Rage Against The Minivan:Things Moms Of Four Kids Do
Here’s a shocker: Having four kids is hard. Of course, I would never trade it or change it for anything. EVER. But when we made the transition from two kids to four kids, we had to change a lot of things about how we parented. Intentionally or not, you do things way differently with the the third and fourth kids than you did with the first and second.
It’s no longer about all the newest and cutest toys and clothes. It’s no longer about making sure each child has had the right amount of visual stimulation. It’s no longer about making sure a child is always happy and involved in activities that will, “according to research,” make them the smartest kid in the class.
It’s about survival, people. For me AND for them. Moms of four kids have had to loosen up. We learn to go with the flow. We make sacrifices and lower certain standards in order to give our attention to more important things. We do things we never would have done as a first-time parent. Things that weren’t even on our radar when we changed that very first diaper. Things we don’t always even admit to in mixed company. Here are a few of them:
1. We pick a pacifier up off the floor and pop it right back in a kid’s mouth. Without washing it. (Or we wash it with our own motherly saliva, which is virtually as pure and clean as sanitizing gel.)
2. We pick up dropped snacks off the floor at home and let our kids still eat it. The five-second rule: It’s SCIENCE.
3. We pretty much stopped with all the baby-proofing products. There’s always someone around watching anyway. “Kids, make sure your sister keeps the stuff on the floor out of her mouth.”
4. We let our children go out in dirty clothes. Sometimes WE even go out in dirty clothes.
5. We give them “food” products we would never eat. Dinosaur-shaped frozen chicken nuggets. Flat, sticky, um…fruit that arrives rolled in plastic. Crackers with peanut butter-flavored filling. It’s not organic arugula, but least they’re eating, right?
6. We bathe them way less often than we should. Sometimes a quick washcloth wipe down is enough to last until tomorrow.
7. We quit matching our kids’ outfits. Not only is it difficult to find four sets of matching clothes in the right sizes, it also gives me a touch of the willies when I see four kids all dressed the same.
8. We let our kids dress themselves. Even if it doesn’t match. Even if it’s the wrong season for what they’ve picked out. Even if those knit beanies are a terrible idea when it’s 90 degrees outside. If we don’t have to do it for them, it’s a happy day.
9. We champion independence. We teach our kids how to be autonomous—“Your future wife will thank me someday when she learns you can do laundry”—when really it’s just us being lazy parents.
10. We reduce the number of sports and activities our kids do. We can’t be letting all four kids play all the sports, play all the instruments, or be in every single dance or play. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
11. We subtly encourage the same activities and sports that kids are involved in because we hope they’ll be scheduled at the same place…and relatively close to the same time. If one kid plays soccer, maybe they ALL should play soccer. Who wants to taxi around all afternoon from event to event? Not me.
12. We don’t actually play with our kids as much as we used to. Why? Because we assume they always have a playmate. We are frazzled enough just keeping track of schedules and deadlines. We are the enabler of play, but not the playmate. Surely there’s someone in this house who’ll play another round of that Guess Who? game.
13. We let younger kids tag along with the older kids. In the yard. On the basketball court. At the skatepark. Honestly, the younger kids get to do things we never would have let the older kids do when they were that age. The milestones and permissions for the younger kids get moved up way faster…just so they can spend time with their older siblings.
14. We video them riding a skateboard down a plastic slide, instead of rushing out of the house to stop that potentially dangerous activity. Because we have come to the realization that, first of all, kids will be crazy. And second, what are you going to do? (Sometimes I put myself in their shoes at age 25. Would I rather have them think, “Man, my mom let us do some crazy stuff”? Or would I prefer, “My mom never let us do anything. She was always shrieking about safety.” I choose the first option.)
15. We don’t call the doctor for every little runny nose, cough, or complaint. You start to figure out which sniffle can be treated over-the-counter, and which might really need professional attention—because it’s not always worth the hassle of loading them into the car, sitting forever in a waiting room, and potentially exposing them to something worse because of all the sick kids. You also realize that, if one of ’em got something, the others will probably get it, too. That’s how it goes.
It’s interesting, though. I think who I’ve become with four kids is probably healthier and more reasonable than the mom I was with my first two. I started as a tightly wound bundle of nerves who worried I was harming my baby for life because he wouldn’t eat any peas. Now I’m a mom who watches four kids have a pea fight on the front porch, laughing, because they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.
That’s good parenting…right? (Please say yes.)
(Image: Author’s own)