I used to think that I was one of Those Moms. You know, the ones whose children always look like a Gap ad, whose houses look a Pottery Barn catalogue, and are really nice to boot. The ones that Have It All Together, despite having more than 1.5 children. I always made sure my children stayed in their seats during church, I never ever wore sweatpants to the grocery store, and I would make sure to straighten the picture frames before anyone came to visit.
I have come to realize recently, however, that I've been fooling myself. I'm actually one of Those Moms, the kind that are in the epicenter of a continuous disaster. I can keep it all together (mostly) in public, but at home the story is a little different. Having four children home all day every day creates a lot of messes. I like to call it Independent Problem Solving (IPS), but Brandon just calls it messes.
Usually this IPS also includes occasional yelling, some screaming, and often tears. It seems like there is always one child upset, one child making a mess, and one child blissfully happy at all times, oblivious to the storm around them. Occasionally everyone is happy, but that's usually when they're asleep.
Personally, this doesn't bother me much. To stay sane, I have developed a zen attitude. You two can't agree? Well, work it out without yelling or hurting each other. You want to use the hose to create a mud pit in the back yard? That's fine with me as long as you clean it up. Hmm, I see you've been cutting paper into drifts of little pieces. Make sure to get them all into the trash. Oh look, the bathroom floor has two inches of water on it. You know where the towels are.
And this works for me. It may look a little crazy, but I've got everything under control. Mostly.
The only problem with our little setup is our house. Our house looks onto the area where all of the gardeners, guards, and various assorted men who work in our neighborhood hang out. The front windows are four feet from the road that everyone and their dog saunters on. And when the windows are open, everyone can hear just about everything. Trust me. I've heard other people's fights through their windows.
So, to summarize: house full of crazy children, an audience of at least four men at all times.
I've come to accept my role in life as the Crazy White Lady. There aren't many Westerners here, and even fewer with four small children, and I think maybe none of those drive themselves everywhere with all four children in tow to shop at local fruit stands.
So when the gardeners scold me for letting Sophia sit on the ground without shoes, I shrug back at them. I don't know what you're saying, I smile and nod, and I don't really care. When the children construct their favorite locomotion machine out of Joseph's stroller and Edwin's bicycle and use it to tear around the neighborhood with all three riding, I just wave at the guy driving the Jag who has to wait for them to get out of his way. One rainy day the gardeners brought Sophia and Edwin back from their tromp (I remember how much fun it was to go for a walk in the rain) because they had gone somewhere that the guards thought was dangerous. I smiled, brought the children in, and shut the door on them. I don't care what you think my children should be doing. I'm happy to let them do strange (to you) things that make them happy. I'm the Crazy White Lady. We do that. It's our right.
By this point I know that we have a reputation. Yeah, you know, that crazy American lady who has four children that don't go to school whose house is noisy all of the time and their yard is a mess. I'm not all defiance, however, and have some shame. Obviously not enough to shape up, however.
This past week, I was upstairs taking a break while the children were in the bath. Sophia likes to bathe and dress Joseph (another IPS opportunity!), so I throw them all in and then cook dinner or whatever else I want to do while everyone is occupied. It's my own half hour of sanity before the big dinner-bedtime push takes place.
Eventually responsibility kicked in and I headed down to the kitchen to finish dinner. Our house has three floors, with the toy room/study on the top, bedrooms in the middle, and everything else downstairs. The middle floor has two balconies and one of them is on top of the front porch, overlooking the neighborhood grassy common area.
As I went down, I noticed the balcony door open. There was some commotion going on outside and someone had decided to see what was happening. A few stairs further and I saw who it was. Edwin was leaning on the balcony, watching two girls run through the sprinklers to the dismay of a guard. And he was completely naked, fresh from the bath.
When I asked him how long he had been standing outside, he thought for a minute, "a long time. Those girls were being bad, mommy."
Then we had a discussion about getting dressed before standing on the balcony for the entire neighborhood to see. He agreed it was a good idea. Then he got dressed.
I suppose every neighborhood has to have their crazy house. One day, however, I hope it will be someone other than me.