It’s either the best things or worst things that happen in threes.
When babies come in threes, their parents spend their lives on both sides of these cliches. Their kids’ milestones are met as a crowd: birthdays, braces, bickering. And then there’s that event you start worrying about nearly the minute multiples are born: paying all those college tuition bills at once.
The Scotts, the Pauls and the Craigs, three St. Louis-area families with triplets who graduated this year, have made it through the chaos of juggling the schedules of three high school seniors at once. Now, they’re dealing with three goodbyes.
Nichelle Scott, mom to triplets, first had to contend with the logistics of leaving. Her daughters, Sophie, Sydney and Sammie, each picked a different college far from home. Two had the exact same assigned move-in date and time slot. Nichelle ended up flying with Sydney to West Virginia University, while their dad drove Sophie to the University of Alabama. They helped Sammie move in at Regis University in Denver a couple of weeks later.
“Every other thing was shared until this moment,” Nichelle said. Now, “everyone is going to find their own identity.” Her daughters decided early on they were going to explore different paths for college.
It’s a similar situation for the Paul triplets, who are heading to various schools in Missouri. Michael will be attending Missouri State, Lauren is staying in town for St. Louis University and Bethany is going to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Their mom, Cindy Paul, said it has been strange to see other high schoolers go back to school, knowing her kids aren’t part of that anymore. She’s going to miss the noise and chatter and laughter that have filled their house.
“I won’t miss the laundry,” she laughed.
Surprisingly, they weren’t the only set of triplets in their graduating class. The Craigs spent a nonstop week helping their children move into their new housing. Their daughter Grace needed to arrive at the University of Kansas a week early for sorority rush. They moved her in on a Sunday, then drove back home to help Maggie pack and drive her to Purdue University. They drove home the next day only to head back to KU with Charlie. Their eldest child, Olivia, is starting her junior year at Ohio State, so as soon as they returned from dropping off Charlie in Kansas, they loaded up her stuff to drive to Ohio.
“My husband took a week’s vacation so we could take our kids to college,” Becky Craig said. She will be facing an empty nest in one fell swoop.
The rush of activities was constant in their lives. Every weekend, there were football games, tennis matches, lacrosse games, band competitions, she said. “I think our weekdays are going to be very quiet.”
She says she has worried about everything as they prepare to leave. The triplets have always had one another, and now one will be apart. Will she feel left out? Will the two at KU rely too heavily on each other?
There’s a powerful pull toward the number three. John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University, writes in a column for ABCNews.com that there is a sort of numerical mysticism about it. It might be psychological, perhaps deriving from the structure and limited complexity of our brains, he suggests.
“The appeal of the trinity in Christianity and other religions, the philosophical triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, and even the setup of many jokes seem to stem in part from a natural resonance with the number three,” he writes. Humans seek patterns, and easily spotting threes offers a way to order a disordered world.
But three kids at once can make life complicated.
For the Scotts, parents’ weekend falls on the exact same dates for each of their freshmen.
Nichelle Scott cried when she saw the schedules. It set up an impossible choice.
“I’m not going to any, because I can’t make that decision,” she said.
A change that each of the moms mentioned was the transition from chaos to quiet in their homes: walking into a clean house, making meals for just two people, filling the sudden surplus of downtime.
“Although I am extremely happy and proud of my triplets, I will have an ache in my heart every day at 2:45 p.m. when they don’t burst through that door at home,” Cindy Paul said.
For now, it’s time to say goodbye.