5 Things Parents of Four (or More) Kids Want You to Know
Comedian Jim Gaffigan, now a father of five, said the following about having four kids, “You know what it's like having a fourth kid? Imagine you're drowning, then someone hands you a baby." Yup.
Yes, I have four kids, all boys from age three to 14 and here’s a little secret: I’m not Mary Poppins and my husband and I drink. Sometimes a lot.
Four times the laundry of one kid. Four times the mess, schoolwork, sports and activities. Four times the food and four times the noise and bickering. I have a Ph.D. in people management and do roll calls in the minivan to make sure I haven’t left anyone behind.
Most of the time it’s a happy jumble but there are a few things those of us with a lot of kids want you to know:
1. The Myth of Built In Playmates.
“Oh you’re SO lucky, you have built-in playmates!” people say to me. My response is a short two words: bicker brothers. Yes, I have four human children under one roof so in theory they would be putting on plays and puppet shows but with age differences and varied temperaments playing often leads to misunderstandings, arguments, fights over rules, who is or isn’t playing fair, and who just bailed in a huff as someone always bails.
Sometimes the stars align and they all get along which typically lasts about a half hour then they’re back at it. The other day my three older sons had a very heated argument about the Mexican-American War. I also overheard an argument about the pronunciation of heirloom tomatoes.
Son #1: "It's pronounced AIRloom...the H is silent" Son #2: "It's HAIRloom, there's an H there so what’s it there for if you don’t say it??" Please tell me who fights over this stuff?
2. Chaperoning the “Challenging”
Yes it’s happened on virtually all of the school trips I have chaperoned over the years. Because I have a bunch of kids, including a special needs son, everyone thinks giving me the criers, bolters, pant-wetters (or poopers…I’ve had both) and the behaviorally challenged is a no-brainer because I can handle it. I can handle it just as well as any parent of one perfectly behaved kid with no issues so please spread the wealth! Managing two kids about to wet their pants while I run after the bolter headed to the corn maze with four bags of apples strapped to my body makes me want to drink even more and maybe even pack a flask for all future school trips.
3. Traveling and Camps? Bwahahahahaha!
I’m frequently asked, “You don’t do camps? Why are you always home?” When you have a lot of kids a simple run through of a fast food drive-thru can cost a fortune so traveling is almost totally out of the question for many of us unless we are camping someplace then that brings on a whole other set of issues including my hatred of camping. Whether it’s renting a cottage, going to a motel or (gulp) flying somewhere it’s a world created for the family of four. The cost of flights, tickets to theme parks and meals out is staggering. Hop on the Disney website right now and figure out the cost of park tickets for two adults and four kids. Yes, that’s why we’re “always home.” Camps (including the Y) are just as expensive so we do something called Camp Home Starring the Bicker Brothers.
4. Our Home is Not a Drop-Off Daycare Center.
“I have errands to run, do you mind watching #1 daughter for a couple of hours? I kind of need a break.” Here’s a news bulletin that should seem obvious but for some reason isn’t: *I* have errands to run too but I have four kids so that means putting off errands and staying up late and never being able to ask you to take my kids “for a couple of hours.” I love kids and I do love your daughter but I am often nearing my tipping point well before your kid crosses the threshold. I suspect the thought is I have so many, what’s just one more? Slipping your kid into my brood is something I do notice as then it’s FIVE kids now.
5. Stress, Stress Everywhere.
Sorry folks but those of you with one or two kids are absolutely, positively NOT, NOT, NOT busier than us. Nope. Complaining to no end about how busy and stressed out you are while our four (or more) kids are swinging from the rafters behind us just isn’t cool. Did you see what is going on behind me? Everyone is stressed and busy and we’re all in this business of parenting together so let’s just keep it at that.
PS: Having pets isn’t just like having kids either but that’s another rant for another day. Unless you’ve breastfed your cat, save it.