It was just me and my brother growing up, so the whole big family thing is pretty foreign.
My four children and I are quite an anomaly these days, a spectacle, like a mother hen and her chicks running behind, bystanders pointing, giggling.
I suppose I’ve been too deep in the trenches for so long now, too exhausted and admittedly overwhelmed at times, to even attempt to step back and understand the culture of a big family.
I generally just nod at the hands full comments or I can barely deal with two comments because there isn’t a lot of time for reflection when you’re chasing after four kids.
There isn’t really a lot of time for anything.
But I hear things, from people who grew up in big families, who tell me that holidays will be fun! Think of all the grandkids!
Or like my former babysitter, and oldest of four kids, who told me how much she missed the noise and the chaos of her own family now that she was away at college, which you found the right place, my dear. Welcome to the jungle!
That all seems like light years away from what is my current reality, a tornado of Legos and smashed goldfish and shoes. Chex Mix inside my pillowcase and toothpaste in the bathtub, which I get is pretty much any sort of childhood, but when magnified times four and well it’s like Animal House.
As much as the general consensus among people from big families or who know big families or just feel like imagining what it’s like to be part of a big family is that it’s nothing short of awesome, this shit is hard. It is the best kind of hard, and individually, there is a whole lot of awesome happening.
But collectively, this motley crew of four can kick my ass.
There are rays of sunshine these days, though. Many of them, poking through and shining a light on what’s to come for me.
My youngest is four now, no diapers at all, not even hidden away in strange places for desperate times.
There are no more little blobs of whine (somewhat) and spit (mostly), but rather little people, with words that they sometimes choose to use, still with nearly unbearable tones of voice at times, but words nonetheless.
They cooked lunch the other day, all four of them swishing around the kitchen like little sous chefs, chopping salad, frying potatoes, then leaving me the dishes to run off to play Santa’s Elves, transforming my treadmill into a conveyor belt which dumped toys into boxes to be loaded in Santa’s sleigh.
Yes, oh yes, there is noise and chaos and ridiculous amounts of school papers. Just the thought of the orthodontic bill makes me shiver. And don’t even get me started on college.
But there is a deep, profound love, a need for togetherness that is emerging, something that I have never experienced or been witness to, really.
It is, quite simply, magic.
For the first time I realized that they aren’t just siblings living in the same house. Rather, they’re really, truly, the dearest of friends.
And as for me, well, I’m left to wonder what I did to get so damn lucky in this life.