice projecting your voice now!), but now that my own boys are 19, 17, and 14, I love it. There is something about having these gangly beings lean down to hug you that feels really sweet.

3. Let go of any ideas of perfection

With my first baby, and then with my second, I felt this need to live up to some standard of motherhood: I bought organic, I signed up to be Room Mom, I tried to make every holiday and vacation magical. When we added the third baby boy to the mix, "perfection" became a pipe dream. It became important for me to understand that "good enough" was, indeed, good enough.

I have a distinct memory from when my third boy was about 9 months old: We were at the beach, and our condo had stairs in it. I was trying to keep the toddler from face-planting on the tile floor, and my then-3-year-old came down the stairs and tripped on his own feet and ended up launching head-first onto the tile instead. I realized then that at that point in my life, all I could do — literally — was keep the three of them alive. Anything else was for bonus points.

Now that they are older, I can say with certainty that was enough. It was a moment in time that was chaotic and messy and loud and blurry and imperfect, but now, I look back at it as a precious time for all the same reasons.

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4. Take pictures

With Brian around, I don't think we have to worry about getting pictures of the boys or of you with the boys, and that's a good thing. My husband and I look back now at when our three boys were tiny and say to each other, "That happened?"

Life moves fast with three boys, and one day you won't remember they once had chubby baby cheeks.
Life moves fast with three boys, and one day you won't remember they once had chubby baby cheeks.Courtesy Allison Slater Tate

Document everything, because someday, you won't remember what their little voices sounded like before they deepened with puberty, and you'll forget how light their hair once was, the roundness of their baby cheeks, the way their feet didn't touch the ground when they sat at on a piano bench, or how their tiny baseball pants fit.

5. No, boys are not "easier"

Before I had my fourth child, a daughter, strangers liked to tell me how lucky I was to have all boys. "Boys are easier!" they would proclaim merrily, as inside, a part of me died, because this was so hard; what was I doing wrong?

My boys have never been "easy." They have all had their own challenges, quirks, and phases I am very happy to have in the rearview.

The third boy wore that Luigi hat every single day for a whole year.
The third boy wore that Luigi hat every single day for a whole year.Courtesy Allison Slater Tate

Parenting is hard, and the sex of your children has nothing to do with that fact. When you sign up to be a parent, you don't sign up for "easy." It's meaningful and important because of the same qualities that make it hard.

6. Enjoy the grand adventure

I decided to go for a third baby after attending the wedding of two of my dear friends. The groom was one of three brothers, and his brothers gave a joint toast at the reception.

At the time, I was sleep deprived and lost in the haze of early motherhood. But there was something about seeing these grown young men celebrating their brother, the way their faces lit up and their eyes twinkled with secrets only they shared, the way they smiled and laughed and told jokes only they knew, that made up my mind. I wanted that for my boys, too.

My boys are each very different and have distinct personalities, and there have been entire years when they did not get along or want to be in the same room with each other.

Three boys are their own team.
Three boys are their own team.Courtesy Allison Slater Tate

But when it has mattered, they have shown up for each other, like first days of school, last days of school, sleepaway camp, medical emergencies, or even just times when they needed to team up against their unwitting parents to get something they wanted. My 17-year-old recently started driving his younger brother to school, and it has changed their relationship for the better; they now have their own private inside jokes, and I secretly love it.

Your boys will be their own team and each other's private joke-and-memory keepers, too. I'm telling you now not so you will feel obligated to "enjoy every moment," but so you know that the moments that are definitely NOT enjoyable will be worth it someday.

Just stock up on bleach and Band-Aids. You'll thank me later.