So it is with great delight that I bring you today's Before I Had Seven Year Old in the words of one of my (and probably your) favorite bloggers: Dwija of House Unseen, Life Unscripted. I've always felt a kinship for Dwija because I imagine we have a similar Catholic conversion story that goes something like: Once upon a time I went to the University of Dallas. She is here today, talking about her parenting early years, and I'm so excited about it. I've already read the whole thing out loud to Jacob.
We're raising 6 kids in our house right now, and by raising I of course mean "mainly trying to keep alive." The age/gender list goes like this: girl, 13; girl, 12; boy, 7; girl, 4; girl, 2; boy 3 months.
It's hard to decide which one of the many biggest differences to note here, but I guess the most important one to me is that I don't feel like it's me fighting a losing battle against a tiny army anymore. I don't feel alone. The loneliness, the mental game of all small kids, is the hardest thing for me. As soon as I started feeling like I had Team Reasonable to combat Team ThrowAFit, life started seeming way more manageable.
This is a really hard question to answer because having my big kids around is SUCH A JOY. I mean...I can't even use words to convey how great it is. But I guess if pressed I would say that having the house to myself or ourselves for many hours every evening is something that doesn't exist anymore. My big girls are awake until 10:30 or so every night, so I can squeeze in maybe an hour of alone quiet time if I want a reasonable amount of sleep and two or three hours if I'm happy to rock the bloodshot eyes the next morning.
Oh girl. I have to take my watch off to answer this one. My transition from being a working mom to being a stay at home mom happened when we had our third baby (you can read more about that mess right here if you want) and it. was. brutal. First of all, it was crazy to go from having two kids, which you can sort of manage with mom and dad vs. teeny and tiny, to having three, which requires "zone defense" or something. I used quotation marks around that phrase because I don't really know what zone defense means except you ain't got enough players on your team and life pretty much sucks. But in HINDSIGHT (capitalized to indicate that everything makes sense in hindsight but you have to survive first in order to get it. Tricky tricky.) the problem was really that I could micro-manage every detail of two peoples' lives, but when a third got added in, all my systems and control freak methods went on the fritz and I was seriously at a loss. How am I going to micromanage and schedule and hover over three people at the same time?!!? I don't have to tell you what the answer to that question was. Anyway, I guess the point is that so often the struggles in my life are rooted in my preferences and demands and not so much in what's actually going on, you know? Once I stopped preferring that the impossible become possible, life got a whole lot more fun.
This is tricky. So much of parenting is tricky. I guess now that I've met so many different kid personalities, I know enough to say that I can't always say how I'll handle them. Some kids you just need to push through. Let them stay in their crib, even if they're playing, for two hours and then go retrieve them and pretend like they had a nap. Some kids won't play, though. Some will scream and scream and scream, and their faces will get red and they kinda start gagging like they're gonna throw up and no, I just....can't leave them alone like that. I gotta go and soothe or help or chat. Give them a drink. Something. Maybe those kids are extroverts with quality time as their love language compounded by their lack of or need for lots and lots of sleep. For that kind of kid, being in a room alone to them might be actually a little terrifying. And before I ramble further, can I say that I hate that I'm writing this? I used to pride myself in ruling with an iron nap fist! But God is clever, as always, and provided me with a couple of lovely opportunities for sympathy and kindness and I got over my obsession with "everybody napping for 2 hours a day every day until the age of 5, no exceptions." I used to say that when I had two kids. I'm glad you didn't know me then.
We hit the jackpot at our current parish. There are so many families there - families with a few kids, families with lots of kids. Older kids, younger kids, adult kids, newborns. But in order to take advantage of that, to become a part of that, I had to push myself out of my learned comfort zone a bit. I wrote a little thang that I called Confessions of a Closet Shy Girl the other day because I really used to not be good at making friends and now I feel like the most friend-blessed person in the world....and it makes life lovely. And I want others to experience that too. Oh, and also - saying "yes." Someone you barely know invites you to a bonfire? Say yes. Someone you just met is organizing an underwater basketweaving seminar? Go. You hear about a St. Martha's Day party with competitive vacuuming on the schedule? Doooooooo iiiiiiiiiit. Even if the thing doesn't turn out to be that fun, you and other people can commiserate about how un-fun that day was and can you believe that's the first day we met? So glad I went to that.
Now here is a bit that doesn't have a question to go with it, but I wanted to share it because it is just so apt. When I first got the email invitation to participate in this series, my son Paul was 6. Since that time he has turned 7 (in August, if you're taking notes) and almost from one day to the next, from age 6 to age 7, he suddenly became so much more helpful. It was really remarkable for me to take note of the transition in light of this discussion. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's still a scatterbrained little boy, and I like it that way. But he can get things and put things away and check on things and be trusted with stuff that just a few months ago I know he wouldn't have been able or willing to do. He made the leap from "little kid" to "big kid" seemingly overnight, and I am so grateful.
Thank you SO SO much to Dwija for participating in Before I Had a Seven Year Old! Head here to read the other posts in the series!