Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's It Like to Have Four Kids?

"So, what's it like having four kids?" I get asked this reasonably often, especially by people with three kids who are considering another, or by people with one who can't imagine having more than that.

Comic Jim Gaffigan (now a father of five) has a great response. He says, "If you want to know what it's like to have a fourth, just imagine you're drowning...and then someone hands you a baby." (See his hilarious take on having 4 kids and home birth here:

Now that my fourth is almost a year old, I find having four is not that much more difficult than having three. You're already used to being "outnumbered," you're already used to mentally counting kids and locating them and your eyes darting around looking for the little one and calling out to the biggest one to help you with something and storing and retrieving hand-me-downs and buckling multiple car seats and feeding many, many mouths.

So what's it like to have four kids? It's like today:

G-d-knows-when-o'clock-A.M.: I, my husband, and the 11-month-old are sleeping in bed. 3-year-old climbs in, too, proceeds to sleep on baby's arm. Baby tries to roll over and can't, wakes up, and I nurse him back to sleep. Only one of numerous awakenings by said baby.

7:00 A.M.: Everyone is getting up for the day when the 5-year-old throws up. Supposed to be a short day at school followed by parent-teacher conferences. 5-year-old will stay home, but 8-year-old will go, because he's feeling fine.

8:00 A.M.: Dad takes 8-year-old to school. 5-year-old throws up again.

9:00 A.M.: 3-year-old has annual well visit at doctor's and 11-month-old has appointment for flu shot. Must drag sick 5-year-old along. He throws up in the car (fortunately into a barf bag which I so wisely brought with us). 3-year-old does great at doctor, flu shot administered to baby without drama.

9:30 A.M.: School calls to double check that 5-year-old is caught up on vaccinations (he is, we establish).

10:00 A.M: Back home from doctor. 5-year-old lies down to take a nap. 3-year-old wants a snack. Snack provided. I try to get some work done.

11:00 A.M.: Baby nurses to sleep. 3-year-old wants another snack. I tell him to wait for lunch. I try to get some work done.

11:30 A.M.: 5-year-old wants toast. 3-year-old decides he also wants toast. I want last night's dinner leftovers. Baby wakes but nurses back to sleep. 3-year-old wants the rest of my lunch. I give it to him and get myself some crackers.

12:00: 5-year-old feels better. Everyone has eaten. I get a little work done.

1:00 P.M.: Time to pick up 8-year-old from school and then stay for book fair and teacher conferences. Older three play on the school playground while the baby roams the classrooms during the conferences and attempts to choke on small objects.

2:10 P.M.: Round everyone up and come home. Everyone wants a snack. Oldest has homework. Middle two watch TV. I get a little more work done.

4:15 P.M.: Round everyone up again to go to the bank, have dinner, then drop the oldest two off at Hebrew school.

6:30 P.M.: Arrive home with 3-year-old and baby, nurse baby, who has fallen asleep in the car seat and is now cranky but shouldn't really be napping, while 3-year-old watches TV and demands my assistance with selecting a show.

7:15 P.M.: Start giving warning that it will be time to get ready for bed soon. Await return of two older boys and Daddy from Hebrew school.

7:30 P.M.: Baby is crying hysterically while I try to get work done, so I take him to nurse him some more and hope he goes to sleep. He does not.

8:00 P.M.: Daddy and older two get home. Toddler goes running to say hi. Bedtime chaos ensues and resolves in the next 25 minutes. 3-year-old tells me to go away, so I take the baby to try once again to get him to sleep for the night.

9:00 P.M.: Baby is finally asleep for now. 3-year-old wants more attention but is told in no uncertain terms to go to sleep. Older two are drifting off. I go back to my computer to maybe get some work done.

9:45 P.M.: I've decided to practice guitar a little. I hear footsteps and find that the 8-year-old has emerged to get himself some water. Then the baby wakes up. I nurse him back to sleep, then return to my computer to finally (?) get some work done!

10:45 P.M.: Working steadily. Now the nightly question: Go to bed now and leave work unfinished in the hope I can finish it tomorrow, or stay up and finish it so I can move on to something else tomorrow? Also, I should get to the dishes at some point.

11:25 P.M.: I give up. I'm going to bed now. Dishes are not done and neither is work, but at least all four kids are asleep...for now.

So what's it like to have four kids? There's always something to do, always something going on. Someone is always pulling you in a direction you weren't planning to go, while another needs you to go in yet a third direction. Constant interruptions, constant noise, constant LIFE. It's lively. It's exciting. It's schlepping and cleaning up and serving and assisting. It's carving out moments to do what needs doing and finding minutes to do what you want to do.

And when you climb into bed at the end of a long day and snuggle up to your precious young one, you breathe deeply, sigh with relief, and mentally prepare for what surprises tomorrow may bring.

It's's like you're drowning...and someone hands you a baby. And you snuggle that baby allll night.