Any parent of a bigger-than-average family has heard this too many times to count: "How do you manage with so many kids?" Often it includes the ever popular addition, "I could never do that."
I am still a bit startled to hear these comments. I don't think our family is that extraordinarily large to warrant as many, "Are all those kids yours?!?" comments. When I look around, I don't (usually) see an infestation of children, I just see the great kids who call me Mom.
When people hear that I have five children under age ten, I believe they picture a whirling dervish of children swirling through the house at mach speed dirtying and breaking everything in their path. Often they will recoil slightly in horror. They don't imagine five children's birthday cakes, five sweet faces to kiss goodnight, five kids singing together off-key. They don't see the good stuff.
Because the good stuff about bigger-than-average families would take a whole blog post in itself, at this time I'll just address some of the crazier aspects. You know, the kind that makes many people wince and cross their legs at the mere suggestion of more than 2.3 children.
I'll admit it. Sometimes there is chaos. There are frantic times when all five children are crying, usually each over something different. Please study the following example.
Child A is crying over a dead mouse found in the yard. Child B wants the toy Child A is clutching while staring at the dead mouse. Child C scraped his leg climbing a tree and "There's lots of blood, Mom!" Child D is frustrated to tears by math story problems. Child E just doesn't want to be left out just joins in with the tears to be part of the team.
Note: Oh my goodness. I just realized I had enough children to get to Child E.
Sometimes being a mother of more than one child is like being a triage nurse. You need to prioritize. First, is anyone bleeding, choking or on fire ? Deal with the flames and choking first. Next check out the bleeding situation, especially if more than one child is bleeding. Is it a gushing head wound or does it need stitches? Is it a scrape that barely warrants a band-aid?
After basic first aid is administered, plan out your next tasks.
Prioritize what needs attention first. Estimate how much time everything will take. Then decide what can be delegated. Getting through immediate, overwhelming situations is just a matter of figuring out what the next "right" response is. Focus on one minor crisis at a time.
In the illustration above what should the mother do? Here is the proper answer.
1. Deal with Child C's bleeding wound. This is the obvious choice. Well done. However, be aware that the leg wound is probably superficial and the "lots of blood" comment is most likely an exaggeration unless a bone is sticking out. In another circumstance, dealing with this child may have been further down the list. Give child hugs and send him inside to find a band-aid. If there really is a lot of blood, take the extra effort and get the band-aid yourself.
2. While comforting Child C, warn Child A not to touch the dead mouse nor poke it with a stick. Hug Child A while Child C gets his band-aid.
3. Comfort Child E, who doesn't know why he is sad, but wants to join the crying anyway. This will most likely be a quick fix and eliminate one set of screaming lungs.
4. Take the time to sort out the toy sharing situation of Children B and A. Who was playing with it, how can you share, etc. This may take a bit of time. Remind them both repeatedly during toy negotiations not to touch and/or poke dead mouse. Finally, dispose of dead mouse. This is done by you instead of covering the dead mouse with leaves and "forgetting" about it till wonderful spouse comes home and can scoop it into the trash. This is more a stalling tactic before dealing with the final problem.
5. Commiserate with Child D's frustration with math. Secretly stall for time because the 3rd grade story problem is actually a tricky one and you don't want to look foolish. Tell child to take a study break and play for a while because she will have a fresh perspective on it after supper. Delegate math homework supervision to husband when he comes home.
And that, my friends, is how to manage with so many children.