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"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9! What were you thinking?"
We were both in line at the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon when I caught you counting the children hanging all over my two shopping carts. “One, two, three, four, five…” Your eyes grew wide, and I finished your sentence “Eight and one on the way.” Anyone with three or more small children has heard the question over and over again, from complete strangers: “Are they all yours?” And the next question goes something like this often “I can’t handle my TWO! How are you still smiling?” You were at the park chasing your preschooler. You had a baby in a cloth sling. You were putting the lid back on the Sippy cup as a whining toddler pulled on your shirt saying “Potty Mommy!” And that’s when you asked me: “Nine Kids? How are you so calm?”
I looked across the playground to see my teens pushing my preschoolers in the swings, my eight and ten year old racing to the slide with pockets full of rocks. My six year old and eleven year old were catching lizards. The baby was asleep in my arms as I dug through my purse searching for the last granola bar. My answer, "Oh, it was much harder when I only had two or three! In fact there was a time when I had three kids under three years old, I don’t know how I survived! But after getting through that stage everything else in life seemed so much easier. Even nine children ages 0 – 14 is easier than 3 preschoolers! ” For a moment you laughed and said “I guess that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.”
You asked me after Church: “How is it possible to homeschool all those kids when you have a baby and three year old in the house?” I looked at the three children piled into your double stroller as you explained to me that you are really struggling to teach your four-year-old to read, because the babies are always interrupting. You were shocked when I confessed that I don’t start reading lessons until age six or eight depending on the child, and by then they are already teaching themselves to read, and that makes my job easier.
“How did you survive morning sickness – nine times?” I tried to give you my best answer, but in the end I just gave you a hug, all I can say is that each child’s life is worth any suffering on my part. I also tried to explain how I snack on protein and avoid sugar while teaching my older kids to manage the house for a little while.
We were both in the restroom at local buffet waiting for our little daughters to finish washing their hands, earlier you had been watching my kids pile their plates with strawberries, whipped cream and watermelon. Your little girl was beaming as she squirted more foamy soap into her hands. You suddenly spoke up, almost in a whisper: “I would love to have another baby, and honestly I’ve always dreamed of having a big family. But how can you feed so many kids, and wash so many dishes? And have you ever had a picky child?” I was about to try to answer your questions when my three year old dashed out the restroom door in hopes of another slice of watermelon.
“How did you teach your two year old to share?” “How do you dealing with lying, fighting and jealously?” “Is it normal to wake up every day feeling like I was hit by a truck?”
You have told me that I always seem so peaceful, and that you can’t believe that my kids are so helpful. You have wondered if I ever had a strong-willed child, a surprise pregnancy, a baby who never wanted to sleep, or a teen who never wanted to get out of bed. What about stomach flus, allergies, stray kittens and learning disabilities? We could talk for hours and all the other moms in the café would secretly tune in to our conversation. But, since we are on other sides of the planet now I’m just going to have to create a blog to answer all your questions and tell you what’s been on my heart.
I'm looking back over the past thirty seven years, I've been sifting through all my old letters, articles I've written, pages from my diaries, photos from my scrapbooks and even a few home videos. I think that some of the pages from my past and stories from my journey can help moms like you to find your way, and keep smiling.