Friday, May 21, 2010

The difference between one kid and four

You know how you see these families in the grocery store or at the park? Kids dart back and forth to the parents, and you lose count of how many appear to belong to that tribe. It appears that you've stumbled across what can only be deemed as a 'large family', and your curiosity grows in relation to the number of children that poor woman seems to have hanging off of her leg.

Have you ever wondered what it's like to have four kids? Well, you've come to the right place. Although I am by no means an expert on large families (and my family is definitely not the largest I've come across), I can put my own experience into plain English for you.

You have a child, or two. You get the hankering for a third or a fourth, and you ask yourself 'What's one more?' I am here to tell you, one more is one more. One more little person to feed, one more bout of teething, one more series of record breaking lack of sleep. But, on the same token, one more is one more sweet, pudgy little person who you love just as much as you love the others. You sacrifice more, you have less free time, and you might even crack up along the way.

Too vague? Let me break down my experience for you.

Grocery Shopping
  • One child: One cart, once a week, and if you avoid crabby times and give in to buy a toy, you'll have a pleasant experience. You might even be able to drink coffee as you peruse the aisles. Get everything you need, forget nothing from you list, and go home to make an epic dinner because you have everything you needed.
  • Four children: Two carts, two parents, 4 grouchy kids who HATE grocery shopping even if you bribe them with a treat & a viewing of the toy aisle. Four toys later and your bill is over $400 for 8 jugs of milk, eggs, and nutrigrain bars. You go home, unload it all, and realize you have nothing to make for dinner. Open up box of cereal that was purchased for the toy inside and pray that there are enough nutrients in the box to feed the horde.
  • One child: You are exhausted and you end up sleeping on the floor as the small person plays around you. The house is quiet for nap times, so you get a lot done and they have a decent rest. You do not need to wake them for car pool or preschool pickup, so a great routine is established. Need to go out at night? Put them in the stroller and they sleep until you carry them in and put them in their beds. 
  • Four children: You have a king size bed and there is someone between you and your husband and someone beside your husband on the other side. A foot makes its way over your husband near your face, and you need to protect your nose against possible nightly headbutts. You turn your body around and sleep at the end of the bed but wait, its damp down here. Oh no, the bed wetter took off his pull up again. Get up, change shirts, kick the cat because he's under your bed, sleep for what seems like five minutes then get up and get them ready for school. The phrase, "Shhh, the baby is sleeping" is said so often you'd like to get a tshirt and just point at the phrase while you drain your second bucket of coffee for the day.
The Park
  •  One Child: Look, she's so cute as she toddles across and plays in the rocks. You have a book, a blanket, some snacks, wipes, and even a juice box. You spend two hours watching your child play happily on the swings, strike up a conversation with another mom who is having a similar, relaxing moment, then toddle home and put your child down for a nap. You are relaxed, revived, and feel like a good parent. 
  • Four children: Head count! Who's missing? One, two, three, where's four? Do you see four? Oh wait, he's with three. It's just a scrape, really, wipe it off on your shirt. Yes, they are all mine? Yes, I definitely have my hands full, but thanks for saying that. I've never heard that one before. Someone is climbing to the top of the slide and going down backwards, that never ends well. Four has a rock in his mouth? Sorry, mommy just has this half bottle of water. You guys need to share! Share! No floaties! Sip, don't spit!  We'll get a band aid when we get home, just put moms sweater on it. 
  • One Child: Give them a duster or a wash cloth and have them follow along. Your house is easy to keep clean, and their one tiny toy box just gets pushed away when they go to bed. Beds are made, blinds are dust free, and if you get behind you should feel no guilt in calling in a cleaning service. 
  • Four children: Four dusters in hands, a light saber dual breaks out over the coffee table. Your rock fountain is knocked over because the cat wanted a drink and they thought it would be funny to let him drink from there. Your vacuum cleaner bags fill up almost overnight and you have super clean floors because you turn it on as entertainment for the baby. Because you are constantly vacuuming, you have no time to pick up the toys, socks, and other crap that litters your floor, so you go around them. Occasionally you lose a sock to the vacuum, which causes 2 boys to open it up and dissect the contents of the bag until they find it.  Dishes are washed by the kids, oops, the floor is soaked and so are you. Don't lick the sugar from that plate, that's disgusting!
 Sound like fun? As you can see, there is a significant difference between one child and four. I remember what it was like to be a new mom to one; the sleepless nights, the worry, the 24/7 guard duty. It doesn't change, it just becomes amplified like a stereo set to HIGH 7 days a week.

The next time you are watching your beloved child at the park and you eyeball a stressed, tired mom across the way who seems to be counting heads, send some sympathetic vibes her way. But, also know that she feels just as lucky as you do, if not more so. After all, I have 8 little arms to hug me good night and four sets of kisses when I wake up in the morning.

Now, if I could just stop the head butting.

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