Life is something that has to be figured out as we go along. Some lessons can only be learned from personal experience. People may try to warn us ahead of time, or give us advice. But we rarely listen, do we? “That will never happen in my family.” “When I have kids, they/I will never…” So we politely nod, while the well-intentioned advice flies out the other ear, only to find ourselves in that exact situation five or ten years down the road.
Well, not many people have given me advice about having six kids, because, frankly, not many people around me have six kids. So we have had to stumble around, make mistakes, and learn through some loud, messy, or just plain chaotic situations. Hopefully, if any other moms of six happen to stumble upon this post, they will be wise and learn from our hard-won experience:
1. If you have six kids, never say, while they are all seated around the table, “Ok, what do you want to drink?” unless you are skilled at deciphering multiple voices at multiple decibel levels yelling multiple drink options at once until you just feel like hiding in the pantry until they all go away. Save yourself a headache and ask them one at a time. Duh, I know. But yes, we had to learn that one from experience.
2. If you have six kids, never get behind on the laundry. I cannot stress this one enough. When you get behind on the laundry for eight people, especially in the wintertime when they wear t-shirts under sweatshirts and the clothes are bigger and bulkier, you may lose one of your children under the mountains that result. Enough said.
3. But here’s the problem: if you have six kids, never assume you are ever caught up on the laundry. Think about it–even if all the hampers are empty in the afternoon, eight people are going to undress that night. That’s a load right there. Then throw in towels and washcloths for eight people, sheets for eight beds, sports/playclothes, the days when they change clothes two or seven times…. Nope, you will never be caught up on laundry. Which means you will always be behind on laundry. Which means…go count your kids quick and make sure no one is buried somewhere.
4. If you have six kids, never operate under the illusion that you will accomplish anything without interruption. Not cooking supper. Not reading a chapter. Not listening to the one song that comes on KLove that isn’t grossly overplayed and that you haven’t heard in five months. Not a shower. Not anything in the bathroom, for that matter. Definitely not a phone call. Not typing a blog post (I’m on day two of attempting this one, and I’m typing with one in my lap and another sitting on my feet). Not even typing a Facebook status. This is because your kids have formed a pact, a conspiracy if you will, to never let you pretend to be anyone else except their servant–I mean, mother. They have agreed that one or more of them must infiltrate your thoughts, eardrums, or personal body space exactly once every 2.83 minutes. So it’s just easier on your nerves if you enter every non-mom activity with the full expectation of not completing it.
5. If you have six kids, never leave home without knowing where every bathroom is, both on the way to your destination, and at your destination itself. You can make them all go before you leave. Go ahead, if it makes you feel better. But someone, either the newly potty-trained 3 year old or the bouncy little girl with the bladder the size of a pea, will need to go again before you get there. And you can take the whole group when you first get there, thinking that will eliminate interruptions while you’re there. Bless your heart. My best advice is simply find the bathrooms, map out the best emergency route, and be prepared to go. Several times.
6. If you have six kids, never allow balloons into your home. Why, you ask? If you have to ask, you’ve obviously never done it. Picture it. Close your eyes and imagine six excited kids, balloons, living room… Enough said.
7. If you have six kids, never expect to have a clean house for very long. Or just a clean downstairs. Or just a clean living room. Or even a clean couch, for that matter. Unless you ship them off to boarding school, which you will be seriously tempted to do if you foolishly ignored the advice in number 6. No, just lower your standards and live reasonably content with pen drawings on your cushions and superheroes on the stairs and ponytail holders EVERYWHERE. I’m not saying don’t even try. Go on and try, teach your kids good habits, assign them chores. Just learn to live with imperfection and don’t let it ruin your life. Besides, the clutter will blend right in with the laundry mountains from number 3. (Have you unearthed the missing kid yet??)
8. If you have six kids, never waste time trying to keep everything even for each kid. Not only is it impossible, it communicates to them that they deserve fairness, which we all know they aren’t going to get in life. It’s good for a kid sometimes to not get what her sister got, and learn to be happy for her sister. And, on the flip side, it’s good for her, too, to sometimes get what her sister didn’t get and know that she gets something special sometimes. This philosophy really comes in handy during stomach virus season, you know. Just because one kid gets something doesn’t mean you need to break your neck to let everyone have some! So take the flu mindset and quit bending over backwards trying to make it all come out even. Trust me, the society that receives the child you present will thank you for not creating that monster.
9. If you have six kids, never underestimate the amount of candy that will enter your home on a yearly basis. It’s not just Halloween anymore, parents, although that day continues to rake in the most. We topped out at over 11 lbs last year, and that wasn’t even with all six kids. No, now every holiday and often just Sunday comes with chocolate and suckers and gum in spades. We brought home a grocery bag full of candy from the Christmas parade, and only one kid was collecting!! And it doesn’t matter how hard you try to convince the would-be Willy Wonkas that your family has enough, they don’t need more. When they think of a family with six kids, they think, “Oh, I’ll give my extra to them! They have so many kids they probably didn’t get enough.” We used to just smile, say thanks, and give their address as the guarantor for the dentist bill. Now we smile, say thanks, and give most of it to the teenagers in the youth group. Let their parents deal with the cavities, right?
10. And finally, and probably most important (although that bathroom thing is pretty important too), if you have six kids, never lose sight of the gift you have been given. The laundry overflows, but the joy does too. The tears flow freely and often but so do the giggles. They smack and kick, but also hug and snuggle. You will probably never sleep through the night again but you will never be bored again either. Your bank account will be empty but your heart will be full. And all the laundry and bathroom trips and sugar-highs will fade into a blurry distance behind the startling clarity of joy so full it threatens to burst your heart.
“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 127:4-5a