Today was one of those days that I just couldn't do it. We woke up to a slight dusting of snow, which of course meant that preschool was cancelled. My one-baby day turned into a four-baby day. The laundry is clean but still piled high in the laundry room. Eight months after our move, our master bedroom is still not in order. Ellis was honed in on every dangerous toy in the house. My work is laughably behind schedule. All the people seemed to be needing all the things all the time, and my anxiety began creeping beyond my control. So I called for official back-up, and luckily I have a partner in life who knows when a call for help is real.
When I'm out and about with my four kids four and under, I get lots of stares and comments. One common refrain is "I don't know how you do it." I usually just smile and nod, or reply with something like "we love it" or "we just get through each day," both of which are totally true. I love this life. I adore it. And I do just get through each day. With this many tiny hands, one day is all you can conquer at a time. But the real answer, the one I should give each time, is that we do this life only by God's grace.
We all like to appear to have it together. The well-decorated and clean house, the mannered and adorably dressed kids, the happy and still fun marriage. We like to be able to look at our accomplishments and think, man, I am really doing some stuff right. And we love to feel like we can do it ourselves. Women, especially, want to say yes to all the things, do all the things super well, and hear a "how does she do it" in the process. We thrive on that approval, that feeling of independence and accomplishment. And of course there is NOTHING wrong with accomplishment. Nothing nothing nothing. But....this "do it all myself" mindset can lead us to abandon our village. It can bring us to a place where we not only think we don't need help, but forget that others around us may be in dire need of assistance. When we take such pride in independence, we may become so isolated that we forget to extend our hand to our neighbors and sisters and friends.
Asking for help is hard. When I had just the twins, I am certain I turned down a number of helpful offers because I thought I could do it myself. And maybe I could. But as the number of young kids under our roof has grown, the chaos has grown as well. And with this chaos has come some hard yet needed reminders of how I want to live.
With four little ones sometimes you truly can't do it yourself. Sometimes you have to have a sitter. Sometimes you have to tell your husband you just can't manage the day. Sometimes you have to cancel plans with a friend to just lie down for an hour instead. Sometimes you have to ask for help with little to offer in return. And pride falls away.
With four little ones, the pictures are usually not perfect. The outfits rarely coordinate. At least one small person will always look totally disheveled. And humility grows.
With four little ones, you are not always on time. In fact, you may run late for everything all the time. And you find yourself offering others more grace. And your empathy expands.
With four little ones, you inevitably have some hard parenting days. You find your voice raised louder than you intended. You speak words a little too sharply. You learn that apologies should come not just from kids, but from parents to kids all too often. And you suddenly feel less judgment for those making parenting choices different from yours. You feel solidarity with the mom who loses it at target.
With four little ones, you realize that you are so lucky to have clean clothes that need to be folded, a husband that is a loyal partner, a house that needs to be cleaned, and tiny hands to grab everything in sight. But amidst the extraordinary gratitude, the chaos can still feel stifling. Yet you realize how much more stifling emptiness would be.
So yes, having four kids (or one kid) brings quite the chaos. But I truly believe that, by God's grace, the chaos can bring sanctification. If we sit with it, embrace it, and listen to our hearts in its midst, we will find sacred places in the chaos. We will find hearts softened toward others; hands more willing and ready to help; mouths less likely to speak in judgment. We will find empathy and apologies and forgiveness and humility, all fertile fodder for the growth of more grace. And couldn't we all use more grace?