For the love of all that is holy, what saint came up with the horrible idea of giving out toys to children in Mass!Continue reading
We never had a nursery. Wife wouldn’t have been able to stomach putting the baby in another room anyway. The night #1 was born; she cradled her baby throughout the night, never letting her so much as brush the bed. I don’t think the baby learned what bed sheets were for about a week. As #2 and #3 came into the bed, they stayed in the bed; and I found myself creeping ever closer to the edge. I might have begun to wonder if Wife was pushing me out, but I was sure that “nurseries” were fables out of England and Disney films. So I happily hugged the edge of the bed while #2 kicked me in the back.
When #4 arrived our housing had changed and the two eldest moved into their own room, where #3 would visit on occasion. Suddenly I had all kinds of room on my side of the bed. I was able to stretch out; then #4 turned sideways.
We slowly converted rooms into bedrooms. We thought that that the best rooming arrangement was to bed them in pairs. The older girls were in one room with their younger sisters next door. Then we tried a trial with one older and a younger per room, but they all seemed to end up in one room. I take that back, they almost always seem to leave one behind, often soaking her pillow with tears. For our children, who are practically one right on top of another, solitude is frightening.
By the time Wife had #7 we had added another bedroom. That was unfortunately my office; the sacrifices of a growing family. #5 and #6 were set together in the new room. It was an unmitigated disaster. They were too young to put alone together. Either they slept with #1, or wandered into our bed, or split forces, or simply cried until a parent slept with them. All the while the girls kept up their game of “guess who’s sleeping where.”
It took awhile, but we finally figured it out, or to be more precise, Wife had had enough! The bed-swapping and children left behind had to stop. When #8 was about six months old, I came home and was surprised to see that Wife had followed through with her threats. She had moved them all into one bedroom. The smaller dresser was in the hall, and the boys’ bedroom was carpeted with a pair of double mattresses beside the boys’ bed. Problem fixed! All I had to do was set up the bunk beds; no small task, but hey, if she can birth them then the least I can do is give them proper beds.
We’ve discovered an unintended consequence though. When mixing children together, be careful of the ratios, and more importantly the quantity… there will be a reaction. Unfortunately not the reaction I wanted. I hoped for fumes that would render the children sleepy for twelve hours. Instead they were stimulated. Feeding energy directly into one another, I now have a room full of active children captured under blankets. As a side effect, I have less energy than ever.
And as the saying goes, “When the cat’s away, the mice will…” oh never mind. I’m going to bed.
With a large family, we never truly leave any of the growing stages behind us. We have always had one to three children in diapers. As soon as one is potty trained, the next is ready to start. We are yet to be without the terrible-twos. And we just can’t wait for high school.
So, as soon as #6 learned to stop emptying the cupboards, #7 was hot on his heels with a vengeance. This toddler would empty out the plastic cups in the time it would take a normal person to turn around. Wait, it gets better. #7 in a misguided attempt to help or with malicious intent, takes the clean cups and plates and throws them away, yes into the trashcan.
Wife and I now have the household searching the trash before we throw anything away. And when I approach #7 about the matter, he only laughs. He just won’t talk reasonably. When Wife lifted him out of his mess making operation, his eyes rose to upper cupboards with a grin as if to say, “So that’s where you hide the good things.”
His little grin just about touched either ear as he set his charms to work. When I pointed at the mess, he giggled and pointed at the stove. When I scolded him for his inattention, he buried his face into Wife’s shoulder with a loving hug.
I am more than a little concerned that the boy is perfecting planned distractions. Out of a blue sky he started a gut wrenching belly laugh that soon had the rest of the children laughing along with him. Wife and I were at a loss as to what the cause could be, and as we search the room for what could be so funny, the incident was forgotten. In other words, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you #7 with his smoke and mirrors.”
It is considered polite when at an amusement park, and the ride shuts down, to inform the people behind you that the ride is inoperable and there is no further reason to stand in an unmoving line. I also consider this a good rule of thumb for any line one might be waiting in. My children however seem to have a hard time with that idea.
Here’s an example; as I am minding my own business I am approached by #1. “Daddy, daddy, can we watch a movie? I can turn on the TV.”
The day was fine out and I inform the little girl that I want them to play outside. She left me only a bit dejected.
But in no time I am approached by #2. “Hey… can we watch Netflix?”
“No, I want you kids to go outside right now,” I answered.
#2 skipped away as if watching a film wasn’t her idea in the first place.
As I returned to my task I spied #3 peering around the doorjamb suspiciously. “What do you want little one?”
She mumbled something inaudible.
“What was that?”
“Speak up, little girl.”
Her mumbling got quieter.
“Can’t hear you!”
#3 takes a deep, irritated breath, and I still could not hear her.
“I don’t know what you want, but go play outside,” I finally exclaimed.
Suddenly, I could hear her whining something about “only wanting to see a movie.”
While shaking my head, I turned back to my chore, and hear the loud steps of #4 approaching. I turned on her like a bear. “Are you going to ask me to watch a movie?” Her jaw dropped as if the words were physically yanked out of her mouth. “Out! Go outside with your sisters!” I shouted with my arm pointing in the wrong direction.
As #4 hurried out of the room, #5 trotted in as if on queue. I stared at him unbelieving that he had not heard me speaking to his sister, and on hearing his request I was amazed to find that he had not been listening to our conversation.
Well, perhaps I should have been more patient, but five in a row would strain the patience of a saint. And like a poor overworked amusement park employee, tired of being asked if the ride was open while a “closed” sign hung behind him, I threw everyone outside and slammed the door, hoping against hope that I might finish what I was doing. And again like an amusement park employee, I could not remember what that was.
It never ceases to amaze me just how differently children see the world. As if our eyes evolve over the ten or so years into something close to reality. Either what they see doesn’t exist, or what you want them to see, they can’t; as though we see in color while they see in ultraviolet.
We can be looking at the exact same cage at the zoo and my little ones just can’t find the gorillas, but they see the blue jay up in the tree or they freak-out at the spider in the bars. Any parent knows what I’m writing about, or if not you will in good time.
Here’s another, #2 just got a puppy, and the puppy and his poop are her responsibility. Now when I found puppy poop in the front room I gently informed her to “CLEAN IT UP!!!!” Then for some reason the flustered child was unable to locate said poop. After what seemed to me a reasonable time of pointing it out, I nearly had to put her nose in it.
And it’s the same when they clean their rooms. “Mommy, it’s clean!”
Wife doesn’t even have to poke her head in. “No it’s not! Look, there’re toys there and there, and what about all the dirty laundry? Do you see it?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
At times like that I even wonder if we are speaking the same language.
However, I do see something in their eyes that makes me remember magic. When I’m holding the baby and he is looking into empty space with amazement and wonder written all over his face and my mother says, “Oh, he’s looking at the angels.” I speculate if he really is.
When the #4 is tracing out with her eyes the lines in rocks, I am curious if she can see something in the granite that eludes me.
When I see all the children huddled up on a bolder watching the same sunset they have seen all their lives, I wonder what I am missing.
Too often I think we adults are sucked into “reality” and loose out on the beautiful world God gave us. I find my mind crowded with taxes, phone bills, credit card bills, and grocery bills. I get so caught up in the rat-race I almost forget the green leaves, the blue skies, and deep waters. But God has blessed me, for always before my eyes are the ever present smiles of my children, and in my ears is their never ending laughter.
We all seem to loose reality now again. Sometimes me, and sometime my children.
I stood in shocked silence as the scene played out before me. Don’t worry, no one was hurt or damaged. Instead I witnessed #3 brought to tears as #1 performed the chore of #3.
It all started when Wife and I were in our bedroom conversing. I foolishly began to lead the conversation. In only a couple of sentences I had Wife gagging on some idea that apparently did not agree with her pregnant state.
She called out for #3 to bring her a glass of water… as she felt my water from last night was unsuitable for the purpose.
Unknown to Wife, #3 had her head in the sink brushing her teeth. #1, observing her sister was occupied, jumped into action and got the water for her mother.
Now that was when the problem started. #3 caught her sister half way. “AAAA! I wooor ga do dat!” she mumbled through a thick froth of toothpaste and the toothbrush still in her mouth.
“I’ve got it,” replied #1. “I’ve got it!” thrusting out her right hand to ward off her oncoming sister.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” shouted #3 grasping for the glass while at the same time carefully avoided dripping the white froth that circled her mouth. She knew she would be in trouble with her mother if she dripped toothpaste on the carpet.
“Honey, I didn’t know you were brushing your teeth,” Wife piped in. “Go finish brushing. She’s already brought it to me.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” #3 stomped back to the bathroom in a flurry of blonde hair. A couple of rooms over I heard the bathroom door slam and bounce back open (the latch is broken.)
I had no idea what to do. Before me was a child who was absolutely offended that someone else did her work. It is true that Wife and I have attempted to instill a good work ethic in our children. We only want them to perform any task they undertake to the best possible outcome of their abilities. I suppose that this outburst is a proof that at least #3 has taken our lessons to heart.
I mean, I knew we were good, but I had no idea we were that good.
What walks on four legs, then walks on two legs, and finally walks on three legs?
The answer, as everyone well knows, is a man.
I open with this whimsical riddle because my children find the transition between legs very frustrating. We can always tell when a child is about to crawl due to its disagreeable temper. And again, right before the child starts to walk (or run, in some cases).
#7 is going through the change right now. Though he crawls all over the place like a weasel, his pent up frustration bursts forth when he finds himself left behind by his siblings. You see, he understands just how the world rotates… around him. But he also seems to understand that he can’t keep up with the world and its rotations. Thus his outrage is made known.
From a more practical standpoint, the next step our little boy will take will be… a step. But until then, he is still asserting his authority of gravity. By that I mean he demands to be held by his mother or sisters at any opportunity to prove without a doubt that gravity has no hold on him. We haven’t yet told him, but when the new baby comes gravity will in turn begin to assert itself.
They have all been like that, fussy until they can crawl, and fussy until they can walk. After they can walk, they find less important things to fuss over. Possessing the slew of children that we do, we have a good idea of what to expect.
On a side note, #7 is quite nearly crab-walking against the couch. He can at least work his way into arms reach of his mother. For all you young parents out there, do not leave your baby to crab-walk on top of the couch, as it ends the baby often does not.
Imagine a gigantic mountain of golden sand, the finest of grains tumbling between your toes. A rolling sandy slide on the other side promising to fill your shorts up. The treasures hidden just beneath the surface if you only dig down far enough. The clean grains that fall right off you and don’t stick to your hands like clay or mud. The fresh smell that a pile of sand gives off after it has been recently turned. On top of the artificial hill you feel like you are on top of world itself. You can now imagine what my children feel like.
Now imagine all your children engaged in a free-for-all brawl on top a pile of unstable dirt complete with rocks and all kinds of unsavory subterranean insects. Multiple blonde heads have transformed into chestnut brown. Their little faces are sporting raccoon-rings around their eyes. There is dirt in pants, dirt in diapers, and dirt in eyes. You have lumps on heads from rocks, scraped knees from rocks, and stubbed toes from rocks. You have a crying baby, weeping children, and all around mayhem. You can now imagine what Wife feels like.
Imagine now a bathtub full of dirty, giggling children all splashing each other while desperately avoiding their mother as she makes the shampoo rounds. There are children scrubbing, squirming, splashing, as well as screeching, squealing, screaming. Wife is scolding one for splashing water out of the tub at the same moment as she vigorously shampoos out all of the dirt that was dumped into the hair of the younger sibling. The children are dried, dressed, and sent to bed. And on the way to bed I hear one child say to another, “Tomorrow, lets play in the sand pile again.” There is agreement all around. You can now imagine what a warm spring evening feels like in our home.
Truth be told, if not for Wife, the children would not get bathed.
In the dead of night I rolled over with a dry throat, groping in the dark for my glass of water. I grabbed a hand full of air several times before realizing it was not there. My bedside lamp was switched on and my suspicions were verified; the glass was missing. So I walked to my bathroom sink under the impression that I left my glass there at bedtime. I found the sink conspicuously clean. I was forced to get a new glass.
As I walked by the girls’ bedrooms I turned a bleary eye onto the first pair of sleeping girls, and then the second; they were the cause of my missing glass of water. Those little innocent sleeping faces hidden under tangles of blonde hair did not fool me. I knew what they really were, highly trained operatives of their mother; skilled in the arts of house cleaning with a specialty in cleaning up behind their father.
At one moment I am finishing my meal, and the next my plate has been whisked away before I have a chance to dish up a second helping. I am (by necessity) very possessive of my dishes, shooing off the girls from my place while Wife has them loading the dishwasher. Unfortunately I rarely watch out for my glass of water at my bedside.
Wife is a stern commander of our children who puts up with absolutely no excuses; as evidence of the girls near perfect execution of their expected tasks. Her highly effective regiment produces only the finest of young ladies. These miniature homemakers make the seemingly impossible task of seven children a remarkably light load. I speak from experience, “many hands make for light work.”
Anyway, #4 was uncovered, and so was #1 in the next room. I pulled their blankets back over them before turning to the kitchen for a clean glass. I refreshed myself and placed the empty glass on my headboard with the hopes that they miss it on their next dish sweeping exercise.
It amazes me how children usually walk with their eyes downcast, watching for trips and pitfalls. They should walk with their eyes elevated, watching out for table corners and the legs of their elders. While a misstep may land a child on its face, causing the misstep of an adult may land the adult on the child. My children seem to have forgotten that they are in the land of giants.
I would think that #5 would see my massive boots and avoid them. He instead plays a dangerous game of hopscotch to stay only one step ahead of or behind them. Please be aware, I mean one of his steps, not one of mine. Poor planning. Granted, there are times in which he can bob and weave around my legs with the dexterity of a cat; while other times he has the slow wits of a bumbling dog who finds a way to nail both legs, one right after the other.
#6 likes to run the same route that I am currently walking with one exception; he takes the route just in front of me. That again is poor planning. See, his legs are about one fifth of mine. So unless he is at a dead run I tend to out pace him rather quickly. And when I shout at him to “Move!” he receives a telepathic message as to exactly where I am going next so he can correct his course to be there in front of me. The result is a slightly flatter little boy.
And the little boys are not the only children who end up under foot. No, the girls were just as bad. They would hang onto their parents’ knees without announcing themselves. Stand hidden under Wife’s pregnant belly. Sneak behind me in a most uncharacteristic silence. And in all cases find their toes stepped on.
I think we all look forward to the day in which they can join this land of giants in equal stature.