Four years ago our daughter Libby and her husband, Mclean, had quads: three boys and one girl joined their not-quite 2-year-old daughter Greyson. Yes, that’s five kids in under two years.
“Are all those yours?” is the question asked by shocked faces whenever they are out in public. The follow up question is, “What is it like to have so many?” and then, “How do you do it?”
Since I’m the grandmother of this family I thought I’d tell you my version of “What’s it like?”
- Just imagine: A house with four 4-year-olds, one 6-year-old, two exhausted parents, and a slightly abused, yet amazingly patient black lab. Loud plus constant motion plus loud plus constant motion! A multitasking mom walking around with cell phone in hand looking everywhere for her cell phone. Opening the refrigerator to find out you put the wipes on the shelf in there. Spending most of your day looking for a child’s “loveys” or that special toy. Keeping up with shoes and socks. Forget the socks. Get a basket for each child’s shoes and label it with their name.
- Just imagine: Hair that doesn’t always get brushed, kids who often go out in public in their pjs. You learn what doesn’t really matter, and what does. Dirty kids—who really cares? Shrieks and yells and 10 small feet racing to the door when Daddy comes home. Hearing the phrase over and over, “Hold me, Mommy” (Note: Holding them while you are sitting down isn’t good enough; they want you to stand up to do it.) A house that resembles a toddler pre-school. Toys replace furniture in the living room and dining room. Potties forget to be flushed. Everybody wants to “help” make meals, but there are too many helpers in the kitchen “helping” to make messes rather than meals. Using a laundry basket every day to take kids stuff to and from the car. Learning not to ask what everyone wants to do because it’s impossible to please all five—unless it’s ice cream! Boys and legos: Don’t even try to keep the kit and instructions. This might not be the best toy when three 4-year-olds each have a kit they want to do “right now” and one daddy. The only threat that works to quiet kids down at bedtime is the threat of having to go to sleep by themselves in the guest room. Going to the zoo with the five and realizing you have become the side show!
- Just imagine: The hours from 4-7pm. (When I had five small kids, I called this time of day “arsenic hour”—you either want to give it or take it! You are tired, the kids are tired, and you just don’t know how you are going to make it through until bedtime.) Someone is crying, someone wants to be held, someone wants another snack; it is the whiniest time of day. Did you ever feel you might die from a case of the terminal whines? The biggest event of your day is the garbage truck or the mail man. You’ve had no time to shower for three days, and sleeping through the night—it’s still a myth. Putting the kids in their car seats in the car and then racing back inside to get yourself dressed.
Today the big task is getting them to stay buckled without unbuckling, so thankfully I have a DVD player to turn on. (At least now they can buckle themselves in. It was more difficult when we had to lift them and buckle them. The hardest thing about multiple small children is the car seats! Those buckles make you want to cuss, especially grandmothers!)
Libby says, “This year I have finally gotten to the place where there are no babies in the house but somehow their favorite game is playing “mommy, daddy, baby” where I am the pretend mommy and they are the babies crawling and crying—right back to the season I wanted to forget!”
What I realize is there is no way to answer “What is it like” apart from living in the house for several days; apart from walking in their shoes, feeling the weariness, the monotony, but also the incredible delight when one of the boys rushes into your arms and hugs your neck; the amazement when one says “I’m sorry” to a sibling he just hit; siblings rushing to the side of a fallen brother to ask, “Are you okay?” When one shrieks with laughter at the simple animal noises you mimic, or stands up in his seat at the dinner table and says “Thank you, Jesus.”
How do they do it?
They do it one day at a time. They have chosen to adapt, to lower their expectations, to be flexible. They realize that this is just a brief season.
These praying parents of quadruplets are determined to enjoy it and not merely to endure it. They choose laughter over frustration.
They refuse to take themselves too seriously and instead they look for the funny things in their lives. They have learned to live in the moment. And they are incredibly grateful.
As husband and wife, they work hard at being a team. They recognize when one of them has “had it” and needs a break: a walk, a night out with the guys or girls, extra help. Their communication has to be constant and given with extra amounts of grace. God has given them a great community of friends and extended family; a strong supportive church, and older mentors who pray for them and encourage them.
When I am in their home, I experience firsthand the faithfulness of God. He has called them and He has and will equip them.
[verse reference=”1 Thessalonians 5:24″]The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.[/verse]
They have to rely on Him one day—often one hour or one minute—at a time. They have to keep their marriage tight. They are in over their heads. It is a great place to be. They are learning so much about themselves and the Lord. They are experiencing the absolute necessity of depending upon Him.
Utter dependency. Good for us all.
Their life is a party—a wild party but a party indeed! I’m so thankful I have been invited to this party!
(If you want to read about the early years go to Libby’s blog. But she no longer finds the time to keep up with entries!)
Susan Yates has written thirteen books and has spoken nationally and internationally on the subject of marriage, parenting and women’s issues for many years. For 11 years she was a regular columnist on parenting for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Susan is the mother of five and has 21 grandchildren, including a set of quads. She is devoted to sharing her wisdom and experience with moms and wives and is selflessly available to those in need. Susan has been a mom for 40 years, she and John have been married for 43 years.