Everyone has been asking me, "How is it with five kids?"  The answer I usually give is, "We're finding a new normal." Because in spite of the fact that we're happy and Juniper is amazingly good and the boys are frequently the helpers every mother dreams of, there's just . . . I don't know, more chaos, more uncertainty, less time.  I've adjusted to it in the past and I will again, and the untidiness of it all is balanced out by the sweet, sweet baby smiles and those tiny, clutching hands---but there is definitely a learning curve with each new addition.  Let me illustrate:  

The other day in an ill-advised fit of productivity, I set out with the children to Costco.  Abe and Seb are out of school for the summer, so I thought they could help me and it would be better than going with just the little ones.

I think I forgot about how you can't see over the cart with a baby seat in it, so it's not a question of whether you're going to crash into someone but how often, and how annoyed of a look they'll give you (and how sure you are that they have sized you up and decided you are one of those poor polygamous wives stocking up for the compound).  And maybe I forgot about how everyone in the family wants the samples yet none are actually capable of independently eating the samples (walking while simultaneously holding a food item and a spork is among the highest-level motor skills, apparently).  And about how large bags of flour don't fit in carts already holding flats of marigolds.  And so forth.

I got to the check-out line holding Juniper (screaming, like a baby cat) in my arms while her carseat sat in the cart and continued to block my view of everything; Daisy in the other seat with food dribbled all down her dress and saying "Too hot!" accusingly at me as she ate a piece of ravioli; Ky alternating between running into people's legs and saying "Wait mommy!  I need to sit down!"; and Sebby and Abraham fighting over who would push and who would "guide" the cart (answer: neither, instead they would keep crashing into the edges of the aisles as they wrestled it back and forth between them, drawing glares from [no doubt population-conscious] bystanders).  

As I started trying to unload the cart with one hand, a lady came up to me and said, "Here, come over here in this other line; you'll be next and I'll unload your cart."  I thought she was an employee at first (probably there to tell me about some rule my children were violating) so I followed obediently, but then I saw she was just another customer, there with her two darling red-haired teenage daughters.  They put me in front of them in line and unloaded all my groceries onto the conveyor belt while I stood there holding Juniper and blinking back tears (of embarrassment and gratitude).  And then after I paid, the mom said, "I'm sending my daughter out with you to unload and help you with your cart!"  So one of the girls shyly pushed my cart out and filled my trunk up with crates and boxes while I buckled in children.  I couldn't believe it; I was SO grateful.  I kept  saying Thank You and the girl kept smiling and unloading and then finally running back inside the store with a little wave.  All the way home I kept thinking how nice they had been, how I KNOW when you have a bunch of kids that some people will think you're an idiot or irresponsible or whatever and I was prepared for that but it makes me self-conscious anyway, and to have someone smile and help instead of glaring at me was just . . . so nice.  And how even though I sort of felt embarrassed that I'd looked so needy and probably desperate, because I thought I was holding it together pretty well actually, and I WAS capable of managing by myself and I would have managed (eventually), it still touched me that someone noticed and CARED, and wanted to make it easier for me.  And it still brings a few tears to my eyes, actually, thinking about it.

And that's how it's going with five.


  1. This story makes me sad. I wish I could have been there to help you.

  2. And just when I thought you had made my day completely--I read your hubby's comment.

    I hope I help my children to grow up to be like that woman--someone who notices and then acts.

    I'm glad you're finding a new normal with your fifth. I still think I'm treading water and sinking periodically with mine. However--she's perfect and I couldn't do without her. Or without any of them.

  3. You didn't look needy or desperate or anything of the sort. You looked like a mother of five, a.k.a. a woman who deserves a whole lot of credit and generous amount of kindness.

    If it makes you feel better, I maxed out at two. In fact. I have a do-not-shop-with-Max policy for good reason. Target has asked if I wanted them to call a Code Yellow (thus putting the entire building on lockdown until we found my darling) three times. THREE. I'd be embarrassed if I wasn't so darn tired.

  4. Baby, if I had been there, I'd have swooped down on you and done the same. Surely anybody would - because Chelsea's right: a woman who is generous enough to invite five spirits to earth, guaranteeing them love, safety and the kind of food you know how to make deserves accolades and delighted help.

    G, when we were young, just couldn't understand why I didn't want to go to the store with my three kids under 4. He was young then. And a bit of an idiot. (He's not going to read this) Once he saw this woman with five kids hanging onto a cart, pushing it out into the parking lot at some grocery store and said, "Other women don't seem to have a problem with it - what's wrong with you?"

    He's grown up since then. He's lucky he got the chance to.

  5. I can't tell you how much this post just helped me feel so--unalone? Five has somehow been the tipping point for me, and I have had people without number say to me, "Boy, YOU've got your hands full . . ." But it's the people like this lady with her daughters that make you feel like you can handle it. I just hope I can remember to be that kind when I'm older!


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