Thursday, February 20, 2014


     In a way, it's much more demanding raising one child than three.
     Here's why:  When Braden was an only child, chores tripled (conservative estimate) compared to what they had been before due to changing diapers; laundering his soiled clothes and cleaning cloths; sterilizing bottles; preparing formula; and holding, burping, feeding, talking to, picking up after, bathing, dressing, transporting, and photographing him while trying to figure out why he cried so often.  Things eased a bit after he began sleeping through the night and didn't have to be fed or cleaned quite so frequently, but then again we couldn't leave him unattended for very long because he kept getting into trouble—even in our tiny baby-proofed apartment.  (He crawled everywhere, toppled over, banged his head, and put anything—including dead roaches—into his mouth.)
     When he reached age three, we had Penelope—the dearest, sweetest bundle of joy ever.  Rarely cried—and when she did, it sounded more like gentle gurglings than urgent pleas, unlike Braden's screeching wails that made us fear the neighbors would call Child Protective Services on us.  (Trust me, he didn't cry because of us, he cried in spite of us, a colicky baby that pushed the limits of the definition.  Never have I heard a baby cry anywhere near as loud or persistent.  And this all started from three days old when we first took him home from the hospital.  When he grew a bit older and I held him to my chest during his inconsolable fits, I plugged my near-side ear with a fingertip to prevent permanent hearing loss.  Plugging his ears was out of the question as it sent his pitch and volume that much higher, exasperated shrieks unimaginable.  He'd cry so loud and so long—an hour, say—that his voice turned hoarse.  Exhausted, he'd finally yawn and fall into deep, lost-to-the-world sleep, easing our jungled nerves for the next few hours if we were lucky.  Full disclosure:  He has a genetic disorder that I am convinced caused his infant fussiness.  There was and is no treatment or cure for it so it's our job to accommodate the best we can.  He outgrew the incessant fussiness after several months and has grown mostly normal since.)
     As much because we needed their help as to build their characters, we assigned them chores early, starting with straightening up after themselves, fixing their beds, getting dressed, attending to their personal hygienes (although potty training took awhile for the older two, especially Braden), and busing their own dishes to the sink.  Then as they grew, we added folding laundry; wiping the table; sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping the floor; and emptying the rubbish.  Additional chores a few years later included dish washing; setting the table; preparing certain dishes (cooking rice in the automatic cooker, making and serving milk from milk powder, preparing ramen with condiments, washing lettuce for salads, and cutting fruits); opening and closing the louvers and blinds; cleaning counters; carrying in and storing groceries; hanging up and taking down the laundry; carrying heavy bags; and almost anything else we feel they are ready for and capable of doing safely, being of the mindset that there is no greater satisfaction than a job well done and the best preparation for life is for them to become independent, capable of living on their own by the time they reach age eighteen.
     After dinner is a joy now—everyone to their assigned duties:  Jaren controls the light switches and wipes the dining room table; Penelope wipes the counters and stores away the small leftovers, Braden vacuums the floors; I put away the dishes from the dish rack, stack the dirty dishes, and prepare the soapy water; Deanne scrubs the dirty cookware, cleans the stove, and puts away the spices; and dish washing gets done by whoever's turn it is.  (Often enough, it's Braden or Penelope due to discipline for misbehavior.) 
     Whereas Deanne and I might have taken forty-five minutes to do a thorough after-dinner clean up, now we're usually done and out in less than half that time and sometimes in less than five minutes.
     Not to suggest that it's easier raising more kids than less—it's not, it's far more complicated.  As my friend Norm said, “As your children mature, the demands on your personal time lessen, but that doesn't mean things get any easier.  New challenges arise that need addressing.  And these are always changing.”  When I asked him for specifics, he mentioned character development issues such as honesty, work ethic, self-image, dealing with feelings and friends and mean people and other age-specific growth issues ranging from stranger anxiety to opposite gender parent attraction.
     Which reminds me of the teen years—I can see them coming.  (Actually they've already arrived—early for both Braden and Penelope—though maybe what we've seen to date were mere minor tremors before the big ones yet to come). 
     Remembering my teen years, I cringe.  If theirs are anything like mine were, then we're in for a rough ride.  (Well, not that rough.)  But I'm hopeful.  A Christian counselor once said that all the hard work raising children right when they're young pays off during their teen years when things are relatively smooth sailing.  We'll see.  At the least, those years should be interesting.

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