Everything was going very well up until 3:00 today. The little two were snuggled in for nap time, Magoo and I were reading The BFG, and TJ was getting set to finish up our work on the basement so that by the end of the year our goal of having everything finally (FINALLY) organized would be met.
And then he got sick. Like really, really sick. I keep joking that he has the plague, but it’s not really funny. It took him almost a month to call the doctor when he had pneumonia, and that was at my insistence, and today he had our doctor paged upon his own initiative.
I get overwhelmed when TJ gets sick. The girls always go crazy; the little ones whine for me, but they also whine for Daddy because they don’t understand why he can’t do everything they want him to do.
And so everything in our house imploded. My clean floors were suddenly filled with huge fort blankets. Goosie was crying for a diaper even though she doesn’t wear them anymore. Magoo was angry with me for a punishment she received earlier today, so she drew me a picture of a mom saying, “I’m angry and I don’t love you anymore,” and a little girl saying, “I’m sorry” and crying. And yes it was passive aggressive, and yes it worked, and yes I feel like the world’s worst mother.
We were supposed to head to the store tonight to get groceries for the week, but TJ could neither come with nor watch them and the thought of taking the posse with me in the state they were in made me want to scream, so I did the next logical thing and ordered pizza.
I told the kids they could watch a movie while eating pizza (which we never ever do) if they just cleaned up the floor. That was three hours ago, and the floor is messier than it was before I asked them to clean. I had to switch our dinner to the kitchen because the pizza was a lot saucier than normal, and of course that spawned tears. Except for not long because they each kept individually trying to sneak pizza into the living room like I am blind and can’t see this happening in front of my face.
But of course when I came out here to check on TJ, Goosie came running after me, and the dog ran into the kitchen and ate her pizza and… well you might have heard the screams from wherever you are currently sitting.
Finally in the calmest voice I could muster (which actually sounded like an extremely pissed off drill sergeant), I told them to get upstairs and get into bed. I went in there to tuck them in and… let’s just say that TJ usually puts them to bed, and I am not, in any way under the sun considered a suitable substitute and they gladly let me know it.
Sometimes I fear there is something in our drinking water and they are dealing with ‘roid rage because those girls can get angry.
Normally nights like this bother me. And tonight did bother me. I can handle tears and passion, but when it’s coupled with a total lack of listening and more whines than I know what to do with, I start to melt down myself. I am very easily overstimulated. I try to fight it, but it’s just how I am.
But I am proud to say that this actually bothered me a little less than it would have in the past. And right now as I type, I look across my floor and I see a pile of dirty laundry that someone was supposed to throw in the basket, and I see a bag of socks that I never matched. I see blankets everywhere because one of the members of our family who will remain nameless has a tendency to make too many blankets and the kids then use them to make forts and “cuddly nooks.” And our kitchen is a disaster. And I can’t even blame dinner prep because Papa Johns did that for me.
But I watch Parenthood. (How’s that for a smooth transition!) I started watching it from the beginning awhile back, and I am now totally caught up and totally hooked. I didn’t like it at the beginning. The characters bugged me. Zeke’s hair grossed me out, and Adam seemed a bit too self-satisfied for my tastes.
But I continued to watch because there was something familiar about it. It wasn’t that the characters reminded me of my family because I do believe we are all much less dramatic and a bit more sane than they are. But the family structure, the dynamics all felt like home. The powers that be did a very good job of showing what it means to be in a big family whose children are all grown.
There’s always someone to go to. There’s always someone to complain to. (As my text message log from today will show.) There’s always someone to crack jokes with, and there are always, always memories to share.
I love this time of year — the season for families. I love getting way too many people crammed into a room with a turkey and stuffing or a tree and presents. I love the chaos with the littles running around. I love that my children can’t quite understand who is a sibling and who is a cousin. They know who they live with, but they also know the others have been a part of their lives since the very first day they opened their eyes, and as such it gets confusing.
I love that my kids sleep over at my brother’s and sisters’ houses and that I don’t feel a shred of worry or of doubt. I love that I know they have cousins who will grow up with the same values and who will be there at the most pivotal moments of their lives.
I’ve come to realize that people in other families sometimes have a different view of family than I do. But for me, family is and always has been the ones who show up. The people who get pissed at you and know just how very annoying you can be and who yet continue to come and continue to love because that’s just what family does. The people who love your children as much as you do. The people who if, God forbid, something ever happened to TJ or I would make absolutely certain that my three little girls get exactly what they need. The people who give me advice. The people who I can share my neurosis with who might get a chuckle but who don’t hold it against me. And most of all (most of all!) the people who remember when.
And it’s through thinking about all of that, that all of a sudden the chaos of all of this seems to matter a bit less. Right now we have three kids. We aren’t really a big family yet. But I hope some day to add another little soul to this mixture. And I know that will create more chaos and more confusion and more insanity. But it will also create more memories and more love and more togetherness and more life that is being lived in this house.
I think I once believed that I could have it all. I believed the pictures I saw on Facebook that showed calm moms calming reading to their kids with no screaming or yelling or spilled milk. I believed the pictures in ads that showed children calmly sitting around a toy sharing. I believed I could have a big family of little kids and still have the model house.
And let me tell you, I beat myself up for years for not having that.
But now I’m realizing that compromises need to be made. I either need to become a different type of mom – the type who cleans constantly rather than plays, or I need to teach my kids that half of the house is off limits to them and their toys, OR I need to relax. Honestly, it’s the last choice that is the hardest for me, but it’s also the only one that is valid.
Big families are messy. We are annoying in restaurants. We are loud in church. We make a scene in stores. And we often loose the important school forms and may need to be reminded thirty-seven times that a birth certificate is needed for all preschoolers and that Baptismal certificates and dental records are not optional.
We are all of those things.
But when you go into our house, we are also a whole lot more. We are people who make memories. We are people who play under those blanket forts together. We are always playing or doing because there is always someone to play or do with. We talk loud because it’s the way to be heard. We have seven conversations going on at dinner at one time even though there are only five of us, and if you open a box of donuts, we all lunge because there are only so many to go around.
No, at this point, I don’t consider ours a big family, but I pray (and I ask you all to pray as well if that is your thing) that one day we will add another little birdie to our roost. Another child will create more chaos and call for more sacrifice, but I’m ready. Insanity and all.
I have been abundantly blessed. And the more I remember that, the less the chewed up crayons on the floor bother me. I just wish I knew who was doing the chewing…