Just to feed, clothe and house the eleven members of our family required energy, stamina and organization. Everyone had to co-operate because after dinner, dishes, kitchen clean-up, homework and homework help, lunches, bath time, story time and bedtime all begged for attention at the very same time.
No task was simple. For example, making sandwiches for school meant lining up twenty-two pieces of bread and preparing each sandwich with a particular person in mind because I did want them to actually eat the sandwich. Even preparing peanut butter sandwiches was anything but straightforward because kids liked either ate them with jam or not, thick or thin peanut butter or butter under the peanut butter or not.
If making lunches wasn’t daunting enough , someone had to make sure that everyone had clean clothes and shoes to wear the next day.There were indoor and outdoor school shoes, decent runners and play runners, rain, barn and winter boots, skates, both play and good sandals, slippers, shoes to wear with dresses and dress shoe for the boys. This abbreviated list adds up to about TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FOUR shoes with the potential to get lost, wet, dirty or become too small
When the seasons changed , it became even more of a big deal to organize shoes because we had to sort and put away the shoes that wouldn’t be worn for a few months.
I can still hear Emily, one of my organizers, yelling out,
“Anthony, you really don’t want to keep these worn our runners, do you?”
Anthony would protest,
“But Em ,they’re so comfortable. I like them.”
Emily would retort,
“Fine, but if they get any worse looking, I am throwing them out.”
However it was bath time, grooming time, story time and tucking people into bed that took a lot of creative problem solving abilities as well as a big investment of time. On bad days it became an assembly line. I would add hot water to the tub and the next little one would hop in and start playing as they waited their turn to be washed. Meanwhile I dried a little body , brushed hair and set up a tooth-brush for the clean child. They proceeded into the family room and dad would put on a diaper if needed and pyjamas, then cut finger and toe nails. The clean and groomed kid would hop up on the coach to look at books while waiting for a story.
I resorted to using fans in the bedrooms to create white noise so household noises would not disturb someone trying to sleep. Another tactic that worked was to allow a little person to fall asleep beside an older sibling who was reading in bed after they had “read” their own book.
However, a newborn baby transformed bedtime into something special. People couldn’t wait to climb under the covers because I would wrap the baby up tightly in a soft blanket and gently place her beside them. I can still see a child’ s delight as they gazed at the baby with a content, satisfied expression on their faces as cuddled up beside her.
Basically though, even if I could work like an efficient machine ” if I did not have love”, nothing went well.
Only love and peace can soothe a child to sleep.