The Big Kids and The Littles-Managing Four Kids That Span a Decade

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As I am immersed in the process of writing my next book, it has been eye-opening to page through dozens of old journals that I have kept over the last decade. Much of what I find are rambles of me trying to make sense of my thoughts, feelings, and relationships. Amidst the random thoughts, pipe dreams (some of which have come true-yay! and unapologetic rants that will never be seen by another soul (yikes, what happens if something happens to me? hmmm…), I am also finding some great treasures that I want to share with you now, instead of waiting to put them in the book. The following piece is blog post I wrote circa 2014 that for one reason or another—got busy doing other things, worried that I would come across as too “navel gazing” or I simply forgot—I chose not to publish. But hey, there is no time like the present and hopefully you will find some nuggets here that you can relate to:

Nobody could have prepared me for this. Even when a cousin of my husband’s, upon finding out I was pregnant with my fourth child, commented to my husband and me, “You know, you can have sex without getting pregnant.” But even if Mr. Snarky would have tried to lay it all out for me, I would have been unable to comprehend the trajectory of my life with four kids spanning a decade. It would not have made sense to me, nor would it fit neatly in my brain. Because having four children with a large age span is not tidy. It is messy and complicated, exciting and surreal. It forces my brain to expand like a rubber band threatening to snap at any moment. Especially during times like this:

·      Changing diapers on my youngest while my oldest was going through puberty;

·      My oldest starting to drive the same month my youngest started kindergarten;

·      Attending a grade school Halloween parade in the morning and dealing with high school Halloween parties being busted by the cops in the evening;

This year:

o   helping my 20-year-old sort through normal stressors of college life and the “What am I going to do with my life?” questions that arise periodically and require immediate assistance

o   planning and executing a Bar Mitzvah for the #3

o   managing college applications and college visits for #2, which included him choosing to leave the house at 6 a.m. the morning after #3’s Bar Mitzvah and drive 1-hour to a Sunday ACT testing facility because his last chance to take the ACT for his applications was on the Saturday of his brother’s Bar Mitzvah

o    planning and participating in a senior spring break trip and a high school graduation for #2

o    and don’t forget about the 4th grade graduation for #4

Next year:

o   transitioning from having a driver in the house for the past five years, to having NO driver for another three years

o    AND not the least shocking: being able to LEGALLY have a cocktail with my oldest while my youngest is years away from being able to watch PG 13 movies;

In years to come:

o   two of my kids will vote at the next presidential election (#1 voted in the last one) before #4 reaches junior high yet,

o   #4’s Bat Mitzvah will most likely be within weeks of #1’s college graduation

o    This is a stretch but not out of the question: I could be a grandma at my youngest’s high school graduation.

Are you sweating yet? Yeah, I have been sweating for a few years too (hot flashes aside). But in writing this, I am not looking for the, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how you do it.” Because truthfully, while there are times I can be strong, collected, and feeling “in control,” I spend a decent portion of many days feeling scattered, exhausted, insecure, overwhelmed and wondering how anyone survives craziness of PERIMENOPAUSE while raising kids. And on the worst of those days, my walls come crashing down, and nothing about me is calm and collected, and I enter dark, scary spaces where I truly wonder if I can handle my life, my marriage, my children, my writing, and my nagging thoughts about my lack of a “real” career and “How do working moms do it??!!! I shouldn’t complain!!!” And after some screaming and crying and f-bomb dropping, I gather the strength to call a trusted friend to admit out loud to her that sometimes I feel like “I can’t do my life.”

And with her help, we reframe things, and I am reminded that I am doing my life. That I have been a good mother to my kids for the past 20 years, that I am parenting writer, a yoga instructor, a community leader, and a woman who is working to try to crack the self-care code for mothers.  I remember that yes, I can do this. Not perfectly and not always neatly. But I am taking care of myself, my family, my friendships, my community, and am raising good kids with strong moral compasses and who are contributing to the world in a positive way. And I find my way back to gratitude. Gratitude for my life and all its messiness.

I would not change my life. Ok, I do have had a few fleeting moments during really tough days when it hits me that I could have been an empty nester next year… But I get one “I love you, Mommy,” or even just a smile from #3 or #4 and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be the mother of these four amazing human beings, and that at this point, a dull moment never there is. Being a mom of four has continued to flip almost every preconceived notion about myself, parenting, marriage, and life upside down. I have been thrown on my ass time and time and time again. But I continue to get up, re-boot, re-learn, re-adapt, and grow, shift, expand, and love more than I ever thought possible. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.