It’s been over five years since the birth of my fifth child, the child I never thought we’d have. Before we married, my husband and I agreed that we would like to have at least four kids, and after that, we’d see if we wanted more or not. Once we started having kids, it seemed to make sense to have them as quickly as possible, since I was already 28 years old at the time. For us meant that we had 3 kids in 44 months.
My kids are growing up! My husband and I have actually reached the stage of starting to help our older children develop marketable skills and try to figure out what they want to do in life. These days, I find myself contemplating the nature and goals of parenting more than ever before.
I enjoyed Andrew more than I had enjoyed any previous baby, but it was a bittersweet enjoyment. I was constantly thinking in terms of lasts. This was the last time I would get to take a newborn home from the hospital, the last time I would get to nurse an infant, the last time I would snuggle a baby of my own, the last time I would applaud my child’s first steps and first words. It was difficult to say goodbye to this stage of my life. So I was delighted when I found out that we were expecting baby number six, even though we hadn’t been trying to get pregnant.
If you haven’t yet, read part 1 first.
The infant stage with any baby has specific challenges, so my experience is that it usually takes about six months to adapt to having a new child in the family. However, the adjustment was much easier with James than it had been with Peter. The three older boys could all walk without help, I think they were all potty trained, and they probably even dressed themselves by that point. The 2-and-a-half-year-old probably still needed some help in the latter department, but I’ve always encouraged early independence among my kids, and I could enlist the older boys to help him. By the time that James was born, Samuel, our eldest, was already 5 years old and able to be really helpful. It was a completely different experience—and easier—than when I had only had three kids.
I have six kids—to be precise, I have six boys, ages 3 to 14. Other moms often express amazement over how I’m able to manage with so many kids when they feel overwhelmed with just one (or two, or three). I always affirm their feelings of difficulty or overwhelm and then share the secret I’ve learned from having lots of kids: it’s hard at first, but it gets easier the more kids you have, and there are great blessings that more than make up for the challenges.
During the COVID lockdown last spring, I had an epiphany. For the first year of pandemic restrictions, I saw things one way, and then another parent’s comment in the chat group for my 2nd grader’s class caused a shift in my focus, and suddenly, everything looks different.
Peter looked so pale and fragile lying in his hospital bed after surgery. I later learned that the fracture had been so complicated that repairing it had been something like piecing a puzzle together, resulting in the long surgery. Because of how much blood he lost, they almost gave him a blood transfusion, but his cautious surgeon, wanting to avoid the potential complications of that procedure, wanted to wait to see if Peter could pull through on his own. His blood test results weren’t in the danger zone, so it was possible that his body would be able to replace the lost blood by itself.
(Spoiler: It wasn’t COVID)
After a long break, I began to post on this blog again in the spring of 2020 with grand aspirations of writing something new every week, but several things happened to interfere with my plans. I’d like to explain … and then make another effort to start posting regularly again!
We live in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine. Right downtown. As in, our living room balcony overlooks a sidewalk cafe on one side, the entrance to a hostel on the other, and a 24-hour coffee shop across the street. (Why we need 24/7 access to coffee is beyond me, but they get business all day and all night long. I once even saw a couple park below our balcony around 3 am, stroll hand-in-hand across the street to the coffee shop, and emerge a few minutes later with take-out cups in their hands. I was a little dumbfounded. But, to be fair, I witnessed all this while standing on our balcony hanging up wet laundry at 3 am, so perhaps there were three people out that night whose actions could have raised eyebrows.) There are plenty of interesting things to watch from our balcony, from cars passing on the street, to people walking their dogs, parents with children, old ladies sweeping the sidewalks with short brooms, and once even a crew of men using a cherry-picker and a chain saw to trim limbs off trees. Our dog and two youngest kids love to hang out on the balcony and watch everything.
There’s just one problem. Our two youngest children are still in various stages of potty training, and as a result, somehow between the toilet and the balcony they manage to misplace their pants and underwear. Multiple times per day. People are constantly passing by on the sidewalk just one story below our balcony, not to mention the people seated at the sidewalk cafe, enjoying their meals and puffing away on their waterpipes. If any of these passersby or diners happened to look up at just the right moment, they might see a cute little 2-year-old boy or 4-year-old boy with an impish grin, a T-shirt, AND NOTHING ELSE!
Granted, this situation is far less scandalous here in Ukraine than it would be in the U.S. or even other parts of Europe, but it still never ceases to mortify me. I feel like every time I turn around, I’m darting out onto the balcony to haul in one of these exhibitionist children of mine and find him some underwear, at the very least.
A few nights ago, most of the family was still seated at the dinner table when my husband noticed that the dog and our 4-year-old had gone out onto the balcony. My husband quickly called out to the 4-year-old, “Andrew, do you have underwear on?”
Completely unperturbed, Andrew called back, “Al-most?”
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Not long ago I witnessed this heart-warming scene:
My almost-2-year-old was standing in the kitchen holding his almost-4-year-old brother’s water bottle. Big brother went up to little brother and roughly snatched his water bottle away. Little brother responded by hitting big brother.