Most days my eyes pop open at 5:00am and I prep myself mentally for the morning chaos that begins at daybreak. First, I figure out what day of the week it is and if there is a load of laundry that needs to be put in the dryer and then the planning begins. The logistical management involved in running a household of 6 (plus 1) is challenging and often times, overwhelming. When those moments hit me, and potentially try to drown me, I focus on the positive side of having many children. Here are some of those reasons…
1. My children have learned to naturally play together. Almost every morning, for about an hour, after #1 has left for school, I clean. I have found that between 9 and 10 am I have a burst of energy and am uncharacteristically focused. The youngest 3 are fed and this is their time for “unstructured” play. After 8 months of me constantly initiating games, they are now totally taking this concept and running with it. As soon as they see me with the Swiffer Vac in hand, akin to an army drill, they huddle together and strategize their next moves. From hide-and-seek, to hairdresser, to “Payer”- which basically means that they take turns running a store and “paying” each other with fake money, they are able to play independently together. They not only draw from the pool of games I have introduced to them, they now come up with their own ways of entertaining themselves including”how many kisses does it take to piss #4 off” which happens to be #3’s favourite game at the moment.
2. I can justify to Ever-Patient buying a $50 dress for #2.
3. My children learn principles like sacrifice, compromise, patience and empathy first-hand. These aren’t just abstract concepts that I try to make them grasp. A complete disregard for others will only make your life miserable in our household. Line-ups and wheeling-and-dealing are also everyday occurrences in our house. I overhear things like, “You can play with this…if I can borrow your…” or “My turn and then you can be first next time…” Whenever one gets in trouble, the other 3 cringe and as soon as the coast is clear, they rush to her side to offer comfort and distraction.
4. The next best thing to getting Mom’s attention is getting your older sister’s attention. Nothing lights up their faces more than getting a hand-me-down. They even get excited when they are suckered into helping the older one with a chore.
5. Speaking of chores…as the girls are getting older, they are getting more and more involved with the keeping of the house. From folding laundry to emptying the dishwasher to keeping the 12 pairs of shoes in the foyer tidy, they ALL help. They even fight over cleaning the mirrors. Yesterday, #2 was weeding with Ever-Patient, #1 put away the laundry, #3 tidied the shoes, and #4 did all of the above much to everyone’s dismay.
6. Daily random acts of kindness. I witness such a tangible love between the kids daily. The other day #2 and #3 had a little skirmish during my “hour of power” cleaning frenzy. If the fights are serious enough, they try to involve me in the resolution process. “Try” being the operative word. I don’t get sucked into the drama – I tell them to figure it out or I figure it out in which everyone loses. #3 goes to her room, stomping all the way up, somewhat crying, and almost immediately, comes right back down, says a quick “sorry” to #2 and they hug complete with the standard “i love you’s.” Another example: #4 frequently has tantrums when she doesn’t get her way which includes the usual crying fit and subsequent flailing of the limbs on the floor. For me, I have learned a long time ago that ignoring the child entirely keeps me sane and calm and eventually, after 10 minutes, 1 hour, 3 days, depending on the child, they stop. On the other hand, my older 3 children attempt consoling her through affection, sweet talking, and candy.
7. Instant BFFs.
8. I tend to think of the future a lot. Anyone who knows me also knows that I have this morbid yet realistic attitude towards death. I know that it can happen any time so I frequently think about what kind of situation I am leaving my children in. I take great comfort in the fact that I know they will have each other. I see my mother with her 4 sisters and 2 brothers take care of each other (for the most part) and of my grandfather. I can’t imagine not giving that type of support system to my own children.
9. They can understand each other like only siblings can, i.e. they can commiserate and bitch about mom and dad’s unreasonable expectations and rules.
10. Two words: Sibling Discount. Dance classes, school photos, summer camps, pre-school, and other extra-curricular programs normally give a family discount if you have more than one child involved.
11. I get to witness hilarious tomfoolery and shenanigans day in and day out. For example, one morning, as I woke up and lay in bed, I overheard a loudly-whispered conversation between the oldest 3. It went something like this:
#3 (In a full-bodied voice, an almost dead-on imitation of Snow White in the forest greeting the woodland folk): Good morning everyone! I am AWAKE!
I hear large footsteps running down the hall to #2, #3, and #4’s bedroom.
#1 and #2 (in unison): Shhhhhhhhhh!
#2 (in a loud whisper): Don’t wake up Mama! Let’s just read some books quietly in our room for awhile until Mama wakes up.
#1 (in a loud whisper): Don’t use your normal voice!
#3 (in a voice fit for a noisy train station): OK! OK!
#1 and #2: Shhhhhh! You’re going to wake up Mama!
Silence for about 5 minutes…
#3 (in her best attempt at a whisper): I’m hungry. Can you go downstairs and get a bowl of Cheerios for me?
#1 and #2 (whispering): No! Try to whisper! You’re still too loud! It’s too early! If you wake Mama up now, she won’t be happy-Mama.
At this point, I maneuver myself out of bed as to not wake up #4 and crash their little party and relieve #1 and #2 of their big sis duties.
12. My children learn the value of time and family versus material things. Because our family philosophy and the fact that there are four of them, we choose not to indulge in their every whim. They realize that alone time with mom or dad is worth more than any toy and when we give them individual attention, we positively reinforce their good behaviour to each other.
13. Game play. The kids are able to play cards with each other, obstacle courses, soccer games, charades, board games without mom or dad having to join in.
14. I can always find someone when I need a good hug and kiss. Sometimes they’re not in the mood or busy but there’s always one available to just sit with me and hug me when I need it. (And as Ever-Patient and I get older, I know we’ll need more than the occasional hug from them. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be taken care of…)
15. Instant cheering squad. Every member of our family supports each other. At #1’s sports events, they cheer for her. When #2 graduates from kindergarten, they will cheer for her. At #3’s upcoming ballet recital, they will cheer for her. When #4 sat on the toilet for the first time, we all cheered.
16. Never a dull car ride.
17. On weekend mornings, Ever-Patient and I sleep in while all 4 go downstairs, have their cereal, and watch their shows.
18. They learn more from their siblings than from their parents. I can sound like a broken record but if one of the sisters is trying to teach something, they all listen closely and follow instructions.
19. I have such a greater appreciation for the little things like silence and going to the bathroom by myself.
20. Dinner conversations are full of great opinions, insights, and reflections… although most of the time, the only voice that can be heard during dinner at the moment is #3 – sharing her opinion, insight, and latest reflection on the day’s events. #1 is normally famished and shovels the food down, #2 is naturally quiet, and #4 just repeats whatever #3 says. I normally serve and cut up the food while Ever-Patient is both the short-order cook and lone wait staff.
21. There is always someone to see-saw with, arm wrestle, and play patty-cake. With more than 2 kids, jump rope, hide-and-seek, and “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” are always more entertaining.
22. Fostering a sense of independence starts earlier with each additional child. Mom or Dad can’t be in two places at once and either you wait or you take the initiative and do it yourself. For example, #1, #2, and #3 are all able to get themselves ready in the morning without my help whatsoever. #4 already picks her clothes out and joins her sisters to brush her teeth. Everything is at their fingertips in order for them to learn self-sufficiency as early as possible.
23. Jumping on the bed isn’t as fun by yourself.
24. Puddle jumping after a rainfall and splashing your sisters is so much more fun and less “dangerous” than splashing Mama.
25. It’s easier to keep warm in Mom and Dad’s bed on snow days when there’s more than one of you.
I can’t wait to see how #5 will fit into our family…I just love loving them all.
(This one was for you, Trish.)