Pick Your Battles
People often ask me what is the toughest thing about having five kids. My answer is never what they assume it will be. It is not getting my kids to sleep, it is not getting them to eat (although, don't get me wrong, that is no easy task) , and it is not getting them to brush their teeth. For me, the toughest things are having great patience, and also knowing how to "pick my battles".
My family gets stressed with me because I'm kind of a control freak. I want to make sure I organize every detail of our family operational process (sounds technical, but, I mean with a large family you have to be at least somewhat organized). This method was working fine up until our third child became a toddler. Every night, I would lay out the clothes for the next day and every morning, I would have them put their pajamas into a basket to have ready to go for that night. Every bedtime routine was performed meticulously, like clockwork. We were a well-oiled machine. Honestly, I was good, I was on it, and I had control. Around the time when Kaiya turned two, however, things changed. I was pregnant with baby number four (Taya) and I started losing control....a bit. My older two, Mia and Sienna, started challenging me about things. Specifically, the clothing choices that I would select for them to wear for the day. They were becoming more and more independent. Kaiya was a strong and determined two year old and wanted to be like her older sisters, so she would fight me on the clothing thing as well (among other things). After a while, I had to give in, there are too many other things to worry about once you have three or more kids. So, as long as they dressed weather appropriate, and were clean and tidy, I started to let them choose their own outfits. Honestly, some of their ensembles were (and still are) ridiculous, we're talking Christmas T-shirts in June, or something I saw Taya in yesterday: a floral skirt on top of different floral leggings, paired with a St. Patrick's Day T-shirt and cowgirl boots (but somehow she managed to pull it off ) . I have to be open to any and all combinations though, and it can certainly be interesting sometimes.
Picking your battles comes into play all the time with a large family. I cannot be getting stressed over the little things anymore, we do not have time to waste over silly, petty stuff. For instance, our mornings are way too insane to waste time arguing about who wants pancakes and who wants cereal. Heck, most mornings I'm just happy that they are eating something. Needless to say, I have learned to "chill out" (somewhat), and try to go with the flow more and not focus on the little things (as much).
One of the other greatest challenges is being able to have great patience at all times. ALL TIMES! I have to admit this part is getting a little bit better now that there are a couple less toddlers. However, I will never forget when Mia was in first grade and I had 4 kids, ages 4 and under, and I had 3 schools to go to, 3 days a week (I do the same now, but it is only 2 days a week) . Those mornings of getting an infant, 3 toddlers, and a young school aged child ready and out the door took an extreme amount of patience. Things would be going well, or so I thought, everyone nearly dressed and ready to go and then all of a sudden, all hell would break loose: One ends up ripping off her socks because they are hurting her, another one went poopies in her diaper, and then the baby starts screaming to be breastfed all at the same time. Stuff like this was not a one time occurrence. No, no, no, this kind of stuff happened most mornings. In those moments, the plan of attack had to be quick and organized, prioritizing the needs, all the while keeping calm and cool and not letting them see you fall to the pressure. Nowadays, things are different, but our mornings are just as crazy. The only difference is that now they involve more older kid drama such as: hitting and fighting between them, changing outfits and shoes 10 times, forgetting something in the house and having to go back for it, and many times, someone unhooking their seat belt after you have just made sure everyone was securely fastened, to name a few.
Being a parent no matter how many kids you have though, requires A LOT of patience. When people ask questions about how I manage, I always tell people that it is all relative. It's not like I woke up one morning and had 5 kids. No, our family gradually grew, one by one, year by year. Having one kid was tough, having two was tough, they all add their own spin on it, and just when you think you've got it nailed down, something else gets thrown at you from another angle. One of my favorite quotes about multiple children from author, Karen Brown, sums this up perfectly: "My mom used to say it doesn't matter how many kids you have... because one kid'll take up 100% of your time so more kids can't possibly take up more than 100% of your time."