Anyone who is familiar with large families would understand the necessity of counting children like a banker counting dollars in the vault. In that case, anyone who has visited a large family would respect the time honored tradition of lining children up like convicts to count and verify that they were all accounted for. We have not left a child behind… yet. Nor have we accidentally traded one. But, like the onset of nuclear war, we do our best to guard against it.
When we had only four or five children, Wife began the practice of “Sounding-Off.” A simple exercise when seen. Wife or I call out, “Sound-Off!” and the children respond in age order.
And you get the picture. For the youngest two or three, an older helpful girl would confirm their presence. Our system worked fairly well, until more than child decided to be helpful.
Looking back, I could see the problem develop like an infestation of mice. There were tell-tail signs. You know what I mean… with the children that is, not the mice.
When we called out, “Sound-Off!” we began to hear more than one child call out the number of their younger sibling. At first, it was no more than an echo of one another. Gradually, it grew into a competition with one another. And before we knew it, we had children calling out siblings’ numbers like a game of Bingo.
“7! Ummm 8!”
“5, no 9!”
“10! Mom 10 is here!”
“No! I already said 10!”
“Everybody be quiet! Where is #8?”
Like mice darting across the floor in broad day light, it was out of control.
Wife and I looked at each other as the van erupted into the chaos of a forest fire. It took almost five minutes to settle everyone down and sort out exactly who was in the van and who was not… #8 was not in the van.
I really had to marvel at how the children could take such a good idea and stop it from accompishing what it was intended to accomplish.