Saturday, February 16, 2008

How The Other Half Lives

Keri and Matty and the boys are up in Boston for the long weekend, visiting their old stomping grounds.

And boy, is it quiet around here.

Keri posted about this phenomenon after Thanksgiving, when our house emptied of all the extra kids who were visiting for the holiday: how easy it is to get used to one level of chaos, and how peaceful it feels when that chaos is lowered substantially, even if the new level is way above what most people experience on a daily basis. This has led me to remark to Marina, truthfully and unironically, during those weeks that Keri and Matty take the boys to Ireland every year, "It sure is quiet with only five kids around."

And now, with Jonah also gone, and just four neurotypical kids in the house, I think I'm experiencing, for the first time since Jonah was diagnosed, what life is like for most people. Not that many of my friends have four kids, but a lot have three, and that's close enough.

How is it different? Less fighting, for one thing. I'm not sure why, but Hilary hardly every fights with Erika, although she and Declan go at it several times a day - probably because they're so close in age, neither one is willing to grant the other the clearly defined leadership role that Erika enjoys with all the kids. Also, from a purely mathematical perspective, with Ronan gone, that reduces the insane amount of baby snatching, hitting, crying, etc. that typically goes on around here by a third.

And with the Fisher-Murphys out of town, the ages of the remaining kids fall into a more typical distribution. Most parents don't have 3 - soon to be 4 - kids under the age of 2, who need to be closely supervised. Generally, in large families, the neediness of the younger kids is balanced by the independence of the older kids. This weekend, at least, I can see that even large families can enjoy long, peaceful stretches of time. Erika and Hilary - like most school-aged children, I assume - disappear into the bowels of the house and do their own thing, either separately or together, for hours. The twins are asleep before eight each night and take afternoon naps - which is what they're doing right this second. Since I don't have to keep a constant eye on Jonah, to make sure he doesn't decide to throw his sneakers off our balcony or try to make a soft pretzel in the microwave and spill an entire pound box of kosher salt on the kitchen floor, I can relax and catch up with my blogging.

Is this where I'm supposed to stop and say that, despite the calm, I miss Keri, Matty, Declan and Ronan like crazy and can't wait for them to come back?

I don't really miss them that much, honestly. They haven't been gone long enough. And changes in routine are always nice, especially when they allow you to take a deep breath and relax a little. But I have to say, I was never very good at relaxing. As much as I enjoy a good vacation, I'm always even more excited to come home. Because when it comes right down to it, I love the crazy vitality of our day-to-day life. I love the intellectual and creative energy of four smart, thoughtful and interesting adults constantly bouncing ideas off one another. And I especially love watching seven children grow into people, with their own, very different identities, knowing that the sparks of love and conflict and imagination and yes, empathy, that fly with every encounter are and will continue to be instrumental in shaping them into the fascinating personalities they are all well on their way to becoming.

1 comment:

Short Bus Book said...

Hi Amy,
I read your blog and thought you might be interested in a project I'm working on: