A few days after my older daughter moved moved back into our house (temporarily), my out-of-state brother’s three kids who are ages 4, 7, and 9 came to stay with us for a little over a week and just like that I went from having two fairly-independent children at home to six, three of which required full-time supervision, and was plunged back into the world of bedtime stories, snack-times, potty-training, communal bathing, and early-morning wake-ups.
Except it wasn’t exactly like it was when my kids were little because, this time around, I had three older kids to shoulder (an enormous portion of) the load.
My younger daughter managed bathtime and hair brushing. My older daughter supervised Monopoly sessions (and mediated the fallout).
All of my kids took on the job of “chore coach,” teaching their cousins the ropes of dish washing, collecting trash, bringing in firewood, folding laundry and so on, and then shadowing the kids as they began to do the jobs themselves.
not visible: the footstool my son is standing on
We made excursions to Costco and Magpie (to get mini vanilla braids and to see the kitchen where my younger daughter was working), and to the library to stock up on books.
78 books (the kids counted)
Nearly every day, the littles left for several hours to go play at their cousins’ or my parents’ house, or the cousins came here, and one day my older son and daughter-in-law took them on a special outing to the children’s museum and then out for pizza.
And then almost as abruptly as it began, the whirlwind ground to a halt. My older daughter moved out on Saturday and the next day the three littles went back to their home — and I felt… I don’t know. Adrift? Relieved, definitely. Also, bereft. I was so glad to have my house back again, the burden of needy littles lifted, and yet —
As my kids have grown and our family has moved from one stage to the next, the earlier stages fade. I’ve felt sad every now and then, sure, but since the changes were incremental — reasonable, wanted — I could handle them, often not even noticing what I was losing. But for that one week that my brother’s kids were here, I was back in the thick of it again (which I always kinda hated but also sorta really loved because I thrive on chaos and adore all the organization, bossing, crisis management, cooking, and hands-on, in-the-moment work that goes with running a full house).
But this time my older kids were involved. We were all working together, rallying around these curious and cuddly children, and then the cousins left and we all went back to being our own people doing our own things, sometimes together but mostly independently as it should be and as I want it to be, but that bizarre mashup of two totally different life stages juxtaposed like that — young adult kids with the wee ones — reminded me of just how much I’ve lost and how grateful I am not to be doing that anymore and how much I miss it.
Especially feeding people. That part might be my favorite.
This same time, years previous: a week in cheese, the quotidian (1.24.22), four fun things, overnight baked oatmeal, a new routine, women’s march on Washington, blizzard of 2016, lazy stuffed cabbage rolls, hobo beans, rocks in my granola, and other tales, what you can do, multigrain bread.