Those of you who have been following this blog know two things about me…(i) I have five kids and (ii) my family and I started a church. There are many parallels. We have been extremely fortunate to be part of growing church that started with five people. The growth of the church brings with it certain challenges and changes that have implications on every aspect of our community. Well, the same was true when our family grew year by year when we were blessed with a new kid.
A lot of people ask us what it was like having another (and another and another). What was the hardest transition, 1 to 2 kids, 2 to 3 kids, 3 to 4, etc. Today I want to share with my readers my thoughts on the changes each kid brought as our family grew.
In many ways having only one kid was the easiest and the hardest at the same time. Obviously after five kids we look back on the days when we only had one as the easiest transition. But it was really hard. I was 25 years old when #1 was born. I had no clue. Everything was new. Everything was stressful. We called the doctors all the time. We even rushed #1 to the ER one night only to find out four hours later that she had gas. Yes having five is more hectic than having one, however having your first kid is a larger than life experience so it is hard to quantify. You can’t say enough about how experience and knowledge helps, which we had none of with #1. Knowing how to manage grandparents, experimenting, learning how to raise a kid together as a couple, etc. My wife and I distinctly remember feeling and saying, “How are we ever gonna be able to raise more than one?”
Hardest Thing About #1: Emotional Stress
When my wife was pregnant with #2 our friends (the Glatters) told us that having two kids is not double the work. It is triple the work. Boy were they right. First of all it was challenging for my wife because #1 was three months old when she got pregnant with #2. When #2 was born life got hectic. We went from a single stroller to a double stroller. I hate double strollers. They are really hard to maneuver. Although we were living outside of Boston, at the time, we went to church in the city and frequently drove in to enjoy center city Boston. That being said, having a double stroller was tough. Small elevators. Small restaurants. Subways had no elevators!
Sleep training was really hard. Remember I told you how many nights it took with #1? Well, you can’t necessarily do that in a 700 sq. ft. apartment with #2 because we would wake up #1. It took us 1.5 years to figure out how to do it. We had to create a room within a room before we put the two together in the same room. In our bedroom we used our dresser which had a mirror attachment as a room divider. We made sure we angled #2’s crib so that she wouldn’t be able to see us. So we sleep trained #2 in our room.
Hardest Thing About #2: Physical Stress
For us this was the hardest transition. Now a lot of that was due to our circumstances. First of all, we were still in the 700 sq. ft. apartment. Second, when #3 was born #1 was 2 years old, #2 was 1. We had three kids in diapers. During that time we spent about $150 per month just on diapers. I was only making $1300 dollars a month so that hurt. There were many days when my wife just changed diapers all day long (when one or more had diarrhea). Every parent knows what it is like to change a diaper and be so tired you leave it on the coffee table. Well for us a bad day meant one was on the coffee table, one was under it, one was on top of the tv, two were on the bookshelf. I feel like for one year our apartment smelled like a public restroom.
We lived in Boston where we could have 4-6 month winter weather. I can tell you flu season and the expression “something is going around” is different in the east coast than the west. It is serious in cold weather cities. Well, one of the hardest things for us is illness. When one person gets sick it does one of two things. Either we all get sick at the same time which is total devastation or we get it one at a time. I am not sure which is worse because when it goes one at a time, one person would be sick for 1.5 months. Once #1-3 had a stomach flu. They were all vomiting. This was not fun. We had carpet. We also had three really young kids who weren’t old enough to tell us they were gonna throw up or run to a trash can. So they just barfed right where they were sitting. That week they would barf, my wife would clean up with Resolve which cleans and odorizes foul smells by emitting another strong odor. Then we had to cover the spot because we had small children and didn’t want them touching and licking chemicals. I come home one day and there is a pot, pan, bucket, chair over every part of our living room. I will never forget that week.
For us the transition from 2 to 3 was the hardest. I became a Christian when I was 12. However from ages 14-21 I fell away big time. Lived a life where my faith was nowhere to be found except at church. Well when I was 21 I gave my life back to God. One of the easiest things for me to change was my language. I had a foul mouth. Overnight it was gone. I never cussed once as a Christian until I had my third child. There were days I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know how to contain my frustration. Our marriage went through our first real test of love and patience as well.
The thing was, during this time we lived with other Christian leaders in an apartment that had great sound protection side to side and up and down however you could hear everything from the hallway. So fighting was hard. There were times we would go into our closet to yell at each other. In the beginning I would internally cuss by making weird noises. Guuuhhhhhh! SHhhhaaaaa! Duuuuuuuu! Furrrrrrrrr! Then the stress piled on and I would scream curse words into my pillow. Some how I thought that if God and my neighbors couldn’t hear, it wasn’t a sin.
One day, it happened. I dropped an F-Bomb. I am not gonna lie. I felt really dirty and really good at the same time. Over 10 years of discipline down the drain. Why do I share this? Just to say going from 2 to 3 was really hard for me.
Hardest Thing About #3: Physical and Marital Stress
FOURTH & FIFTH KIDS
To be honest for our family going from 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 kids wasn’t the hardest adjustment for us emotionally or physically. When you have total chaos adding a little more chaos isn’t that different. I will say this…having #4 and #5 is a challenge financially. We can no longer have 5 passenger cars and transport our family. After #5 turned 2.5 years old our minivan was too small for our family’s needs. We had to get high capacity front load washing machine and dryer. After #4 and 5 we needed more than a 3 bedroom place. Food, toilet paper, towels, laundry…it all adds up. Medical bills (especially dental) really start to pile up.
Another challenge going from 3 to 4 and 4 to 5 kids is that our schedules are incredibly busy now. At our school, different grades start and end at different times to accommodate traffic. Kid’s lessons are crazy because you have to load up all the kids to take one kid somewhere and pick them up.
Some of you may read this and wonder why anyone would want to raise more kids. I am telling you it is worth it. Every day every moment is worth it. Yes, there are challenges we face as a family. Yes, my wife and I have had to work harder on our marriage because we are so busy and stressed. But each child is a gift and we have never once wished we stopped having kids. This is coming from a guy who never liked kids. The laughter, the stories, the fighting, the forgiving, the personalities. Our lives are so much more interesting and vibrant because God has blessed us with so many kids.
As a matter a fact…right before “THE PROCEDURE” I asked my wife if we could have one more. She said no. But she does admit after “THE PROCEDURE” she does wish we could have another little one. Don’t tell our parents about this one.