So I’m walking on the beach, carrying my three-year-old daughter who is tired after already following her older brothers for a half hour now on a Quixotic quest for a restaurant that we remember eating at that kind of looks like the piece of sand at the end of where the eye can see from where we were parked with our beach towels and snacks and minivan.
My husband, of course, thought it was ridiculous to follow my 10-year-old on a whim, but I wanted to give him a chance to prove himself, so he took one of the twins who didn’t feel like walking and the rest of us went for it.
Zach, my eldest, took off, and the other twin followed. My youngest and I tried to keep up, but eventually, after a half hour of gradually lagging behind, we lost sight of them entirely.
It’s then that it occurred to me: Maybe four kids is too many? It’s impossible to keep track of them all; my voice only reaches so far. There are too many hands to hold.
But that’s not even true because really, when I found out we were having twins after the blissful parenting honeymoon that was my first baby, I knew we were screwed. My mom laughed and laughed and my dad’s eyes practically popped out of his head, confirming my worst fears.
Well, we survived. And then we had her, my daughter, forever the baby of the family. All is forgiven, of course, because she’s our only daughter, but still…it’s a handful to say the least, as people like to keep reminding me.
“Boy, you have your hands full!” they exclaim, as one by one the kids climb down from the van, one, and then another one, and then another one, and then—oh my!—another one. As if I wouldn’t know. As if it’s not my every day reality.
But I ain’t mad at ya for noticing! Because, truth is, I love it. Adore it. Want to squeeze the living bejesus out of all of it. As frustrating and exhausting and expensive as it is. And even though I never wanted, never expected, any of it.
Here are a few reasons why I love having a big family:
People expect less of you. I was never on time before, and now nobody expects me to be. Four kids! It’s a miracle we make it out the door, at all.
It’s made me a more relaxed parent. I have to admit—walking the beach with my baby as I wondered if I’d ever see my two sons again, I was pretty unfazed about it. I mean, I was furious at the boys. And of course I’d miss them. But still, I had two more! Mostly my attitude these days resembles that of a mother duck; don’t pay attention, don’t keep up, and you’ll get left behind.
I’ve become the calm in the storm. You know you’re desensitized to chaos and noise when the four kids are all talking at the same time, shouting, actually, over each other, and you can just nod along as the grandparents stare at you like some exotic animal at the zoo. How does she do it? That’s how.
I don’t need to work out as much. Simply getting up and getting down every time someone asks for something at the dinner table means I not only miss the chance to eat my dinner, but I also get a great thigh and glute workout.
People feel sorry for you. This might get us a $3 discount per person at the theme park. Or the cashier at the grocery checkout might call in for assistance, without prompting, so someone helps unload our two carts full of kids and groceries.
The kids learn to work together. My eldest and my twin teamed up on the beach that day. As mad as I was at them for running off, I praised them for working, and staying, together. My kids are used to sharing—everything. They’re used to compromise. They’re used to looking after one another. And since my daughter is the baby of the family, the boys all know that ladies come first.You become a superhero. Being so busy all the time, you don’t even register how tired or broken you are. You just keep going, because you have to.
And a few other truths about big families:
The house is always full.
Dinner is always noisy.
Bedtime is always a party.
No matter how much you pack, somehow there are never enough sand shovels or granola bars.
Yes, we’re a big family. No, we’re not religious. Yes, it’s crazy. No, I don’t have my shit together. Yes, we’re broke. No, I don’t regret any of it. Yes, given the chance, I would choose us all over again.
Love, this mom of four.