Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Dwija of House Unseen

17 September 2014

It's 7:15am. Jacob is currently making baked oatmeal muffins while watching both children, so I can get this post up. I'm perched on our bed - strategically missing the pee spot that our little cosleeping angel left us last night. Jake is yelling (he is a MORNING person) about the day's discoveries (BAKING POWDER IS FOR BAKING!!!!!) And I'm once again musing about how parenting is the most fun and the most trying thing I've ever done.

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.

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
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.
What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
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.
What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
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.
What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
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.
How do you conquer nap strikes?
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.
How did you build community for yourself and for your family?
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.

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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.

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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!

18 comments :

  1. lol...my oldest is 18 now, and I am NEVER ALONE. Someone is always awake. Also, I never considered myself a control freak, but nothing will test you like letting your teenager do your laundry. I mean. Come on. It's not rocket science. Can't you see that the way I put away pajamas is the BEST and ONLY way!!! On the plus side...hey, someone is doing laundry....

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  2. Hi Kate and Dwija! I just discovered your blog Kate and really love it. This is a great series! I can relate to so much of what Dwija says (been reading your blog for awhile Dwija.) I have 6 kids as well ranging from 14-10 months. The help and companionship is so great as the kids get older, not to mention I can easily sway someone to have a dance party with me when I am in the mood. And the music is so much better than it used to be :)

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  3. After a particularly trying day of potty training, I re-read all of these posts in bathtub. Thanks for putting this together, Kate!

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  4. Ok, Dweej, knowing you in person and watching you with your clan, I have to tell you, I think about you and your words of wisdom all the time. When I am struggling with two littles and one on the way, I think back to many things you have wisdomed upon me since we've met. I bet you don't even know how smart you are. But, it's just the way you go about life. And I am so thankful you are in mine xxoo

    Also, where can I sign up for this underwater basketweaving seminar?

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    Replies
    1. It's been toooooooo long. Let's get together soon, okay? Big puffy heart love you and your fabulous fam, Jdawg. I call you that now, just fyi.

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  5. Aren't big kids fun? I love my teenagers. Really. And I laughed about the "alone" part. Most nights - WE are in bed before them.

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  6. I love this series, Kate. I am newish to the other side of having-a-7-year-old (or in having more older kids than itty bitty kids at least), and it is life-changing. I really love that you are running this series because there was a time when I could. Not. Imagine what life would be like when I wasn't completely overrun by tiny humans. I'm sure there are so many mores who will benefit from this comraderie and support.

    Dwija, your interview style is, simply put, fantastic. And thank you for sharing your beautiful family and sage advice with us all.

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  7. Dwija, thanks for this! My son is exactly one year younger than yours, and 5 was his sweet-spot. He is still such a light and love, but 6 (like, 1 month in, barely) is proving much more argumentative and...hard. (Really it's that his sister is hard and we had such a coasting year with him that now that they are both presenting issues at times, plus the 3rd almost here, plus first time homeschooling, it feels like a lot). I loved hearing that you have had a magical transition to 7!!! Great thoughts, always soak up your wisdom and humor gratefully :)

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  8. I have kids 6, 2, and 1, and we would like more. I cling to the hope that posts like this are not a massive conspiracy on unsuspecting mothers of not-yet-too-large families! "Sure, have more! Soon your kids will be helpful. Bwahahaha." :)

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    Replies
    1. I've totally had that thought before: What if...what if it DOES JUST GET HARDER????

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  9. I loved this! I love this series! I love seeing people from blogs I read writing on other blogs I read! I just love this! all of it!

    (my husband says you can always "hear" how excited I am in print by how many exclamation points I use...so, please know I am truly excited)

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  10. Hope! You gives us hope, precious! (Hi Kate, first time commenter I think? Though I know you by Instagram. But sorry for the Smeagol-Mom comment, just a little.)
    I like this series a ton!

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  11. Oh I loved this post so much! :) I have six kids ages 7 years down to 3.5 months. It is a collection of chaos and beauty most days! I'm encouraged hearing that it eventually gets easier the older my kids get. My 7 year old is just awesome! Such a big help!!!

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