Half-term, and a 6-hour drive up to North Wales to see Grandma, with 50% of my children. Well, strictly speaking, maybe that should be 100% given that the older two are technically adults now. My family fluctuates like that.
Having four children means that you get their company in different numbers and combinations, although in reality that usually means the oldest two or the youngest two. But sometimes you get three at the same time, and sometimes only two but not the obvious two that go together. The larger family is exciting in that way. They keep you on your toes. Sometimes you go through three names before you hit on the right one.
For those of you considering producing more than the average 2.4 children, I thought it might be useful to let you know the reality and disabuse you of the myths around the larger family.
Number one is that the older ones will not become natural baby-sitters of the younger ones. That’s about as likely as seeing them carry babies around on their backs as they go to school – it works in primitive tribes only. By the time they are old enough to baby-sit, the older ones will have full social lives of their own, and there is no way you can bribe them to stay in on a Saturday night, any Saturday night of any year.
Another myth is the idea that you are doing children a favour by producing ‘a little friend to play with’ when in reality you are providing them with their nemesis who has the temerity to take up some of your attention. You will have to deal with the fallout.
And the image of setting off on family jaunts with lots of children running around happily… well I worked out that the period during which the youngest could walk and the oldest still wanted to come out with us lasted roughly 2 years 5 months and 3 days.
On a more positive note, a large number of children fast-tracks you on the path to giving up on the parenting ideals your society bombards you with. We all get there in the end, but it’s quicker the more children you have. You start to say ‘Oh well..’ a lot as you fail once again in the basics of over-parenting.
The older ones get the gift of all your worries, aspirations and efforts, and by child three you’ve exhausted your reserves and just let them get on with it.
As my oldest son noted with some surprise recently, it’s the younger two in our family who seem to have navigated childhood with the fewest problems and hang-ups, and given us the least reason to worry. Maybe because we were just too exhausted to pay that much attention.