Relatively speaking, four children is not a lot. It is however, just enough past the status quo to make revealing our family size feel a bit like a badge of honor. It is typically met with some type of exclamation and a look that runs the gamut between admiring and incredulous. It's the same look I give people when they tell me they are training for a marathon. Two parts awe, one part "Are you insane?"
Having four children was a calculated decision. Well the second two were calculated, the first two came before we calculated anything. But at some point we did decide that four was the right number of children for our family. We realized with just the older two we would be empty nesters at forty and we like even numbers. Six people at the kitchen table. Busy schedules. Loud family outings and game nights. And eventually, we hoped, a slew of grandchildren. But, as is usually the case, the idea was much easier than the reality.
Four children is hard. It has not come easily for me. I have a friend who does it with ease and grace, who gives real meaning to the phrase "joy in chaos" but the reality in our house is that I am more often short tempered and overwhelmed than joyful. Which is not to say that I am not madly in love with all of my children. Individually they each own a piece of my heart that seems far bigger than the whole. But the collective responsibilities of giving them the time and structure they need pretty much kicks my butt.
And Christmas? Preparations for Christmas for a family of six definitely falls in the kick my butt category. Times ten. And a part of me believes that we have taken something beautiful and life changing and perverted it into a season of stress and excess in our need to create some kind of magic in our lives. We do our best to share with our children the miracle of the first Christmas. Of Christ incarnate in a tiny child. Of the first step in a plan that gave us direct access to the King of Kings.
But, if I am being honest, another part of me has bought wholeheartedly into the dream of modern Christmastime magic. Like everyone I know, I love Christmas morning. I purchase too much despite resolutions to keep it simple, and sleep fitfully the night before. Because, oh, if it isn't a heckuvalot of fun to have four kids on Christmas morning. Suddenly, for a little while, the dream I had for a large *happy* chaotic family is a reality. The laughter, the mess, the noise is all multiplied and our home becomes a three-ring-circus defying my ability to take it all in at once. Picture taking takes a backseat to exclaiming with the older kids and assisting the younger ones. And then, once the opening and celebrating with extended family is over we settle into the week that follows.
The week that I refer to as "the most wonderful time of the year." Schedules are clear and - most importantly, I think - The Man is home. Bickering seems less in the light of new toys to share. And I get to be, temporarily, the mom I thought I would be. Saying yes, more often than no. Staying in PJs til noon or later. Playing with my kids in lui of cleaning house or running errands. Family outings are planned. Boardgames are dusted off. And blogging commences while snuggled on the sofa with my sweetie because of my brand new laptop.
(OK, that's just this year, because did I mention I got a new laptop? I am beside myself with hi-tech glee!)
I know that in a week things will be back to normal. And I pray, as I always pray, that I will find more balance, more patience, more organization. But for now, I am thankful I have this reprieve. This time called Christmas.
And now, I must go. The Man has laid down a game of Blokus and a challenge and I need to go kick some board game butt.