The Different Faces of Mischief

The children all seem to pass through some mischief phase or another. With all our children, one right after the other, I would have thought that Wife and I would be able to correct any misbehavior almost before it happens. Well, it so happens that while all the children fall into the same patterns, they, very cleverly, find very different way to execute them.

One little face.

One little face.

Wife, now seven and a half months pregnant, waddled out to the porch like a penguin in high-gear. The screams that modulated between annoyance and terror, all stemming from the miniature lungs or #8, were the cause for Wife’s swift pace. And when she burst through the screen door, she was met with a sight that sent her temper up to match her quickening stride. The fourteen month-old, #8, was pinned down by his two year-old brother, #7, who was attempting to run over #8 with a big-wheel.

Another little face

Another little face

Like an avenging angel, Wife swooped in and with a blur of motion had #7 by the scruff of his shirt. He looked up with an expression of horrified amazement, as if to say, “Where on earth did you come from?” But after that he had no time for conscious thought, for he was caught in the whirlwind of his mother’s wrath; and before he knew what happened, he was whisked away in a tornado of arms and legs and left nearly spinning on his bed with the strict command to, “THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU DID!”

GET OUT OF THE WAY!

GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Wife then lifted up and comforted #8, and as he laid his head on her shoulder she turned and notice #5 and #6 for the first time. #5 piped up, “We saw him runnin’ over the baby, we saw him!” And next to his brother, #6 was nodding his head. It would have been better if he had said nothing.

Wife’s motherly instincts became indignant, and her flash-powder-temper had already been ignited. “Then why didn’t you stop HIM!”

At that point, the National Weather Service satellites recorded a second tornado blowing through my house which has taken hold of two little boys.

Here I must stop my wit for a brief moment and declare a wisdom that I had previously overlooked. The children’s bedrooms consist of bunk beds, sheets, and pillows. No toys. No books. No stuffed animals. All Wife’s design. Which means, when children are sent to bed, they have nothing to do but sit in bed… and start the crying that always accompanies discipline.

When I got home at the end of the day, all three boys were still in their beds, fast asleep, some four hours later. And bed-time-out worked. I know now #7 learned that #8 is not a speed-bump, for he has not tried to ride over him again. On the other hand, #8 keeps his distance when #7 in on his big-wheel. And #5 and #6 have learned that they are their “brothers’ keepers,” or at least they plead ignorance after the fact…

The Refrigerator-Sense

I found a regular pattern occurs when I walk to the refrigerator; I turn to find #6 silently standing before me, holding up an empty cup (or bottle at bedtime) with a single question on his little lips, “Jooos?”

I am starting to believe that he has a “refrigerator-sense” in his little head. Or perhaps he has a tripwire that sends a signal specifically engineered for his ears alone. Whatever the case may be, no matter where he is in the house, when the refrigerator door closes there he is, “Jooos?”cupboard

There have been times when I have gone to the fridge for something only to find #6 at my feet and the rest of my brood at his heels. They wait, using their younger brother as a lighting rod to see whether it is safe for them to ask for juice as well. If I do answer in the affirmative I am immediately rushed by the younger children while the older ones wait at a discrete distance. They have learned not overwhelm their parents if they are to receive their share of juice.

And even in the early morning Jooosbefore I leave for work I have been greeted by the little footsteps of #6 and his usual question, “Jooos?” Sometimes he greets me with the bottle he went to bed with, while at other times he presents the bottle half filled with milk that we have been missing for two weeks.

I have also known him to try to head me off. I come into the kitchen to find him standing among the contents that was once within the small cupboard filled with the plastic cups and bottles. It seems that the cup he was after was at the back of the cupboard. “Jooos?”cups on the floor

Plastic Superhero

Superman, Thor, George Washington, Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and dad are some of the greatest heroes of all time. Admit it; even you thought your dad was the toughest guy around at one time, able to lift impossible weights and solve any problem. Now I find myself in the same role.

Often, while watching an adventure film, the hero will perform some incredible act of heroism, and like clockwork, one of the children would ask, “Can you do that, Dad?” and the rest would turn their little heads to hear my answer. That is a lot of pressure to put on one man, and it multiplies with every child’s glowing eyes.

At times I feel a man in a costume, a look-alike, or a plastic superhero capable of no more than that of a dresser drawer. Gray hairs, I am turning gray not from the stress of day-to-day life, but from enormous amount of expectations heaped on my shoulders by my very own children. Adults have the experience to understand that one cannot do everything. My children have not yet learned that life lesson. I have trouble teaching that to them, so I end up in an endless circle attempting to not disappoint them. I have become a “sometimes hero,” or a “maybe hero.”

Plastic SuperheroWhen #2 sees Batman beating up a villain and asks, “Can you do that?’ And I respond, “Maybe.”

When #4 sees Barbie rescued by the prince she asks, “Have you done that?” To which I respond, “Sometimes.”

Yet as the children mature, so do their questions. After watching a film in which the hero spends ten years trying to get back home to his wife, #1 asked me, “Daddy, would you spend ten years to come back to Mommy?”

And that was one that I could certainly say, “Yes, I would.”

I suppose there is hope for me yet. As long as all the children mature slowly, I think the transition will be tolerable. If the kids turn out to be smart, I should fade in their eyes from Superman to a wise man, to whom they should always listen to. Well, here’s hoping; but now I need to go and stop the moon from falling out of the sky. “Be right there kids.”

Giving Thanks

In thinking about this week’s post I could write about the many blessings I am thankful for. I could talk about the abundant gratefulness I owe to our Lord Jesus. I could list all the people, starting with my mother and ending with my wife, whom I am thankful to. Or, I could name all the ways I am appreciative of my beloved Wife.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day, I will do none of the above. Instead, I shall recall what my children were most thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, the gift of staying up really, really late. Allow me to elaborate… as if you didn’t see that coming.

The night was young after a long day of hearty meals and energetic games. After spending the day at the family park with grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunts, great-uncles and great-aunts, cousins and second cousins and cousins once removed… and if you feel a little tired after reading all that, you understand just how I felt. So tell me why, oh why did the children not feel that exhaustion?

Maybe they found their renewed energy in the catnap they took on the drive over to my in-laws. Maybe they were flying high as kites on pumpkin bread. Whether naps or carbohydrates, these loving little faces would not tire out. Believe me, I asked them repeatedly.

If I were to be honest, I was tired after the first Thanksgiving Day meal, but the second one put me right over the edge to nodding off (which can be quite rude depending on who I could be talking to). I know the kids ate the same meals I did. Between myself and my children I think we ate an entire turkey that day. But I was struggling to stay awake, while the kids would not sleep… I believe out of sheer will power.

I know #6 needed to sleep desperately; he just did not know it or flat refused to acknowledge it. He fussed and cried, but just try to lay him down… no luck. Every time I thought he was asleep, two minutes later I learned he was just faking me out. The boy should be an actor. I played musical beds with him half the evening while Wife, who was visiting with her parents and siblings, kept telling me, “Don’t worry about him. He’ll go to sleep when he’s ready.”

Well, he might go to sleep when he’s ready, BUT I’M READY RIGHT NOW! And like a good husband, I said nothing and finally surrendered to let #6 curl up in my lap. In the end, he put me to sleep, and Wife put us both to bed. I guess she was right in the end.

To close, I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving and remembered all the gifts you are thankful for. Unlike the pilgrims, we no longer need Indians to save us from starvation. However, I sure could have used someone to save me from my own children’s late night endurance.

Cruise Baby

Throughout the years of our marriage, Wife and I have heard countless people comment on how hard it must be to raise so many children. Their expressions vary. In some faces I have seen a fearful expression as if we were sleeping in a bed of snakes and adding to the number all the time; while others seem to look on us as if we were running some kind of prison camp. There are plenty of folks who are encouraging though. But whether pro or con, terror or pity, nine times out of ten, our family is met with a gasp.

So I thought I would say something to set the record straight and perhaps more understanding will be gained. Either that or you might call me an outright liar. Ready? Here we go.

As I see it, with one child I could conceive the ease of the task. After all, the parents have a two to one ratio with the kid. In that case we had the upper hand. It was also possible to gang-up on the child.

With two children, the odds were even, but we still had a fighting chance. I could take on the first while Wife took on the second. Or at the very least, their mother could keep a hold of both children at the same time.

Three was the hardest. For the first time we the parents found ourselves outnumbered. If the children scattered, there was always the possibility that one could get away clean. I found it not unlike squeezing putty in my fist, the tighter I squeezed, the more splooged from between my fingers. And worse, the children were too young to entertain themselves, or more importantly, each other!

But the fourth child, oh the fourth is the cruise baby. At baby number four our first was then old enough to be a big help with the other two children. Momma finally got her little helper. #1 quickly went from go-for (go for a diaper, go for a blanket, go for your sister) to a real honest-to-goodness holder (hold the diaper bag, hold the purse, hold the baby) and she could accomplish her tasks with real enviable zeal.

From then on the rest of the kids were gravy. Everyone does their share to help, and with children the rule truly is “to each according to their abilities.” For example, the other night I was watching the children while Wife was at a baby shower. When she drove into the driveway, #3 was the first to spot her and alerted the rest of us. Immediately #4 joined #3 at the window aggressively watching their mother park the van. #2 did not move from her spot on the couch watching the movie. #5 and #6 were suspiciously missing. In the meantime, before Wife could open the front door, #1 completely cleared off the dining table. See, “to each according to their abilities.”

I hope this has cleared the air now.

And for those who are teetering on the edge of insanity with three children and can’t take any more, I offer my unsolicited advice. Take the plunge, the water is not as cold as you have been told, or maybe you just get used to it. Either way, I give you permission. Have yourself a fourth, have your cruise baby, and above all enjoy.

Baby Blankets

It seems to me that parents who have a small family must miss out on much of the evolution of parenting. For instance, the receiving blanket; with the first two children Wife always had fresh blankets in her diaper bag, in her purse, in the car, at her mother’s house, in my mother’s house, in her jacket pocket, and sometimes even in my back-pocket (got very uncomfortable to sit down). When the child spat-up on a blanket, it was swiftly whisked away and a new one took its place with such speed and precision that bystanders were shocked and amazed. The washing machine was constantly rumbling with receiving blankets tumbling inside. Our laundry line was a fluttering white and pink flag.

However with time, and a few more children, the inevitable reality of laundry set in, it had to stop! Sometime between the third and fourth child Wife and I discovered that the blanket had two sides, and four corners. And with an origami like skill known only to the learned parent, we could reuse a single receiving blanket up to… umpteen times. The laundry decreased.

Now, whatever is clean and at hand becomes a spit-up-rag. We have gotten so used to baby messes that we hardly even notice them any more. The other day I was burping the baby and he spat-up all over my shoulder, down my back, and onto the carpet. I had hardly begun looking for something to clean myself up with before Wife swooped in from nowhere. She was armed not with a receiving blanket, nor a towel, or even a clean t-shirt, but with baby-wipes. In no time at all both baby #7 and myself were all clean.

So that’s where we’ve gone to. From freshly pressed receiving blankets to the mom’s “clean-all” baby-wipes. I wonder what will happen next.