Friday, January 17, 2014

Four Boys? You've Got Your Hands Full!

When I'm out grocery shopping with my four boys (and having four boys requires a lot of grocery shopping!), I get a lot of looks. People mentally count my kids. People watch me go by with my train of ducklings. I sometimes feel like I'm leading an invasion whenever we all go somewhere. My kids are noticeable, with two redheads, a taller-than-average 7-year-old, the 5-year-old's big brown eyes, the 2-year-old's contagious grin. They are not quiet kids, and they are not shy kids.

I admit that I'm "that" mom sometimes. My middle two, for some reason, go nuts in stores. They run up and down the aisles shrieking like banshees. They grab each other, knock each other over, get in other shoppers' way. They touch every single price tag. I can't get the toddler to sit in the cart if he doesn't want to. I can't get the 5-year-old to walk sedately beside the cart no matter how many different ways I frame it.

On the bright side, they don't knock things off shelves or break things, so I've got that going for me.

Thankfully, I live in an area full of very friendly and forgiving people. I get indulgent smiles from grandmotherly ladies. I get wondering comments like, "Wow, four boys?! You've got your hands full!" I get commiseration. I'm grateful for all of it, because we parents of young children often feel that everyone is judging our parenting all the time, and it's nice to know that most of the time, the people watching understand that sometimes little boys just want to run around. (And who could blame them for not wanting to go grocery shopping?)

I hope that I remember those amused glances, those understanding comments, the occasional compliment when my kids are grown. I hope that one day I'm that lovely grandmotherly lady who sees a young mom come in with her brood and tells her she's doing a good job, tries to make her baby smile, and commiserates about the nonstop energy of little boys. I imagine that 30 years from now, I'll be the friendly woman in the grocery store who tells that young mom, "Oh, yes, I had four boys. They're all grown up and married now, and they treat me like a queen."

I want to remember this feeling of overwhelmed-ness, of frustration, of burnout, because one day I want to offer the comforting smile, the gentle joke, and the compliment to that young mom in the store with her four boys (or girls). I want to remember how much a kind word can lift a weary soul. I want to be the one to make the toddler's tears turn to smiles, to joke with the 5-year-old, to make silly faces at the baby, so that sagging mother can finish her shopping. I want to be the one who steps aside with my one loaf of bread and carton of eggs so the mom with the full cart and melting-down 2-year-old can just get finished and get home already.

So thank you to the understanding mothers of grown children who have smiled at me and said hello. Thank you to the kind store employees who are patient with me and my crazy kids. Thank you to the other mothers of small kids who join me in a resigned sigh as we cross paths from aisle to aisle. And thank you to the sweet grandfathers who joke with my little ones and tell me about their grandchildren. You brighten my day so that I, in turn, can one day brighten someone else's.


  1. Hi Jessica. I want to say thanks for your videos. They are very helpful. We recently had our second child, our first is four. Any pointers on helping him adjust? Right now the baby nurses every hour and a half for at least 30 to 40 minutes. I try to do one on one time when she sleeps. Can you share some wisdom with me? He is very sweet and loving, but requires a lot of direction. Thanks, SC

    1. Hi! Thanks for the nice comment!

      It can be hard for both you and your older child to adjust to a new baby in the house. One thing I would say is to talk to your older child. Just talk to him, while you nurse the baby, or while baby sleeps. Make sure he understands that you still love him and want to spend time with him and play with him, but right now the baby requires a lot of attention. If you can find a quiet activity he likes to do that he can do in the room while you nurse the baby, that might help. As the baby gets older and doesn't need to nurse as often or as long, you'll find you're able to spend more time with him, and with both kids together. I suggest starting right away to foster a relationship between your kids. Give your son jobs to do to help with the baby, even if it's just to "entertain" her or talk to her. She'll start smiling soon, and he'll love to be smiled at by his sister. (My older three get a kick out of their baby brother's smiles and trying to make him laugh.) Involve him, so he can feel like an important part of your new, four-person family. He won't get as much attention as he used to - it's simply not possible - but that doesn't mean he's excluded, either. You'll all get used to the new dynamic soon enough. :)

      I wrote this post a few months ago that may help you, too.

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