I have had the distinct pleasure – spoken without too much irony – of having my big kids home for spring break this week. When I glanced at the school calendar late last week and realized that I’d misappropriated spring break to the first week of April, horror dawned in slow rolling waves over my psyche as I flipped through my Google calendar and beheld the 302334 doctor, dentist, professional, and personal appointments I’d unintentionally scheduled.
Now a few days into a rigorous schedule of dragging all five children on most of these errands, I’ve had time to appreciate how much they’ve matured in the past year or so. Or perhaps how much I’ve matured? It mostly boils down to, I think, having a couple kids who can buckle themselves in and out of the car. Game changer.
Still, I don’t mind that school starts up again on Monday. Not one little bit. And I have perhaps been busying myself clicking through listings of free and low cost summer activities, registering for swimming lessons, and generally spilling some ink onto the 12 weeks of summer stretching out ahead of us in the not too distant future. This week has been a brisk wake up call in a few categories:
How much they eat. It is truly shocking. I don’t fear college fees (because I think higher education is poised for a meltdown/restructuring that all of my kids will benefit from, and also hope to have a priest, a plumber, an electrician, a stylist, etc etc in the family) but I DO fear the line-item totalling I do each month as I scan through our checking account and note how much we spent at Trader Joe’s. IT IS SHOCKING. VV shocking. I’ll start out the week with $200 worth of groceries in the fridge feeling confident that meals are planned and lunches are ready to be packed with aplomb, but come Thursday the fridge looks like we’re all practicing intermittent fasting and we have plowed through 4 loaves of gluten free bread, and that cardboard IS NOT CHEAP. (GF bread, Kerrygold butter and Lavazza espresso beans are our big splurge items in this house.)
Horrified, I begin the cycle of checking fridge, freezer, pantry, repeat, wondering how we went through 5 containers of deli ham (Luke) 4 loaves of bread (also Luke) and 3 pints of cherry tomatoes (ONCE AGAIN LUKE). The pantry is roughly bare, save for 3 boxes of bean-based breakfast cereals which my snobbish offspring will not eat, even though breakfast puffs made of brown rice and lentils are both gluten free AND penitential.
How much energy they have, (and how many hours there are in a day without naps.)
Having little kids home with you 24/7 is exhausting. Full stop. I’ll never be as tired as I was when my oldest three were little. However, there is something precious about the sacred stretch of 1-3 pm when you have all little kids (or big kids in school) and the world is your freaking oyster. Got laundry to do? Not anymore, you don’t. A book chapter or six to read? Treat yo self. Want to each lunch in silent, introverted bliss? Nobody will stop you.
I miss those nap times, I truly do. Next year Luke will be in school with the big kids on Mondays and Tuesdays, leaving Zelie and I home by ourselves twice a week, and I’m already salivating over those 4-5 uninterrupted hours of bliss.
In the meantime, I’m making meals, sweeping floors, driving people to appointments and applying bandaids and stern lectures (okay, screaming) all around, giving helpful reminders about not putting your fingers in certain places and also public urination.
I look forward to 9 pm every night when all are asleep, feigning or otherwise, so that I can, um, also go to sleep. I was chronically exhausted when the kids were little, but also dying for some alone time so I tended to burn the midnight oil. Now I’m dog tired from physical and emotional labor and old enough (smart enough?) to know that most nights another hour of sleep will refresh me far more than an hour with my Kindle.
Screentime is best used as a carrot and not a stick. My kids are less likely to respond to my vague threats of “no more episodes” if they’ve already binged half a season of Rescue Bots in a morning. Since giving up shows for Lent, we’ve seen a 400% increase in good attitudes, destructive but endearing creativity, and time spent outside. No comment on sibling relations having either improved or deteriorated.
When screentime is a non-option, my kids tend to be more compliant and creative. When I shock them by offering an episode of something on Formed or throw a Hail Mary and put on an entire Disney movie while trying to do something on a professional level, they respond with eager joy instead of jaded eye rolls.
I also find it serves as a powerful motivator to finishing chores, behaving like a human being, etc, and therefore I’m wise to reserve it for end of day purposes.
They all have really strong feelings about each other, good and bad. Our neighbors probably think we are lunatics based on the screaming + pictures of Jesus all over the walls.
It’s a confusing playlist, I’ll admit. One moment everyone is bouncing idyllically on the trampoline, the next minute the hose is on and there is mayhem and not infrequently, blood.
Having everyone home and playing outside (read: not at school or staring at a screen) is a level of volume that I was not prepared for. Was Luke mute last summer? Was I still in a postpartum stupor? I do not know. But I cringe constantly throughout the day as someone screams in a truly blood curdling scream that someone did something to someone, wondering if today is the day the fire department is going to come.
Our neighborhood is mostly retired folks whose hearing is, I pray, sub optimal. The few kids on our block either live at my house during daylight hours or sit inside like vampires, shying away in fright when they are greeted by a fellow human. In other words, all the noise is coming from us, and it is a lot of noise. A lot.
As much as I enjoy this time together, in other words, I will not mind one bit when that school bell rings again on Monday morning. Until then I’ll be chugging all the LaCroix (another budget busting indulgence to get me through spring break) and thanking God for not giving me the grace to home school.