It was right before yoga class. I was waiting for the instructor and small talking. I had casually asked someone how things were going when the answer came right back at me, “Chaos. Total chaos. You know what it is like to have multiples…”
Call it an Ebola-state-of-mind, but I heard “multiples” like it was some disease, taking over my life. As I moved on with my day I couldn’t shut off my racing thoughts. You see the symptoms are obvious and the virus is rampant in our household. Having made the choice to have four kids, it’s become clear Alpha and I parent in a way that nobody, especially those with singles, understands. Of course, others with the same disease might recognize some warning signs…
YOU OUTSOUCE: Club sports are hard. As matter of fact, they are down right impossible for multiples. Tournaments, every weekend, all over the state are fun on occasion. The kids get to cram into a double queen hotel room. One ultimately sleeps on a chair, another on the floor. We suffer in the sun, and the relentlessness of the sport together, as a family. Call it quality time. But recently, we had an epiphany – it was time to outsource. When a family with one child offered to take Olivia to water polo tournaments I told them they could adopt her on weekends. “Call her Scarlett even,” I advised them, so appreciative that the travel torture might actually end. “I’m not attached to the name Olivia.”
THERE ARE NO SPECIAL MOMENTS: “Do the kids need some one-on-one, you know, special time together?” a parent asked me the other night when she didn’t want her child to crash a play date. Here is the thing. There is no special time. Never has been, never will be. Once you get past that, the pressure is off. You can’t create the perfect environment for children of multiples. They have to claw, yell, and fight to get anything done for them. Ultimately, they make the right decision. Best to do things for themselves.
THE OLDEST IS STUNTED: Yes, he was forced to go to bed at 7pm until the end of 6th grade. Rarely is he out past dark as his siblings are complete lock-ins. While his friends start to navigate the world, he is now our official babysitter so we can go out. He may never be out at 10:00pm until college.
THE YOUNGEST KNOWS TOO MUCH: My favorite song on the planet is Eminem’s Headlights. (There is a nice message about moms in it.) After parenting for 12 years, I am beyond tired of listening to age appropriate songs in the car. So when the cussing and swearing starts to fly I tell Charlie to self regulate and cover his ears. And I wonder why no first time parent in kindergarten is asking for a play date at our house or letting Charlie come to theirs.
THURSDAY FOLDERS AND HOMEWORK SUCK: I try. I really do. To stay on top of school news, check homework before Friday and read to them every night. But multiples kills you in those areas. The perfect storm hits right before parent teacher conferences, the homework is monsooning on us. As I’m working with Teddy on his essay, Charlie is tugging on my arm, desperate to know which color he needs to use to fill in a triangle. Olivia is twirling in the living area wearing a dress she is designing for the talent show (talent show, was that in the Thursday folder?). Lastly, Jackson is shouting from his room I have to sign a form right away. Uncle.
When I decided how many kids I wanted none of the above were even considerations. It never dawned on me that my future held the logistical impossibility of having four kids in club sports or five hours a night of homework. (I certainly never contemplated the fact that close proximity in their ages would result in three kids in college at the same time.)
Multiples was not supposed to be a disease.
In my naïve moments of family planning, I really had only one thought - my Thanksgiving table. I wanted to look around the room and have it full, not empty. A brood. Loud and noisy. And most importantly, happy. I do get that for 24 hours. On Turkey Day. That feeling that I got exactly what I wanted.