As my kids have gotten older and we have gone out more on a day to day basis, I've started to notice how much other people love to stop and talk to us. Usually they comment on how many kids there are and then ask some back-handed question to find out if they're multiples (How old are they? Are they all yours? Are the girls twins?). I don't mind them asking these questions, especially since it almost always gives them a little thrill when I tell them that they are triplets and their younger brother. I can see how the sight of our zoo in public can spawn questions and I've learned to expect the questions and smile when answering.
However, as the triplets get older and start developing distinct features and personalities, I've found that many people want to try and force them into labels. Being multiples, they don't really fall into the typical labels attributed to the oldest, middle, and youngest child (though those are just labels within themselves anyway). One of the biggest concern I had about being a mom of triplets was making sure I fostered a sense of individuality within each of them so that they would know that even though they were part of a group, they were each their own individual person. I've yet to find a book about multiples that claims that one will be the leader, one will be the shy one, and one will be the clown. However, many people naturally tend to ask which of my triplets fit into these certain roles as if it is completely natural.
So what have I tried to do to fend off this inevitable labeling and comparison of my kids?? For starters, I try to never identify one as the "(you fill in the blank) one." In actuality, they all take turns leading or being shy or being sensitive. And while one of them may tend to be more sensitive/shy/etc. than the other, it doesn't mean he/she is that way all the time.
I also try to make sure I play up their strengths. I strongly feel that their feelings of individuality will be enhanced if they can positively identify themselves with several things they excel at. This doesn't mean that I tell my kids how wonderful they are every minute (the weaknesses always need to be worked on as well), but I do want to make sure that if Sam is especially interested and good at drawing, I make sure that he knows it and that it is something that makes him unique.
Right now, the triplets are still young enough that I don't see much evidence of competition between them. I know this is coming sometime in the near future and I'm not looking forward to it. Both my husband and I are competitive people, so my guess is that our kids have a pretty good chance of being that way as well. Competition will be inevitable and I believe it is healthy on a certain level. However, I never want one of my children to feel devalued if they are not as good at something as one of their siblings is. Comparisons are inevitable in multiples (I've already succumbed to it myself in the comparisons of developmental milestones like walking and speech), and I believe I will have to be a strong influence on my kids to make sure the competition and comparisons don't develop into complicated rivalries as they grow older.
Overall, I just want my kids to grow up to be happy, well-adjusted people that each find their own specific things to pursue and excel at. I really don't care what their passion is, I just want them to find that passions for themselves. My delight will be in watching each of them become an individual who knows who he/she is and what he/she wants to pursue. I can only hope that they will have the best of both worlds: Individuality encased within the support of their multiple siblings.