"Didn't you Used to Have Four Kids?" An Unexpected Revelation as Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Catherine, Graham, Miles and I walk to school every morning. I love having that twenty minutes or so together before our respective days begin. We find all kinds of interesting things to talk about while walking. We see the same neighbors every morning, either out for their walks or in their cars on their way to school or work. It's a reassuring routine that we look forward to each day.
Last week it felt strange because it was just Miles and me walking together to school. We had more than a few heads turn, looking at us in confusion. After all, it wasn't just one child missing, but two.
A neighbor, whom I see every morning walking his two kids into the school gate said to me, "Didn't you used to have four kids?" As a matter of fact, I did! I explained that the twins had gone off to Outdoor Education for the week, Just like Garin did four years ago when he was in fifth grade, Outdoor Ed., as it is called, is a school-sponsored camping trip where the kids hike and do other fun camping things. The most noteworthy aspect of the camp, however, is that it is a sleepaway camp. Given that Catherine has only been away from home overnight twice and Graham has never been away from home, this was a big deal.
When I queried Catherine and Graham, a few days before they left, about what they were looking most forward for their upcoming week away Catherine, without pause and with great exuberance said, "Being with my friends!" Graham, also without pause, said "Coming home." There you have it.
At home, it was an interesting week without them. In my fifteen years as a mother, I have never had two children. My family grew from two to four, overnight, when I gave birth to twins in 2012. Then in 2015 Miles came along (almost two and half years to the day) and we became a family of five. The noise, the chaos, and the craziness of having four children have become a routine part of my daily existence. That is not to say I enjoy that particular aspect of having four kids, because quite often, I don't. However, I try not to dwell on that because I am never going to have two kids, or what I imagine to be the quiet and calm house that comes with having two kids.
This week I had the opportunity to pretend I had two children and see what that was like. On a positive note, it was much quieter and easier (less homework to help with, less food to buy and prepare; fewer problems and logistics to solve; and much less whining and bickering). On the other hand, unexpectedly, I missed the chaos more than I thought I would. At first, I found the quiet and calm to be relaxing, but soon I found myself feeling a bit bored and missing all the balls I am accustomed to juggling on a daily basis. Does that make me an adrenaline junkie? I suppose it does. I will save the analysis of that for another time day and time.
Whether I have become desensitized to the chaos of having four children or I was just built to have four children, it is hard to know. I do know that after a day or so of the twins' absence, I began to miss some of the things that I curse on a daily basis. On an average day, these are some of my most-used phrases. "Can everyone please stop talking so loud so that I hear myself think!" "Can we please have a civilized conversation at the dinner table just once!" "This place is a mess, can you please, clean up the crap you've left everywhere!" "I can't take the screaming anymore, would you please stop arguing with each other!" And yet, when there were only two kids and all of that chaos and noise faded away, I found myself missing what seemed to drive me the craziest, day in and day out. I was genuinely surprised.
When Catherine and Graham's bus pulled up to school on Friday, bringing them back from camp, a flood of tears came over me, most unexpectedly. I looked around to see if any of the other parents were crying and saw only a few. Where were these tears coming from? I hadn't realized, until that moment, how deeply I had missed them.
Graham got off the bus first, came running, threw his arms around me, and didn't let go for quite a long time. Catherine came off the bus a bit later and also ran up to me, throwing her arms around me, and seemed to hang on for dear life. However, unlike Graham, she began sobbing. Was that my independent girl crying tears of joy to see me? Perhaps, or possibly she was just sad that her fun-filled week with her friends had come to an end. No matter, I was overjoyed to see them both and have them back in the loud, crazy, and chaotic fold that we call home.
There were a lot of teary goodbyes last Monday morning.
The excitement level was high as all the kids and parents arrived at school that morning to send their babies off to camp.
The week flew by and before I knew it, my babies were home. Catherine was sad to say goodbye to her bunkmates, but luckily it was just for the weekend before they were reunited again today.
Within an hour of arriving home, Catherine collapsed on not one, but two separate couches, out of exhaustion. I took that as a sign that she had a good time!