22 October 2008

The stabilizing influence of older children

I still think the worst was having two tiny ones. They both needed me constantly, and conflictingly, and there was no one who could find me a pair of socks or turn on the light. There was no flexibility because the older one needed regular meals and times and places and routines, and those things had to happen somehow when the baby needed to be nursed in the middle of them. And was there any greater tragedy than non-aligning naptimes?

Now I have a five year old. O blessed five year old! She brings me things! She wipes her own bum! She anticipates needs! And when she gets rotten, all I have to do is send her off to her room! It's so great. There's also a four year old with some commendable qualities. He's not quite as civilized, but he at least knows how things work around here and that he sometimes has to wait. These two anchors keep the house a lot more like what I remember as normal. It's not the formless chaos of one baby, or the mayhem and hysteria of two. It's just family life, and if the baby or the toddler has me occupied, things keep ticking where before the whole world crashed down around us.

16 comments:

Joy said...

Saint Rebekah,
I would love to be a fly on your wall and see how you orchestrate 4 children under age 6. All day, every day.

Pam said...

Glad you appreciate coming to this point, Rebekah. Isn't it funny, if you think about it, that we come to think of a four and five- year old as "older children?" :)

It still gives me pause when someone refers to our crew as "young children" when my oldest is a mature ten! But I guess a ten year old is still considered a young child. We-ell, nobody better tell my ten-, nine-, seven-,six-, and five- year-olds that they are not "older children," becasue I know more is expected of them and they are more responsible than many 16, 18 or even 20 year olds I know!


In my own experience, as a child reaches a new milestone in maturity, it is only a brief sigh of relief, because it is just enough to keep me from going totally insane, not so much as to allow me to let down my guard and relax.

For example, we do some semblance of homeschooling. Right now that means we make four or five of the kiddos do workbooks in the morning, and most days I check off that they are completed. That's nothing fancy, but it's more than we were doing "before."

"Before" is defined as, BEFORE my nervous breakdown, when I sought counseling and told my dh I could NOT homeschool unless some of my burden were relieved. BEFORE I went through a whole year of recovery from a health issue, then was bogged down by the early pregnancy with blessing #8.

BEFORE I took what turned out to be four months, totally let go of homeschooling and any other pressure on myself, and I trained the first four children to cook (COOK, no cold cereal for breakfast at our house) all the meals, clean up after them, and do laundry.

You'd think (at least I in my silliness did) that I could do better than workbooks after all that. But no, all it did is make me able to cope, survive, and somehow get through the next phase.

Sorry if that sounds discouraging, but for me that's been reality, and I only wish I had accepted it sooner, so I could've appreciated those steps more and saved myself a boatload of grief!!!

Praise those older children, Rebekah. Tell them how wonderful it is to have their help. At the same time, don't expect them to be consistent, because they are not going to be, just appreciate when they do and praise them, and thank God for them!

How many are the ways in which children are a blessing! :)

Karin said...

With our oldest at 17 and within the last year had the comment of "you have all those little kids" from a well meaning friend, I relate so much to your statement of "don't you dare let my children hear themselves referred to as little kids. My dc do more than adults are capable of on most days and they too have their off days just like we the parents do. I think I am ironically relating more to your 5 and under stage now with baby number eight and have been pondering the 'stuck in the chair nursing the baby' season as just that, a season that will soon pass. Snif. My children having been blessed with a wonderful co-op with two other hs moms have more homework so I can not ask too much of them to help with being torn between the one year old and infant. I am only commenting to say I relate and I do tell moms with five and unders that their life is much more challenging than mine with eight as they need you so much more than when they are just a little older. Yes, do tell your four and five year old how proud you are of them. Sigh.

Monique said...

We have 5 children, ages 6 and under. I used to feel very self conscious when friends and relatives would "out of concern" comment... "but they have to grow up so fast". And then as I looked around I realized that in our culture today adults seems to be more infantile than ever. Yes, children of large families DO have to grow up fast, but I no longer view this as a negative thing. I'm pretty proud that my 6 year old can vacuum, empty the dishwasher, and sort and fold clothes better than some of my roomates in college did!

Blogversary said...

I have two kids (almost 3 year old and 11 month old). I love that my older one can "fetch" things now for the baby like shoes or jacket. She loves feeling like she is helping, and I praise her plenty.

Lutheran Woman said...

My ninth is due in mid January. We have a 1yr old, soon to be 3 yr old, soon to be 5 yr old and homeschool my 14 yr old. Our 6 yr old, 9 yr old, and 11 yr old are in a Lutheran school while my 16 yr old is in public high school.

Life is good.

Dakotapam said...

Life with a 12,9,6 and 4 is much, much easier than it was with an 8,5,2 and newborn....waaaay easier. Busier, more expensive, and yet, easier for me, the mom.

I also think that it is not bad that the older ones grow and mature "so fast" so that they can help the family. This same child is a joy to have around nearly any age group. He is a great Den Chief for his younger brother's Webelo Den, he can babysit, he is able, yet not often willing to clean up the kitchen, he can boil water...life is good.

Rebekah said...

Joy, ha. It's only three all day as the blessed five year old is now in kindergarten . . . why do they have to take the useful one? :( And what I orchestrate is lots of independent play.

Pam, who needs to do better than workbooks? The idea of factoring them into my day makes me want to go lie down. I would miss cooking, though . . . it's one of my best excuses for kid avoidance. ;)

Karin and Monique, good point on the capacity of children for "adult" tasks. It's plain silly to treat kids like royalty.

Blogversary, I was so thrilled when I realized an 18-month-old could retrieve small items! :D

Lutheran Woman, I'll take your word for it. I've lurked at your place for quite a while. ;)

DakotaPam, more expensive!! I knew that was coming . . . .

Reb. Mary said...

You are all giving me hope for the future :)

But Rebekah, how do you manage to avoid your kids while cooking? Any activity in the kitchen functions as a magnet, hereabouts.

Karin said...

Dinner.....well around here the kids eat with no problem and since they generally are the ones who cook dinner as well, they are happy to eat it with enthusiasm. The work factor around here, which I have been musing upon on my blog, also finds them hungry and not picky. If you have worked hard and are hungry, then anything looks good. I have a 13 year old son who is a VERY capable cook and would make a great prospective son-in-law. Smirk.

MooreMama said...

You ladies are my heroes! My sisters (all younger) are my most constant friends and the ones that most understand why I am who I am - and keep me honest. I can't wait to give my daughter some siblings, God willing.
In the meantime, I was wondering the other day if I could train the Beagle to bring me the ringing phone or a glass of water...

Gauntlets said...

mooremama: It has been my experience that one cannot train beagles to do anything. ;)

Dakotapam said...

No, you CAN train beagles to do something...they clean up under the kitchen table and they take care of leftovers!

The Hen (Charity) said...

I also believe it is a blessing to have older children. My dh and I talking at dinner the other night and we both agreed that the hardest years of parenting so far were when we had only two children that were under 3 and they were 16th months apart. I remember having mornings where I did nothing but change diapers till 10 am and I still had not eating. Now we have five children, the oldest almost 11 and the youngest 4 weeks. It is wonderful for the older one to help with the younger ones. It teaches them so many lovely things!

MooreMama said...

Pam and Gauntlets - our beagle is very very good at cleaning up anything that may accidently get dropped on the kitchen floor. But for the beagle slobber, my kitchen would never need to be mopped. They are also good at rinsing the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. (There's a youtube video somewhere)I am thinking, though, that beagles are only good for disposing of food and entertainment.

Gauntlets, is yours still living on the ever so lonely back porch?

Gauntlets said...

Dog gone. Turns out I'm far too selfish and horrible to take care of anything other than my own flesh and blood. Please don't hate me.