For a whole lot of years now a common reaction I get from people is “How do you do it?” When people find out that I have six children, they exclaim, “How do you do it?” When people find out that my husband travels often for his job, they shake their heads and ask, “How do you do it?” When discussing kids’ activities and trying to keep up with multiple sports and band and choir and all that stuff, other moms will sigh, “I don’t know how you do it all.” And usually I’ll say something about how everyone is wearing his last clean pair of underwear or how the floors haven’t been mopped in too many weeks to count or how I have to sometimes ask for help. Inside, I always cringe because I know that pretty much all the time I feel like I’m Lucy and Ethel in the candy shop and the conveyor belt just won’t slow down and I’m shoving candy in my mouth and shirt as fast as I can.
The thing is — I’ve gotten used to feeling that way. Barely contained chaos is the status quo around here. We eased into the noise and laundry piles and busy schedule one kid at a time. And now it’s our Normal.
This week, I’ve been spending every day with Silas while everyone else is in school. Last weekend he slid down the basement stairs in a cardboard box, the end of the box caught on a step, and he tumbled out and over and broke the heck out of his arm. A little lesson in inertia. After emergency surgery, he spent a couple nights in the hospital. Now that we’ve been home, I won’t let him go to school until he gets his hard cast on. So he and I have spent the past couple days hanging out at home together. And Oh.My.Goodness! That hard cast cannot happen quickly enough! Now it is my turn to say to all the parents of only one child, “How do you do it?!?”
For the love! I have things I need to do, but he wants me to play board games on the iPad with him and he wants me to play cards with him. And after we do those things, he wants to do them over again. He wants to sit right in the room with me, staring at me while I try to write or edit or whatever it is I need to be doing. And I love him more than life itself, but really! This morning I got a phone call, so I walked into the living room to talk. Of course, he followed me. And then he kept whispering, “What? . . . Who are you talking to? . . . What about going to the doctor? . . .” I tried waving him away, like a pesky fly that is trying to land on your lunch. But he would not stop. Finally, I whispered, “Stop it! I’m talking on the phone.” You know what he said? “Well, that’s rude to talk in front of me. You should go to another room!” What?! Kid, I was in another room and you followed me. Stop following me!
This morning he kept telling me he was bored. I may have said something sweet and motherly like “If you tell me you’re bored one more time, I’m going to break your other arm.” Because that is the sort of gentle nurturer I am. Fifteen seconds later, Silas sat down in a chair and said, “I’m not exactly saying I’m bored, but I am saying I am not entertained.”
Well, now that would be the problem. I don’t entertain. I am not an entertainer. I mean, I do occasionally stand in front of a crowd and tell stories and feel ridiculously proud of myself when people actually laugh at the things I think are funny. And I once did this absolutely incredible interpretive dance of Bette Midler’s The Rose while wearing a black trash bag. So I suppose I am sort of an entertainer. But I do not entertain my children. They entertain each other. It’s one of the benefits of having half a dozen of them. So I suppose I should add that to my list of answers to “How do you do it?” They entertain each other, which actually makes things easier.
I sat at the table with him this morning in silence. I couldn’t exactly ask how his day was yesterday. I had been with him practically every second of it. I slept in the same room with him, so I knew how he’d slept. We’d already discussed his weird dream that he couldn’t remember any of. It was a pretty short conversation. Normally, all the children are loudly talking over each other. Many times our dinner table has a higher decibel level than a jackhammer. Sadly, I’m not exaggerating — there’s an app for measuring that. But with just the two of us, all the pressure to maintain conversation has been on Silas and me. Only us. Because everyone else is gone all day. And though I enjoy the peace and quiet of my near-empty house during the day, he obviously has been less than impressed with the idea of sitting in silence.
Seriously – after the past couple days of so much togetherness – I am wondering how in the world you people with only one child manage! It’s exhausting! I have decided I am far too lazy to have only one child. That must be why God gave me six. How do I do it? I manage the chaos and herd the cats in the right general direction, but they entertain each other. They do the hard part! Right now, Rachel is playing cards with Silas so I can lean back in my recliner and write this. Later, Jackson will play checkers with him on the iPad. Caleb already played cards with him and put on Scooby Doo for them to watch together.
How do I do it with six? I cannot imagine how I would manage without them all entertaining each other. And after this week, I’m fairly certain Silas would agree! I mean, he wouldn’t exactly say he has been bored with me. Actually, yes, he would say that. He would say that approximately 237 times in a 2-hour period.