I have determined that five kids really isn’t that hard.
Unless they are all crabby. Or all tired. Or all coping with major adjustments: two who’ve been removed from their homes and who are stressing over things like, “does anyone here love me best, and is any of this stuff mine?” And one who is coping with, “Holy freaking cow, these people are trying to take over my mother and do not seem to understand that she is my exclusive property! As are my toy cars! And my stroller! And my shirt that I outgrew a year ago! And EVERYTHING! Dibs! Dibs! DIBS!”
Both types of freak outs really are pretty reasonable, when you consider the enormous level of change all three are trying to wrap their heads around. I am trying to be understanding and compassionate. In the end though, it really seems to boil down to “Suck it up, buttercup! Mommy has two hands, two ears that can barely keep track of one well articulated conversation clearly, and only so much patience. Mess with me once and I’m pretty nice. Persist, and find yourself spending a lot of quality time in time out.”
I have felt like a jerk this past week, not because I am being a jerk, but because I have three small children ages four, three and eighteen months, all testing out the new boundaries at the same time. And when that happens to you, you either permit yourself to be run over by their Mac truck-like resolve, or you become
I have one kid who I refer to as The Informer. She keeps me abreast of every (and I do mean every) single thing going in the house. We have discussed what is tattling so often at this point that I have actually heard her muttering to herself as she walks through the house, “only if there’s blood or something is very hurt,” almost like a mantra to keep herself on the strait and narrow. This only works about twenty percent of the time, but that is twenty percent more than two weeks ago when she would (no joke) stand next to me viewing a situation that we were both seeing, and then turn to me to tattle on what she knows I just saw. She has also really slowed down the preemptive tattling, such as, “I think Gabe’s gonna hurt my brother”, even when Gabe is doing absolutely nothing and her baby bro isn’t even in the same room.
This is the same child who will deliberately pick a fight and do everything possible to make someone else really want to hit her, just so she can run to you and tattle when they do. Instigation is her middle name, and she can walk away smiling sweetly or sobbing with theatrical aplomb, based on what she feels the situation calls for. How do I know she’s not legitimately upset? Because I have eyes in the back of my head! Duh.
I’m not sure what to call the next kid- I can’t seem to find a succinct way to express the remarkably low tolerance for anything challenging his principles, iron clad will power, and sheer grit embodied in one size 3T kid. If you want complete candor, I should just say He’s My Kid, and inarticulateness aside, He Takes After His
Stubborn As A Mule Mother. These qualities are mostly useful, unless you are a three year old with a very age appropriate inability to filter your emotions. It is also not helpful when you choose to unleash your extraordinary doggedness on very ordinary annoyances that mete a considerably more tempered approach.
This is the kid who screamed at me for a half a mile while we were on a relaxing walk around a lake because I had the audacity to put another child in the stroller formerly known as his. This is the kid who had to have a turn, however short, being pushed (all thirty-eight pounds) in said stroller while the one year old old who moves at the pace of a distracted slug lumbered along behind us for about ten yards. Once the principle of the matter was addressed, and he had had his pithy ride, he was totally cool with having his turn over and resuming his normal three and a half year old activities.
This is also the kid who inspired me to buy a new eighty-seven cent Hotwheels car to add to the other fifty that he lugs around all day in an old ice cream bucket, because, in his mind, even the suggestion of sharing one of his very sacred cars is tantamount to blasphemy. He keeps perfect track of this new car, the blue one with the silver blower and flames painted up the hood, so whenever the one year old feels he would like to play cars as well, he can hand him the car specifically purchased for this occasion. I. Kid. You. Not.
That brings us to the little guy. This is one tenderhearted little kid. So tender, in fact, that all you have to do is look less than ecstatic in his general direction, and the head goes down to the floor, the bum goes up in the air and the tears start flowing. He literally crumples. You can cheerfully say the word no, in any context and he is upside down in an instant. Try legitimate disapproval, like, “We do not play in the potty kiddo,” and he completely falls to pieces. The good thing is that it never lasts long- the tears leave as fast as they came, and although there are moments where he is legitimately in need of a good cuddle, which he gets, I’m thinking that he has learned to use these waterworks to his advantage, so I’ve started just ignoring it and he rarely caterwauls for more than six seconds. I’m getting used to this little siren going off on regular intervals throughout my days.
Mostly, I think this guy is just sad, and sometimes angry. It is understandable. He tries to lay claim to me (at the same time as four other kids) and feels very lonely when he can’t have a mom who just loves him best of all. The other day I gave him some snuggles and hugs for a minute, and then he happily maneuvered so he was no longer in my arms and could go play. Gabe happened to walk in at that moment and ran up to me to get a hug. Out of the corner of my eye I watched this little guy observe that hug and his head dropped down to his chest, tears filled his eyes, and I have never seen such a little kid look so dejected and lost in my whole life. Gabe ran off as quickly as he came, and I tried to pick up him and cuddle him, but he just sat on my lap, clearly unsatisfied. For once he didn’t cry; he just sat in stoic silence and wouldn’t be comforted. You really can’t replace a mother.
And how about the rest of us? We’re doing pretty well. I make it through the day, and Chris picks up the pieces at night. Maggie and Jonas are lost in their worlds of school, and happy to be affectionate and helpful with the littles when they are home. Every day things get a little more cohesive. A few more weeks and it will probably feel like we’ve been doing this all along. For now, I’m just trying to keep up and enjoy whatever quiet God grants me.