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.
This post first appeared on this blog in November 2014, but I had to delete the original because, during my five-and-a-half-year blogging hiatus, it became the target of literally tens of thousands of spam comments! I now have six kids, from 13 years down to 23 months, but everything I wrote here about my attitude and approach to parenting still holds true!
Parenting is a humbling process. I say “process,” not “job,” because while the end goal of this adventure is a constant, the day-to-day details change over time. My biggest dream for my children is that they would grow up to love and follow Jesus. Period. But how to encourage them in that direction looks very different as they age from 7 days, to 7 months, to 7 years. And the frequent changes and mistakes I make as I adapt to my maturing children remind me how much I still have to learn about this parenting gig.
This post is a continuation of an earlier post. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 first.
These contractions were stronger than the practice contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but they didn’t establish the textbook pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I was in frequent contact with my medical-school friend, and we decided that it must be false labor. But false labor or not, it seemed to be accomplishing something, and I was reminded of my first labor, when I had experienced weak, irregular contractions for 48 hours before finally going to the hospital and finding out that I was already 7 centimeters dilated, almost ready to have the baby!
The anxiety I had been experiencing turned into a strangling sense of dread. This oppressive feeling blanketed every waking moment, like the foreboding that a prisoner on death row must feel as his execution date nears. Frantic from the suspense, I was almost ready to check into the hospital and brave the medical system, but my husband, ever calm and logical, convinced me that was a bad idea.
It’s a beautiful spring day here in Western Ukraine. Nevermind that the temperature is hovering right around freezing–the sky is blue, and the sun is bright. It seems appropriate, as here in the Eastern Orthodox world, we’ll be celebrating Easter this coming Sunday, April 15. But as much as I love the celebration of Christ’s victory over death, this week always has the capacity to fill me with guilt. That’s because this Thursday is Chystyy Chetver, or “Clean Thursday,” in English. You see, at some point in the history of the Orthodox Church, someone decided that it was a sin to have a dirty home on the day of Christ’s crucifixion, and the tradition of Clean Thursday was born. This week Ukrainian women will labor feverishly to ensure that their homes are spotless by Good Friday, with the majority of this spring cleaning taking place on Thursday. If you took a walk in our neighborhood this Thursday, I guarantee that you’d see many people busy washing their windows. In fact, as I sit here typing, I can see one industrious neighbor already hard at work on hers, and it’s only Tuesday.
To help you understand my guilt, I have to let you in on a secret. I don’t do windows. I don’t mean that I dislike window washing or that I’m too lazy to do it or even that I’m too busy to make it a priority, although perhaps all those statements have an element of truth. No, what I mean is that at some point after having children, I made a calculated decision to stop washing windows. I still clean up the little fingerprints and wet nose art that appear on the inside of our windows, but I only wash the outsides of windows that open into our apartment or give onto a balcony, and in our current living situation, those surfaces comprise only about 50% of the total area of windowpanes. As for the other 50%? Well, I guess I just count on summer thunderstorms to keep them clean enough that they won’t become a complete eyesore.
Why do I do this?
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