It is not a very endearing term, but it is the one that most accurately describes what it feels like to be in public with all four children. I say “in public” because at home, I usually feel like I see Pace. Mary Aplin. Jay Paul. and Mae. Each an invaluable and integral part of our home. Each an individual. When we are in public, most specifically when we are in a parking lot walking from our car to wherever we are going, I feel like I no longer have four individual children, but instead a swarm of small, vulnerable people humming around my legs and hanging from my arms.
I know that it always takes time to re-establish your normal routines after adding a new member to the family. I had a 30-minute long conversation with my friend Ann recently, solely on how to navigate from the grocery store parking lot, through the store, and finally the check-out line. If you were eavesdropping, you would have wondered what military re-connaissance effort we were planning. Doing the grocery store with children is not for sissies. Three months into life as a mother of four babies, and I feel pretty confident about taking on our normal activities. It doesn’t always go well, but I at least have a protocol to fall back on for most situations… …
What I could not establish a protocol for, was how to stop feeling like a swarm. How to stop feeling overwhelmed and short of breath about the number of lives I was responsible for. How to feel like I was mother to Pace. Mary Aplin. Jay Paul. and Mae all day long.
The startling revelation that I came to, was that I needed to seek out time with them as individuals. Please realize that I say this with caution, knowing that this may not always be how we operate. It may not seem the least bit revultionary to you like it has been for me, but living moment to moment and seizing every possible opportunity to be with them one-on-one is how I make it through the day right now. It is how I have found my breath again after adding number four.
Often, it is not so much that I am DOING anything differently, as it is that I am RECOGNIZING and making the best of ordinary times in our day. For example, Mary Aplin gets out of school at 12 and Jay Paul takes a nap until it is time to leave again to pick up Pace at 3. That is now my coveted time with Dapples. We do her homework, normally. Nothing too special, but later in the afternoon, when it is time for Pace’s homework, I don’t feel bad sending Mary Aplin upstairs to “babysit” Jay Paul in the playroom. I have had my time with Dapples, and the 3:30-4:30 window is Pace’s time.
Once I started noticing these windows of positive time, it helped me realize who had a defecit…it was poor Jay Paul. And as frustrated as I have been with him for all his naughtiness of late, I started to wonder if it could be that my neediest child was in need of focused attention. So, I dropped one of his mornings at MMO and started devoting Mae’s (marvelous) morning nap all to him at least one morning a week. He started loving me again. Instead of being frustrated ALL of the time, now it’s only 3/4 of the time 😉
My Mae’s moments have to be stolen in little spurts throughout the day. I have started going (alone) to the nursery to nurse her at least a couple times a day. Sometimes Jay Paul finds us and tears the room to shreds around us or squeezes in the chair with us demanding “Book!” “Book!” as he wallops us with it, but sometimes he doesn’t. And I get to gaze at her little face and we smile at each other so big that my heart swells to three times its size. She is a patient wonder.
There are still times when I get overwhelmed by the swarm, but spending the day looking for one-on-one times, valuing those moments when they do present themselves as a precious opportunity, and praying God continues to provide the energy for me to make it through them all is how I’ve survived so far. It gives me benchmarks to feel like I’ve accomplished something throughout our day, instead of just powering through it. And there are times, like yesterday afternoon when all three were playing together at the park, and Mae was happily observing it all from my arms when I LOVE the swarm. All of them together. All at once.