I used to get very annoyed whenever someone said the following phrase to me: "You look great--- for having four kids..." (yes, those dashes were literary freedom. I don't *really* think that was ever meant as an insult.) These days, I'd give much- around 20 lbs, at least, to hear that again. I don't know whether I no longer look good (for having four kids) or if my blog is really that popular (since I frequently complained about that statement). But now I have a new pet peeve statement. Or maybe I'm just one of those people who always needs to have something to complain about....
Regardless, "you must have your hands full!" is now on my bad list. To be honest, I'm not sure why this bothers me so much. My husband says I just over-think everything and that people just say that to have something to say when they are done counting kids, but what I hear is "Are you crazy? How in the world do you handle four kids? You must be so busy and so overwhelmed!"
Overwhelmed. That's the word that really gets me. A dear friend of mine was trying to explain to someone why she'd given my son a ride somewhere and described me as "she's just overwhelmed". Oh, boy. When she relayed this conversation to me, probably not realizing how I'd take it, I exploded "I am NOT overwhelmed!". Her response: But you must be! You have four kids!
So this is my moment to clear the air, and explain to all you mothers and fathers of 1, 2, or even 3 children-- four children, well, it's not that different. Oh, I get that it may be a little unusual for suburban America. I recognize that there is a high population of people who believe in one child to replace each parent in order to keep our population from expanding too quickly... but that doesn't really make four kids that hard. Or that crazy. Or that overwhelming.
For one, I LIKE my children. I actually, believe it or not, and despite my occasional under-my-breath grumblings of "oh, please, just go away", ENJOY being around my kids. I like taking them places with me. I like grocery shopping with them, going to the library, filing into church together. Unless they are fighting or just being plain bratty (again, not something I say out loud to them), I really enjoy being around them. All of them. That's pretty much why I had them.
There are those people who have a whole lot of "oops" pregnancies. There are also those who have children for ulterior motives (ie, welfare checks). Those aren't me. Well, I did have an oops pregnancy, but it wasn't the last one, so I don't count it as to why I have four children. And if one more grocery clerk sees my trail of children following me down the aisle and asks me for my food stamps, she may just get some food-stamping that she's not looking for. I had my four children because-- and here's the hard truth-- I WANTED four children. I wanted a large family. And guess what? Four children later-- I still do!
When it comes down to it, the first child is the hardest. That's the one that forces you to change your life, juggle your budget, make choices regarding your career and your parenting style, and intrudes on the one-on-one private time you are used to with your spouse. And the second child-- well, that's the one that introduces fighting, squabbling, and "I'm not touching you! I'm still not touching you!" into your life. Numbers three and four are just extra mouths to feed, laundry to do, and hugs to receive. And to be honest, if you're already cooking for a family of four, what's two more? How much do little kids eat? If you're already doing four loads of laundry a week, baby clothes are small, so it's now just four larger loads of laundry. And, well, you do have to buy a bigger car (unless you already have a huge gas-guzzling, parking spot hogging SUV to cart around your one or two children....), but I needed a new car anyway. College? Listen, it WILL get paid for. Somehow, someway. Student loans, part-time jobs. No, I'm not worried about that.
I had four children (not three) for a reason. I can always send one to play with another. Oh, Mason is playing with Kolbie? Then you play with Micah. This may have worked out better if I had two boys/ two girls, but beggars can't be choosers, as my mother always said. I had four kids because I love the fullness of my house in the evenings, when we're just together as a family. I love having all six seats at the dining room table sat in. (I should have bought the 8-chair set when we got married.) I love that when Kayton's off somewhere and Mason's off somewhere else, I still have two little girls playing at my feet. It's not overwhelming, it's.. well... my idea of family.
Now, I won't say I don't get overwhelmed at times. If you happen to live in my neighborhood you may or may not have heard me losing my mind at the top of my lungs on occasion. Sometimes I forget my windows are open. But being overwhelmed at times is not the same as "being overwhelmed". And I am not overwhelmed. I just have four kids. I am not so busy (if I were, this blog wouldn't be written)... I'm just a mom loving her life.
But, you're right, my hands are full. One of them is always holding either amazingly soft and trusting toddler fingers that reach up to grab mine or a discarded toy or blanket (PLEASE hold this for me, Mommy- for just ONE minute!) from the four year old who always has so much to do. One of them is always either reaching out to brush the nine year old's wild head of hair or grab the back of my eight year old's neck so that his hands don't fill up with trouble.
My lap is full whenever I sit down- someone always needs a book read, help with math homework, to nurse, or just to cuddle.
My arms are full at night as I go bed to bed to bed to bed saying prayers and kissing goodnight.
And my life is full. Always full.
So, if when you say "your hands must be full" you mean "you must be overwhelmed". No, I'm not. But if you really mean "full of love". Then yes, yes they are. And thank you for recognizing that.
But whether you are a parent with 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, or 8 children... I pray your hands are as full as mine. As for those of you with more than 8-- well, you're just plain crazy.