If you had asked me when Jason and I first got married (at the extrememly mature and wise ages of barely 21 and 22) how many kids I wanted, I'm quite sure my first answer would have been 5, maybe even 6. Not only did I want at least 5, I was pretty sure in my infinite wisdom, that the best plan would be to have them as closely together as possible. I mean, after all we wanted lots, so once we got started, what would be the point in spreading out those years of sleepless nights, terrible 2s, diapers etc. Well. If you've read my IVF posts, you know that God quite firmly removed the reigns of control as to the timing and number of our children from my hands fairly early on in our marriage. So, due to circumstances quite beyond our control, although we started our family pretty quickly at the young ages of 25 and 26, we managed to spread out our 4 blessings over the next 12 years.
I've decided that once you pass the number 3 as far as number of kids that you have, people are going to find a way to raise their eyebrows. Face it, you've left the "normal" zone and entered the "weird, you're just asking for it" zone. I'm pretty sure that if we'd had our kids closer together, for example ages 3,5,7, and 9, we would have gotten a lot of "wow, I bet your hands are full!". And yes, I'm sure that our hands would have been full in that case. However, in spreading our kids out, I can assure you that we did not bypass the raised eyebrows. When we tell people the current ages of our girls- 13, 11, 6 and 18 months, we get a lot of "wow!"s or "oh, you really spread them out!" or "ooooh, I'll pray for you AND your husband".
Yes, people. It's true. VERY VERY much on purpose. We do have...
(who is apparently working on perfecting her angry expression)
...and a teenager
And, of course, as I would not want to leave anyone out, some pretty wonderful middlers to round things off...
We've laughingly thrown around that expression- "a toddler and a teenager" in recent months when when we're describing our girls, but I've realized that it does create a very unique, often challenging, but just as often very fun, environment. It is also the reason that at the end of most days, I am dog stinkin' tired. I mean exhausted. Not always sleepy tired, though- but I can pretty much guarantee you that by 8:00 PM my brain is DONE! I just want to crawl into bed and not answer any questions, not monitor any arguements, not change any diapers... you get the idea.
Now I can't really speak with much authority- but I would think that if your kids were somewhat clumped together- all in the preschool/school age range, your brain as a parent, wouldn't necessarily be pulled in the 137 directions that I feel like mine is pulled in on any given day. That's not to say, there wouldn't be certain other challenges, but I've realized lately, that, WOW, having a wide age range of kids has some very unique challenges. For example, training my brain to switch gears VERY quickly. All in the range of 30 minutes to 1 hour, I've had to field topics like homosexual rights, predestination and the sovereignty of God (13 year old), how to handle it if you know friends are cheating and dealing with mean girls (11 year old), not being afraid to make new friends at recess and being kind to girls who aren't playing with anyone (6 year old), and the ever present toddler topic of "I didn't get my way and I'm going to throw myself on the floor and have a screaming fit and see who notices". In this all in an hour period usually when I'm trying to fix dinner, help with homework, supervise chores and get girls to various after school events. Sheeesh. No wonder my brain shuts off after dinner! And occasionally before dinner resulting in me doing things like put the milk in the cabinet instead of the refrigerator, tell Anabelle to "to potty" as I hand her diaper to Naomi etc etc. (I'm sure my family could come up with many more examples. I seem to remember quite a few times lately when Abbey or Maddie look at me and say something to the effect of "Mom, you realize you just... (insert brainless action here))
So, all that to say, I've decided that definitely the hardest part about this stage of our parenting is the pretty wide age range meaning I constantly need to be on my toes to know if I need to be wearing "mother of teenager" hat and debriefing a first dance or wearing "mother of toddler" hat and actually disciplining said toddler instead of laughing at her along with the rest of her little mommies in our house. Sadly, sometimes the girls are better at keeping a straight face over Anabelle's antics than I am! But what is the hardest part, is also the part that I love the most. I LOVE this stage of our lives. Things are exhausting for sure, emotionally overwhelming- that's a fact, but also absolutely completely precious and priceless.
I love having built in babysitters and helpers.
I love that big sisters can set examples for little sisters. (notice I said "can" which does not always mean they DO- but we're definitely trying to teach awareness of how important that is!). I love the constant chatter that defines our lives and will for many, MANY more years to come.
And most days I even love having to be VERY mentally on my toes, ready to switch gears very quickly and know which mom hat to put on.
And the whole toddler and a teenager thing? Yeah, that's fun! Mostly... I mean I had heard that often when your kid becomes a teenager they tend to randomly revert back to toddler ways, but hey, since I've already got a toddler- I'm ready for it! And hormones. Oh, hormones. Yes, they run rampant. But let's be real. We have 5 girls under one roof. Hormones are going to run rampant in this house, teenager or not! And so far I am super blessed by my (mostly) emotionally stable teen and her desire to help and keep this house running smoothly.
I KNOW we don't do all things right by a long shot and I can't begin to count the amount of times I have to apologize to my girls for one reason or another for another botched discipline attempt (or lack thereof), but I also know how much my girls love each other. They may not always cherish each other in the day to day grind of "she did this, she did that" but I cherish the relationships they are developing and am so thankful for that unique bond called "sister" that exists in abundance under our roof. And even though our roof tends to change a lot (14 times and counting in 17 years of marriage), that bond will never change and will hopefully only prove to grow deeper.
There's no better friend than a sister-
There's no one more loyal and true...
and even when sisters are different
their likeness comes shining through!
There's no one who's more in your corner...
and no one you're more grateful to.
There's no better friend than a sister
and no better sister than you!