Seven is Enough

A while back I promised to write something on the way our seventh child, Nathaniel, has turned everything here upside down.  So here is a few minutes’ worth of that.

I was told again this morning by someone that has only one child that after the third one, it really never gets any harder.  This is complete bunk.  I have never heard anyone that had more than 3 children say that, so that ought to have told me right there, but the fact is that at least for us, the 7th child has made things exponentially harder than they were with only six, or even six and a half while Jeanette was pregnant.  

It is impossible to describe to anyone that isn’t dealing with the situation, but essentially, Nathaniel nurses for roughly six hours a day.  No fooling.  He starts at 6:30am, goes for 45 minutes, then starts again at 9 and gets fed every 2 hours the rest of the day until 8, when he nurses for the last 2 or so hours of the day.  This operation, for the uninitiated, requires a certain degree of quiet, which in this house means Jeanette upstairs in our bedroom with the door closed.

And what happens during those six hours she’s out of commission?  Nothing.  Or, more precisely, the undoing of most of what J was doing during the other six hours.  With the exception of Nicholas (#2), none of the children will do chores without supervision.  Nicholas himself will, but only if his brothers are not around, which they nearly always are.  That means none of the vacuuming, mopping, picking up, or other order-creating activities are being engaged in by the older children when Mom is not there.  Meanwhile the younger three (not including Thanner, who is being nursed) are busy getting out their toys, pulling books off the shelves, drawing with lipstick on the walls, the carpet, and themselves, or what have you.  There is no one to stop them.

Result?  Mom and Dad stay up late cleaning (baby is down at 10, which gives us a good hour and a half), are exhausted the next day (and every day) and generally are less effective in doing even the minor amount of damage control that would ordinarily be possible.  The house, needless to say, is not benefiting from this.

Oh, but there’s more.  Thanner has pushed Ethan (#6) out of his accustomed role, to which thing he is still adjusting and he therefore remains quite needy.  That takes up more of Mom’s time.  Each of the children needs individual attention.  I can help with this to some degree, but for the most part, it’s Mom or nothing.  That carves out more of her time, although it’s not quite the same since she can at least be out where the kids can see her and remain motivated by her.

We have a fourteen-year-old, and that does make some things easier.  We rarely pay for babysitting anymore.  Alexander is very bad at chores, but he’s a quality babysitter.  He is good with the kids and very conscientious, and if the kids are eating junk while we’re gone at least all of them will be hale and whole when we return.  That’s not a small thing.  The kids also make a lot of the meals, but like most things, this is more to develop them for the future than to assist with the here and now, because the mess made by this exceeds all description, and did I mention they aren’t very good at cleaning up?

So we have daily tradeoffs.  Hourly tradeoffs.  Do we clean up the books or read them with the kids?  Crispin wants to vacuum the floor but there are Barbies all over it.  The girls are at the pool.  Do we have him clean up the room and vacuum it, and if we do, what do the girls do when they come home?  Remember, Mira’s only seven.  There are things she can’t do.  Are we vacuuming or practicing the piano?  Weeding the garden or dusting?  Do I take the boys fishing (their favorite activity) even if their room isn’t spotless?  Do I take one because he “cleaned up his part” and leave the others?  Is it more important for them to learn to work or learn that spending four hours in the same boat with Dad is actually a lot of fun?

All parents have to make these decisions.  Few parents these days have to make them times three.  Almost nobody has to make them raised to the 7th power.

Six was hard.  Seven is so far impossible.  Not that we regret it – Thanner is a beautiful, chubby, smiley boy and we’re grateful for him.  If we had to choose – and, in a way, I suppose we do – between having a neat house where Dad’s handcrafted, handpainted chess sets can be displayed, and having seven interesting and exasperating children growing and messing things up, we’d take the children.  We always take the children.

But nobody tell me that it’s the same now as it was when we had only Alexander through Crispin.  One on three we can play.  But one on six…

Don’t know how my mother did it.

One Response to “Seven is Enough”

  • Diana Banana says:

    we were better kids though weren’t we? much better than your rotten kids i’m sure.

    hah..just kidding…..your children are as good as it gets….i fear for myself someday…i’ll never make it!

    p.s. benji has a new blog site, check it out….he’s posting quality stuff these days

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