The last few days have been incredibly busy because I was frantically working away at a big presentation for work (now done) and somehow despite (or perhaps indeed because of) the fact that he doesn't do anything other than eat, sleep and fill diapers, the newest Darwin seems to make it very hard to get anything done.
However, there was a point during Sunday afternoon when, suddenly, everything became quiet. The oldest four kids had all gone off to play with various friends around the street. I was making dinner. MrsDarwin was writing. Miss Three-year-old was by turns dancing and coloring in a coloring book from Christmas. Young William was snoozing quietly in his swing.
It was all so quiet. We could talk. MrsDarwin could write without anyone wanting to get on PBS KIds or put music on iTunes. I could cook without people demanding to know when dinner would be and what it would be and whether they could have an apple so they didn't die of hunger in the next fifteen minutes (and can we make popcorn sometime? Dad, we never get to make popcorn! Pleeeeeeeeease?)
"You know," I said to MrsDarwin, this is normal for most people. "Two kids. No wonder everyone thinks we're crazy."
It was awfully nice for a brief while. Still, thinking about it, that's in great part because we live a five kid life, yet were temporarily down to two. People who lead one kid or two kid lives are themselves pretty busy, I would imagine. Oh, sure, the sheer amount of noise and mess that six kids can generate in a short period of time is unmatched by smaller numbers. But arguably most of why things seemed so quiet is because we currently have organized ourselves into a five kid life -- and we're currently going through the difficult process of adjusting that to a six kid life.
You decide what activities to get involved in, what things to own, what rules to set, what routines to follow based on the number of kids that you have. You may not do this consciously, but eventually, things fall into place. You organize around what you deal with, and you tend to organize to capacity: some precarious balance between the demands upon you and the things you need and want to get done.
Add another kid, especially the particular demands of a new baby who needs to be held and fed and gazed at tenderly much of the time, and for a while everything falls apart. Then you reach a new normal which is adapted to the demands of having the number of kids you have. From what those who have started down the other side, with the number of kids falling as older ones move out, have told me, it sounds like adaptation works in the other direction too. As you have fewer kids, you gradually adjust your life so that on most days it still seems like it's a lot of kids even though you now have fewer.
Sure, looking back, when we only had one or two kids there were things we could have done differently that would have given us a lot more time. But that's a six kid parent talking.
The good news is that it's not nearly as impossible as people think to adjust to having more children -- so long as you're not utterly rigid in your ideas of how things will run in your house. We always seem to come to a new normal which (though it's not easy) doesn't actually seem harder than before. The bad news is: there really is just never time.
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