So, I have been thinking a lot lately about when our next baby might come into existence, and what it will be like to have four children. I am not taking it for granted that we will have another child, but given our ages and health, it makes sense that a fourth child will be on the way at some point. And the idea of four children makes me a little nervous. It makes me quite a bit nervous. Because first of all we have a good routine. The baby (now 16 months, but still “the baby”) sleeps well in her own room, takes a good long nap in the afternoon, and I am used to having three now. The older two play well most of the day, succeed in their preschool tasks, and give me a nice quiet time in the afternoon. It is comfortable; it feels easy. I am not a big fan of changing a good thing, but there is the call to be more open and the hope of more children.
Honestly, I really am not a fan of the newborn phase. Sleep is always at a minimum. The older kids are cranky about change. I do like sitting around all day, eating whatever I want, and not having to exercise for six weeks. Plus, there is the cute baby to hold and smell. But when I think about having another newborn, it just makes me a little tired. I always deal with engorgement and mastitis when my babies are young, and I long for the age of predictable naptimes and bedtimes. Alright, I made that confession. Moving on…
I have been blessed with a husband who is very helpful when he has the time. So, I have maybe had to go shopping with three kids by myself about ten times since F was born 16 months ago. I used to shop with the older two during the week when M had a day he did not teach. I would leave the baby during her nap. Then L and G started the phase where they don’t want to ride in the cart, never listen to my instructions when we are walking up and down the aisles, get in people’s way all the time, and climb anything that looks climbable. So, I gave up on shopping during the week. Now I shop on Saturday mornings alone or sometimes with one kid. When I have one kid, I am always listened to.
A few weeks ago I took G (5) with me to Aldi, and then we went to Target. At Target, she decided that her legs were tired of walking, so I indulged her and let her ride in the monster cart with two forward facing seats attached to the cart. As she rode along on her perch, I noticed that people kept on smiling at her. They saw a cute girl out shopping with her cute mom. I never get smiles like that if I have two or three kids with me.
Our family’s normal destinations are church, play groups, and more church. That is where we go with all three kids together; we are seeing people who know us or are used to seeing us. Last Friday we went to a delicious Lebanese food fish fry at the local Maronite Church. We walked in, and the lady selling tickets told us that it was $10 per adult and kids under five were free. We got lucky, because G was not turning five until the next day. As M and I were going through the food line, he herded the older two, and I held the baby. When the ladies dishing out the food realized that we were all together, they started saying sympathizing things about how busy I am and how it must be to have three little kids. It felt like they felt bad for me, and that bothered me a little bit. I feel like I should be able to go out with my kids without people thinking I am a crazy busy person in need of sympathy. Actually, M and I chose to have kids. We made conscious decisions which led to having three beautiful sweet children, and we are happy. I know that if I took all three kids shopping with me more often, I would get more looks and comments than I expose myself to now. I actually am savoring a little bit the time when I appear to have only one or two. I am a little bit cowardly about moving outside my Catholic circle of friends with all my kids.
I went to a Mom’s group at my parish today. We decided afterwards, when we were in the car, that we were going to stop by Trader Joe’s and find something “fun” for lunch in honor of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. My kids love Trader Joe’s. I got there with the three kids, parked in the “under parking” underneath the store, unloaded all three, and made a chain across the garage to the elevator doors. The kids love the under parking and the elevators. When we arrived to the level of the store, I put F in a cart and asked the other girls to stay close. So, of course, they walked kind of close, but not close enough to not take over the whole aisle of the small store. We walked over to the free samples, and it is crackers and cheese. The older two split a sample and I shared mine with F. Then G did something to make L upset, so L started to scream (because that is how she has always cried). I helped her calm down in a hushed tone, and started feeling a little flustered. We left the samples and headed toward the frozen foods to find our fun lunch.
A man stopped me, said something about me being a mother, and handed me a white envelope. He had about ten more in his other hand. I wondered what he had given me, and felt a little bit weird about it. I hurried to get the rest of the items we needed, feeling anxious that my kids were getting in the way of other carts or inching along in front of mine so that I can’t move at all. Finally, we got to the checkout, and I stood in a long line. The girls were then on their best behavior in anticipation of greeting the cashier. The employees always hide two stuffed rabbits in the store, and if children can find them and then tell the cashier where the bunnies are, they get a treat or stickers. G was very polite to the cashier and explained that she had found the bunnies and where they were. He was then so kind to them, giving them each a sucker and a cereal bar to F. As we were about to walk away he stuck a bunch of stickers into our bag. But I was still feeling flustered, as I reminded my children to keep walking.
I got them in the car, thinking about that envelope and the strange encounter with the man. What was it that he handed me? I opened it up and discovered that it was an adaption of this poem, but I give it to you as he gave it to me:
“When you thought I wasn’t looking”
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
I saw you make my favorite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn’t listening,
I heard you say a prayer,
and knew that there is a God I could always talk to,
and I learned to trust in Him.
I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
I saw you take care of the house and everyone in it,
and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you handled your responsibilities,
even when you didn’t feel good,
and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked at you and wanted to say….
thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.
I was not expecting this from an elderly man in Trader Joe’s, but there it was. He had a stack of envelopes, and he must have been handing them out to parents since 2010. For some reason, I expect people to be negative about me having more than two kids, but I have forgotten that most people like kids and want to see them around. Kids are a sign of hope, and everyone knows that raising them is not easy. I am called to be more than just open to having more children, but to not be afraid to share them with the world. Every child that M and I have is not for us, but for the perfection of the universe, for the completion of God’s plan for His creation. I need to learn to just enjoy my children, and when we are out and about, it will be a joy for others as well. Further, if I show my children that I am flustered by them, they will see…