Ever since Ben got married, Hans left on his mission and Stefan went to school (and then got married)– kind of all at once, people ask me, “Does your house seem quiet now?”
Honestly, we haven’t had much quiet at all. 1. Three kids are still a full-size family with plenty of chaos and lessons and activities and 2. we’ve had very few days with just five of us at home– weekends bring both married couples and Lizzy to our house and right in the middle of our birthday season we hosted two exchange students from France.
(Gabe isn’t taller than Xander. At least not yet. Xander’s just slouching.)
Just in the last few weeks we’ve settled into “the five of us.” We only set half the table. We still buy masses of food, but there are leftovers (sometimes). There are actually evenings when Erik sits and reads “Real Simple” magazine on the couch. In fact, we all read “Real Simple.” I think we’ve had the subscription for years and no one every looked at it before.
It’s not like our older boys disappeared. We still talk to them and AnnaSam and Heather and write letters to Hansie. We still worry about each of them, we pray for every one by name.
But we’re devoting more time to these three younger kids. And we’re enjoying every moment.
One advantage of a large family is knowing exactly how quickly time flies. One day they enter elementary, the next they graduate from high school. So we savor every moment. We all tag along with Xander when he asks someone to a dance, we cheer when Gabe gets 100% on a test, everyone takes a turn dancing with Mary around the kitchen.
Although we have four kid rooms, two sit empty. Gabe and Xander still prefer to share a room where they sleep in bunkbeds and discuss books and scriptures at night. Every month they fill their kitty calendar with quotes and favorite verses; every day Xander throws his clothes on the floor, while Gabe neatly hangs his in the closet. They don’t fight over the mess– or anything. Maybe they’ve just been around long enough to learn there’s almost nothing worth fighting over?
I remember thinking (and writing) Xander had the hardest place in the family: fourth boy, three super-star older brothers, our baby boy and baby girl just under him. Now he reigns over the household, benefiting from the examples of his older brothers and basking in Gabe and Mary’s adoration. Perhaps we’re too indulgent to Xander’s sense of humor, his demands for chocolate milk and his crazy schemes. He’s trying to talk us into a pull-up bar in the kitchen– that’s NOT happening.
What is happening? These two are performing in the junior high musical– Gabe somewhat reluctantly, Mary with enthusiasm as one of the elementary kids who joined the cast as Munchkins.
Gabe’s mellow, laid-back personality can get lost between his more intense siblings, but with the house a little quieter we’re hearing his jokes and stories and vast store of random facts.
Erik and I talk a lot at night, about all our children, and we know our job isn’t done. We could still completely ruin these three and hurt the older ones. So if we do have a little more time, a little more quiet, we’re doing the best we can with the five of us at home.
I’m not expressing this very well. How do explain it? What am I trying to say?
Last year with Hansie at home felt nearly perfect. He led with kindness and humor. And it kind of felt like we wouldn’t survive without him. Before that, Stefan stood as the oldest child, and I remember when he left and we thought we might fall apart. And before that, Ben and the heart wrenching ache when he left home. But we haven’t just survived; we’ve grown. And maybe I’m just a little better with change than I thought.