Back in the old days, extended families would live together under the same roof. Grandparents, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins would all shack up in one house, sharing resources and, more important, the adventures and blessings of everyday life.
Which explains why the average life expectancy was so much shorter back then.
Over the past two weeks, we shared our home with my younger sister, her husband, and their three adorable daughters – ages 3, 18 months, and 6 months – while they were in town for a visit. Add in my two little ones, and that makes five little munchkins who were running rampant throughout my home from dusk to dawn.
I don’t know how I made it out alive.
My house is large, square-footage-wise, but the extra space is mostly vertical, thanks to the high ceilings. This would be helpful if we were housing, say…an NBA team. It is of no benefit, however, when your roomers are less than 3 feet tall.
Words can’t describe the amount of devastation five young children can inflict on one’s home. Imagine coating every surface on the inside of your house with a layer of honey – your furniture, your walls, your television, etc. – and then inviting a family of ravenous black bear in to have at it. When it’s all said and done, everything is sticky, broken, and in complete disarray.
It’s sorta like that.
Oh, com’on, you say. They’re just children! And little ones at that. How destructive could they be? Believe me, they can do some damage. Don’t let their size fool you. Have you ever seen what a colony of army ants can do when they get organized? I rest my case.
I have to be fair to my 6-month-old niece, though. The sweet little angel’s not even crawling yet and, therefore, didn’t really contribute much to the craziness. Then again, she didn’t help much, either.
Dinnertime and bedtime, of course, were the most challenging. I’ve documented in the past just how difficult it can be to get just my two children to eat dinner. Throw another three into the mix and it’s absolute mayhem. Every evening I inhaled my meal as fast as possible, just to get out of the way of the flying food and spilt milk. My poor wife and sister, on the other hand, would go days without eating. They were too busy cooking, cutting, spooning, cleaning, wiping, and refilling.
Nighttime was a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Fortunately my children have reached the age where bedtime is reasonably routine. My sister’s kids, however, are still at that age where bedtime can be a precarious situation.
Each night while my sister fed the baby, my brother-in-law focused on getting the other two girls to bed. Taking one of his daughters, he’d ascend the stairs to the bedroom, only to return an hour or so later, frustrated and visibly spent. Then he’d take the other one up for round two. Some nights he’d come back; others he’d mysteriously disappear, only to resurface the next morning.
This chaotic atmosphere left little time for cleaning, as you can imagine. Not that we didn’t try. In the past two weeks we did 30 loads of dishes, 18 loads of laundry, swept the dining room floor 47 times, cleaned up 23 spills, and picked up the same toys over and over again continuously for 252 hours straight, just to keep from being buried alive.
O.K., maybe I’m being a little melodramatic. I have to admit that, despite the mess and the madness, it was really wonderful to spend so much time with family. After all, the mess is temporary, but the memories will last forever. I guess I just need to learn to relax and to enjoy it.
Only next time they come for a visit, I think we’ll all enjoy it together over in their suite at the Holiday Inn.