PHOTOGRAPHY BY JENNIFER SANDERS
I know I’ve shared this before, but I still love this question. I once read a blog post where the writer had been to a wedding with her husband and they had been seated with three other couples they had never met. It soon was discovered that each couple had four kids and so one mom asked, “what’s your number?” And the question meant, “what number kid knocked you off your feet?” For the writer, their first kid was their hardest transition. It turned out that each couple had a different number with a host of variables as to why that was “their number.”
Our number was definitely two. We had just moved to the farm, I was new to town and just making friends and the winter was loooong with two utterly dependent babes in the house.
So today I had it in my mind to write a blog post about having five kids and how it really hasn’t rocked our world too much. I was telling a relative recently that having five kids actually felt easier than having two kids, because I have grown into my role as a mom and because my oldest kids are so helpful. He listened for a while and said, “I can see that. And it probably is easier because instead of 2 on 2, you’re actually 4 on 3.” And that is true. Ivar and Elsie are that helpful.
But I think the Lord knew I was going to write a “it’s no big deal!” post today and decided to keep it real. Because today was a rough day with a very fussy baby Elias. And I have now officially nicknamed Hattie and Alden ‘The Cahoots’ because they are always up to something together and it usually ends in quite the mess. Like a flooded bathroom counter. Or it will end in screams and yells over some item they both want. Today it was the salad spinner. Then the tongs.
I guess the word I would use to describe this season of five is non-stop. It just hasn’t stopped since Elias arrived. At every moment of every day, I am needed. Which is great because it’s my gig. But it also is another season of laying down my life for a friend. Or in this case, for five friends.
This morning Elsie wanted me to braid her hair and was standing in front of me with hair binders and a brush, Ivar was frustrated because someone had removed the boot liner from his winter boot and he couldn’t find it and needed my help. Alden was yelling, “I’m all done! I’m all done!” from his high chair and Hattie knocked her bowl of cheerios onto the floor. This was all happening while I was sitting and nursing the baby. Every one of them needed me in that moment. So once I had met the needs of the baby, I went around and met the needs of every other kid. And basically, my entire day could be summed up like that. I’m just responding to everyone else. Over and over and over until bedtime. And then I nurse the baby throughout the night and wake up to a 4-year-old staring into my eyes, telling me, “I’m hung-y” and ready or not, a new day has begun.
(In that waking moment I repeat to myself over and over, “The joy of the Lord is my strength…”)
So here’s the truth of having five kids. It is a lot going on. It is so, so, so much laundry. But all things considered, five isn’t “my number” (or hardest season) because I feel confident that I’m right where I want to be and so overwhelmingly grateful to get to spend my days with these awesome kids. I love them with all my heart, and there isn’t a thing in the world I’d rather be doing than sweeping up cheerios, looking for a missing boot liner, braiding hair, nursing a baby and washing chubby fingers under the kitchen sink.
I wrote this blog post yesterday and last night Rory read it in bed. And he said to me, “I like it. But I think you need to say why you do it. Why do you do this every day? You’re a talented woman. Why do you choose to clean up cheerios all day long?”
I thought about these questions all throughout the night. I thought about it when I woke up to a crying baby three times and got out of my cozy bed to feed him. I thought about it when I rolled over and discovered a four year old snoring on my pillow next to me. Sitting in the glider rocker with Elias, listening to the wind howl outside, I tried to muster up a sufficient answer. But everything fell short.
So I asked God. I said, “why do I care for these kids day after day, attentive to their every need?” And in the dark and still room, three little words came into my mind as if they had been spoken aloud.
“Because they’re mine.”
My mind went quiet when I heard those words. I stopped rocking and listened to the breath of the baby in my arms. I watched him pucker his mouth like he was nursing, even though he was done. I studied his tiny fingers wrapped around my pinky. God gave me these little lives to steward. I have the honor of introducing them to the world, teaching them how to behave, helping them understand the way things are and the way things should be. I get to train them in the way they should go.