One afternoon, while I was sitting outside watching my last brain cell fly away hand in hand with my last nerve cell, my neighbor came by. She sat beside me and asked me the most-asked question of the century. She asked me why I don’t send my kids to school.
Well, with no brain cells left, it was a hard thing to deal with. So I began to tell her my recorded speech. “We like the time we have together… they learn better…we have a wonderful support group.” Satisfied, my neighbor then asked the second most common question: “Why do you have so many children?”
Sadly, the second question, posed by many well-meaning Catholics, asked me why I do everything that I do…what a deep question for a mother of four little ones with another on the way.
Why do I do what I do? Why do I live the way I live? Why have I chosen a harder path when an easier path was available? Why have I decided to live on this farm with this family? I don’t say it to my neighbor, but in my heart I know the answer: I could have chosen an easier path, but I could not have chosen a better path.
Of course, as the sun peeks over the treetops each morning, it can be difficult to remember the whys of life. I start the day half asleep, half awake. I don’t believe I have slept an entire night in 7½ years. Anyway, early in the morning I am awakened by the inhuman screeching sounds made by my two beautiful sons.
They have found something to fight about even before they fully awaken… that is genius! I, their loving mom, fly out of bed, glamorous as always, and in a loving tone of voice, explain to them that our family’s Bulgarian roots provide a personal connection with the Gypsies. At that point the boys decide that they enjoy their own company far better than the Gypsies’, and they go downstairs haunted by my beautiful visage.
By the time I get my teeth brushed, my youngest is in frantic search of his human bottle. I scoop him on my lap to nurse, and after a few grunts he is satisfied.
Soon I hear tiny steps up, followed by whispers and warnings of this sort: “Thomas, be careful! She’ll hear you!” Or “Peter, come with me. I’m scared she’ll look at me!” My boys have ventured up in front of me. The fear of the Gypsies had given in to a basic human need – hunger. I set the table in a manner befitting an “I Love Lucy” episode. After all, I am still trying to catch some sleep.
Somewhere in between, my precious daughter has gotten up and is now informing me that if she were a fairy she wouldn’t have to do schoolwork. Love of learning is a force that drives my fairy to tears. The table is cleaned, the boys are playing and fighting at the same time, the baby is walking around with a huge blob of oatmeal on his head. (I figure that if oatmeal is good for your skin then it must also be good for your hair.) Left to beautify himself, the baby wanders off to somewhere in his sister’s room. I am afraid to say we have lost a kid or two in that ever-engulfing mess!
I give my daughter her school instructions and just in time, because now I have a fight to stop. I put the pasta drainer (helmet) on my head, pick up my biggest pot lid (shield) and a wooden spoon (sword), and go after the two gladiators.
To all of you out there, I can survive a fight between a Spartan and a Persian better than one between two boys before the age of reason. While I am washing the baby and now lecturing the boys in a loud voice, my daughter is having major bodily function failure. Her eyes are rolling back, her hair is standing up, her body is convulsing, all from the pain of writing the letter “P.”
See, if I was a fairy mom I would just have to put some fairy dust on her. But being a Catholic mom I run for the holy water. I think I might need a priest.
Now it is lunchtime and I just found out that Marco Polo is so boring and Nicolas needs a new diaper. While I change his diaper (which could be used as a lethal weapon in war), I try to explain that Marco Polo isn’t boring and that learning is always fun. The boys are starving already, Maria’s eyes are permanently stuck in the back of her head, and I am cooking mac & cheese with a baby attached to my hip.
Lunch flies by quickly and I mean that literally. There is macaroni stuck on my ceiling, and by now the baby is wearing his lunch on his lap as a kilt. The boys are done fighting over who can eat faster, and I am told for the 100th time that Marco Polo is just no fun. As I try to clear the table, Nicolas is ready for a nap. With a loving voice I tell the children that if they wake him up I will lovingly give all their toys away, and then I go lie down to nurse Nicolas.
And so goes my life until my husband comes home from work. He opens the door cautiously. After all, he knows the dangers that lie behind it. Lego pieces, blocks, paper, shoes, and toys are all weapons, lurking everywhere trying to trip us.
I then serve the grand dinner – hot dogs! Now my daughter falls into a seizure because we are starving her. She doesn’t like hot dogs… at least not today! While we ignore our starving child, my husband and I scarf down our first meal of the day. Let me tell you, we are both very fast eaters! Before the boys’ or the baby’s tantrum (or whatever), which is usually about 10 minutes into dinner, we are both done.
Knowing my Balkan blood, my husband quickly removes the kids to the yard or bathtub. I can’t talk, I am exhausted, and I don’t remember what I did that day. Did I feed them? School? By all the chaos lying around, it’s evident that I did a lot, and yet nothing at the same time.
So why do I do it? For the evenings when I can snuggle my children, see them, hug them, and realize that I am the richest, most blessed woman in the world. I do it for their smiles and their sleepy eyes.
I do it for life. That’s it. That’s the answer to all of my neighbor’s questions. Life.
Choose life… that you may live!