As a mom, one of the most common questions I am asked is how many children I have. When people hear that the answer is five, I am typically met with one of three reactions:
- Wide-eyed shock (“Five? You mean, like, a whole hands worth of kids?!”)
- Abject horror (“Did you actually mean for that to happen?!”)
- A bonding moment (“I want/have five kids, too!” or “I am one of five kids!” or “My aunt/cousin/neighbor/cat has five kids!”)
Large families nowadays are a rare breed. When we are seen in the wild (e.g., in Target), people are curious and have no lack of comments and questions. I get stopped no fewer than three times on any outing. Depending on the behavior occurring on said trip, this can either make me feel like super mom or like the ring leader of a small, loud, sticky circus.
Here are eleven truths about my large family:
1. Yes, I do drive a gigantic car.
I would like to be economical. I have tried. There is just no fitting five kids in a sedan. Or really, anything smaller than a tank. We offered one child the opportunity to jog alongside the car, but that idea didn’t go over too well.
2. I bought the biggest washing machine I could find.
I use it every day. This doesn’t mean the laundry is ever done. The other day, the baby gate at the top of the stairs wasn’t latched correctly, and my toddler fell down the stairs. He landed safely in the pile of soft laundry at the bottom. Because of his soft landing, he was uninjured, save for a bruise on his face. If anyone asks, I don’t ever finish the laundry because my laundry pile saves lives.
3. Yes, I have a favorite child.
Which kid it is changes by the hour. The one throwing toys in the toilet as I type this isn’t currently near the top of the list. Sometimes my favorite kid is the dog.
4. I have favorite combinations of kids.
The dynamics between my children change depending on which siblings they are with. Siblings who bicker when the entire group is together are best friends when even just one other kid is removed. Some combinations are great to take out in public, while others make me question whether we really need toilet paper, or if I can just grab one misbehaving kid under each arm and make a run for the door.
5. I parent each one differently.
Same parents, same house, similar ages — similar personalities, right? Wrong. They may all look alike, but their personalities couldn’t be more different. While one is shy and hesitant to let others know his worth, another is exceptionally confident and proud. I’ve got a few rule followers, a few free spirits, a few comedians, and more than a bit of drama. Most of the time, they mesh into one (insanely) loud, funny, loving group.
6. Someone is always upset.
Even though I say they usually all get along, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of tears. If you think getting the best cereal bowl is a challenge when there are two kids, watch out with five!
7. It has made me more relaxed.
I’ve stopped worrying about things like handing out party favors or wearing matching socks. With the size of my aforementioned laundry pile, we can just agree that matching socks are cause for (shocked) celebration.
8. We spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office.
I am very thankful that none of my kids is seriously ill. That said, think about your normal pediatrician visits over the course of a year. A well visit or two, a couple of sick visits, maybe an ER trip? Now, multiply by five…
In the past year we have been to our pediatrician for seven well-child physicals, 11 bouts of strep throat, two viruses, six asthma-related issues, an allergy consult, and a sprained ankle. We have been to the ER for a broken arm, a broken nose, two middle-of-the-night asthma attacks, a scratched cornea, and a cellulitis infection (with resulting follow-ups at the pediatrician for all of these, along with three follow-up X-ray/cast-change appointments at the orthopedist for the broken arm). My pediatrician knows me so well, she knows how I drink my coffee (hint — it’s by the bucket).
9. Stomach bugs are my worst nightmare
I am still traumatized from the last time all five kids got a stomach bug simultaneously. Want to see how fast a family of seven can exit a birthday party? Mention that Suzy vomited yesterday. I dare you.
10. My calendar is a scary place
You see those three days with nothing after school? They were glorious.
11. Yes, there is always enough love to go around
My life is loud, messy, busy, and, more often than not, gross — but it is a whole lot of fun. Having so many children has made me very aware of the differences between them and encourages me daily to cherish their individuality.
This family? Nahh, I didn’t plan for it to be this big. But, sometimes the best things in life come by loud, messy surprise.