We are having a good summer, and this is the first year I've been able to volunteer that information rather than replying affirmatively when asked but then having to come up on the spot with positive spin: "Oh, you know! Just hanging around, relaxing, taking it easy! Not really...'doing anything'." And then the other person tells me how they went to the lake and they went camping and they visited grandparents in another state etc. etc., and I think to myself that I should not have had so many children, because I can't even IMAGINE going to the lake with them.
But one of the reasons I HAD so many children is that I didn't take them to the lake when I only had two of them. I am temperamentally inclined to be too overwhelmed to handle anything, and the cure for this is to be EVEN MORE overwhelmed, and then remove some of the stress. You know that story about the family that is way too crowded and oppressed in their small house, and so they consult the wise woman, who tells them to bring the cow into the house? And the next day they go back to her and they're like, "You know, we don't want to question your wisdom or anything, but actually that's a lot worse." And she says they should now bring the chickens into the house. And this goes on day after day, long after you'd think they would have made the ear-circling finger loops at each other and given her up. They bring in the pigs, and the horse, and the ducks, and now they are seriously in danger of losing their minds: it is crazy-loud, and every piece of furniture has an animal on it, and there is animal poop EVERYWHERE. And she says to them, "Now take all the animals out of the house," and they're all "AHHHHHHhhhh!! That is SO MUCH BETTER! We have so much SPACE! This is so PEACEFUL!"---even though it's the same house that used to feel too small and crazy. That is the kind of treatment I respond well to.
With one child, I can go to a weekly mommy-and-baby class but that is all I have in me. With two children, I can barely manage two trips to the park the whole summer---even though other people are going daily and are also going to museums and the aquarium and on a long car trip. With five children, there is just no way to do anything---but now, everyone else with fewer children agrees with me that there is no way. And then as the five children's age range shifts to 4-12 instead of 0-8, I start feeling like I am getting back some of my tendency to cope. I have taken the cow out of the house, and maybe the horse as well, and I feel invigorated by how much better this is.
This year all five kids are taking swimming lessons at the same time of day, while I sit in the sun with a book. After swimming lessons, we stay for awhile and swim together---something I couldn't have managed last summer. This year, we've done a bunch of fun stuff at the library already: nature/animal demonstrations and crafts and age-group-specific events that require me to drive back and forth several times in an afternoon. This year, the two eldest children can be left at home by themselves for short periods of time, and can be left in charge of a younger or two for short periods of time---which makes all the driving around with selected children so much less of a logistical nightmare. This year, I can hold onto the hands of the youngest child and the dreamier twin, and count on the other three children to be able to stay near me safely even in a parking lot. This year, WE DON'T HAVE TO BRING A DIAPER BAG.
It taxes my patience, and it's not like I've magically changed personality: I still have an easy-come-easy-go temper, and I'm still easily overwhelmed. I still burn through all my attention/alertness energy to keep the three youngest from drowning for forty-five minutes. I still say "Come on come on come on, we're late we're late we're LATE!!" as if we were in danger of catching on fire rather than in danger of being less than 5 minutes early. I still yell, and I still say things like "I am NOT getting ANYTHING for ANY CHILD for the next TEN MINUTES!!!" and the other day I asked them incredulously if they were in fact animals. I have slammed a door, and then had to come out and apologize with the great self-weariness of someone who is apologizing for the same thing for the thousandth time and is looking down the barrel of another thousand times. I have sent the whole batch of them to their rooms because I can't stand to hear another minute of their bickering.
But we are DOING FUN THINGS. I feel like things are POSSIBLE and MANAGEABLE even when they're taxing and tiring. We are getting out of the house, even though I personally would prefer to stay home. We are going places and signing up for things. We are getting home too late for lunch, when everyone's hot and starving and snappish, and it's just fine because it's summer. I've found I am not quite ready to take the five of them to a most-of-the-day event that requires a trip to the big city, or to the lake---but I am CLOSE. Next summer, maybe.
Gift ideas for an 8-year-old, part 2 of 2 - Last week I talked about the gifts we were getting/considering for Edward, who is turning 8 next month. This week it’s Elizabeth’s turn: not “girl gifts,” ...