Friday again and time for more ramblings about living life with six kids. Still no picture of the van. By the time I get everyone in or out of the Beast I forget to take a picture. Someday, friends.
So this week I want to write about what it is like to get out of the house with our large family. People often say we have our hands full and things like that, and we do. So we must try to function like a well-oiled machine whenever possible.
One of the realities of our large family is that sometimes we just don't go to places. Not every home or event is appropriate for small kids. Or maybe it is, but not for our kids. We've realized that we can't go to everything all the time, for a variety of reasons. Right now our three oldest kids are playing basketball. We love the league and our kids enjoy playing. Travis is coaching Caleb's team. My big girls are on the same team. After trying to go to their games that are played at the same time and being miserable, I've realized that if Travis can't help corral the littlest ones it is better to just stay home. Lily and Ben don't deserve to be griped at by me because I think they should be perfect in behavior. I have a real chip on my shoulder about how people perceive big families and sometimes that means I'm too hard on my kids. So I choose to stay home where they can play and be themselves and I can stay calm and happy. I hate missing the games, but we've realized it is better for everyone to recognize our limits. This has applied to various school activities too.
Okay, so sometimes we skip out on events. But other things are not optional, like church. Different families make different choices about going to church with small kids. We believe in taking our kids from birth and teaching them to behave from day one. Of course, this is easier said than done. Our church has had nursery available off and on. The only times we used it regularly was when Travis played in the band and I was on my own with three kids two years and under. Once we were sitting together at Mass we have really tried to make Mass work. Now, we have had to go outside with restless or noisy little ones fairly often. But for us, the kids aren't going to learn to behave without lots of opportunities to succeed. We're blessed to have a really good friend that sometimes takes Ben outside for us so we can both participate in Mass (she has usually already attended earlier). It is hard. Sometimes I feel like all we have done is bothered everyone around us and made noise and generally ruined Mass. Every once in a while though, everyone cooperates and I am reminded that all the effort eventually pays off.
When we go to sporting events or large gatherings, I can be a crazy person. I want everyone holding someone's hand. I am constantly scanning the area to make sure I can see everyone. I'm watching for behavior miscues. I'm watching to make sure my toddler isn't destroying something. I might be talking to someone, but I'm rarely making eye contact because I feel like I must always be checking on the kids. I look forward to the day I can relax and just enjoy these things, but for now I accept that a lot of it will be stressful for me. I'm sure not every large family works this way, but that's how I am.
But when it is just the eight (!) of us out to eat or going to the store, it can be silly and fun. Our kids are fun to be around. They have quirky personalities (from their dad!) and keep us entertained. So far we've managed to raise them well enough to go out and have fun with us without making a scene and being little destructo-bots (most of the time). Travis and I work as a team to keep track of everyone. We are rarely late to Mass or anywhere because I am super paranoid about being on time. We leave for Mass 30 minutes before it starts, just because I don't want to be late (and it can be a challenge to get enough seats if we're too late). The church is a mile away. I might have a problem.
In the end, going out in public for us is like it is for any family. Sometimes great, sometimes a headache. I try to make sure we have diapers, cups, snacks when needed. We don't let the kids take toys or games to church or dinner or things like that. Conversation is entertainment, they don't need gadgets. We might break out our phones to make it through the last ten minutes of a meal (only for Lily or Ben) on occasion. I might feel like a traveling circus, but people like circuses, so I guess that's all right.
Sharing my awesome with Jen this week too!