N and R came back from my in-laws’ house on Sunday evening. Within half an hour we were all bustling around the kitchen, baking goodies for the Ve’ahavta van again. There I stood in the middle of the room as kids passed measuring cups back and forth, flour flew out of the mixer, and everybody talked at once; and I was loving every minute of it.
Mr. December, on the other hand, looked like he wanted to run and hide. Later that night he moaned, “It was so much easier with just two of them!”
I laughed. “Aren’t you the guy who keeps saying he wouldn’t have minded having a fifth kid?”
“Well yeah, but we could still send a few to the grandparents sometimes.”
Yesterday afternoon I took the kids shopping for clothes, which they all professed to need. We headed to Value Village where we found such fabulous deals as leggings for $1.99 and some really comfortable shorts for $4.99. Being a thrift store, Value Village is my compromise between my cheapness (I do not want to drop $20 or more on a pair of jeans for my kid!) and my desire to boycott Chinese products (a near impossibility, I know, and hypocritical given my love of my new kayaks, which are made in China.) I’ve also sold the kids on the thrift store concept, since they get to buy books of their choice ($1.99 each) and occasionally find unique clothes that you can’t buy at the mall. It doesn’t hurt that I’m likely to allow them to get pretty much any clothes or books they like because it’s just so cheap.
There I was, with four kids, still absolutely loving having them all together again. R helped N find fuzzy pyjama pants, K scored some really nice Lululemon tops (I’m not brand conscious for fashion reasons, but Lululemon’s stuff lasts forever. I still can’t justify getting rid of my wide-legged yoga pants, because they look and feel so darn good!) and I found some comfy shorts. At one point N and R took E to the book section while K and I browsed. It was a bit busy, and a bit chaotic, and once again I revelled in it.
I’m starting to realize that crowd management is one of my parenting strengths. It’s a skill that served me well when I was a camp counsellor and then a trip leader for Birthright Israel. I do periodic head counts automatically, announce our plan clearly at the outset, and herd everyone in the right direction. I can also speak very loudly without shouting, a skill I’m sure my fellow singers share.
My camp counsellor persona serves me very well when we’re out and about, and usually less so at home. When we’re out, I can field questions from three different directions. At home I get overwhelmed just from two kids talking at the same time. I have no idea why. Maybe I’m just not in the same frame of mind when I’m at home, because I don’t have to be.
As I type this, the younger three kids are building a fort together out of foam puzzle mats. They’re not finished their school work, but I’m loathe to interrupt them. I can hear them negotiating, planning, problem solving, and creating. Even better, they’re working together and cooperating (not always a given around here.) That’s why I’m waiting for the game to reach its natural conclusion before dragging them back to their workbooks.
Just after I wrote the above, K walked in from hanging out at the park with two neighbourhood friends.
“WHO WANTS TO GO TO THE PARK AND PLAY ‘THE FLOOR IS LAVA’ WITH ME?” She bellowed (K has definitely inherited my natural facility with crowds.)
N, R, and E clamoured to join her. They filled their water bottles, put on their shoes, and ran off to the park; all four of my kids, together, with no adult. They walked and skipped, chattering amongst themselves like the group of squirrels near our back porch. The older kids watched out for E, asking her to walk ahead of them so they could see her. I love that I have four of them. I love the craziness, the chaos, the noise (most of the time; I’m neither a saint nor deaf), the fact that they’re a little tribe unto themselves. I am so profoundly thankful for my big family.
I’m also profoundly thankful that they’re out of the house for the next hour or so. Maybe now I can get some work done.