This evening I took the children on a walk around the neighborhood. Theoretically Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but around here life gets a little crazy by four or five o'clock and I'm not feeling very restful, and the kids are feeling more restless than anything. I suppose when your day consists of getting ready for church, going to church, cooking dinner and then eating it, maybe you're ready to go a little stir-crazy by the end too. By five-thirty everyone was making just a little too much noise for being inside, so out we went.
Luckily we live in a neighborhood with deserted streets (we didn't have a single car pass us the entire time) perfect for walking in, so we walked. There are two sections that have been under construction since we moved here that we'll periodically visit for updates, looking for some kind of entertainment (Oh look! They finally put the windows in that house!).
This time we discovered a blobby-shaped concrete pad covered in astroturf, newly laid. I have no idea what its final purpose is, but to children finishing a long, boring Sunday it looked like heaven. Kathleen and Sophia ran up and down, prancing horses in a green pasture. Edwin somersaulted in a long line, loop after loop after loop. Joseph kicked off his flip-flops and ran circles around his siblings. The girls started racing. Edwin joined in. Joseph wandered over and all four joined hands to run up and down the length of their new green wonderland. I sat and watched them in the evening sun.
Sometimes I've wondered if having four children in five years was such a good idea as it seemed on paper (yes! It was all planned). There are days when just about everyone in the house seems to spend the majority of the day yelling, screaming, whining, and crying. Or the weeks when four children pass sicknesses off to each other like they're running a relay race. Sometimes I don't get dinner until it's cold because everyone else needs help with cutting/scooping/serving/eating their dinners. Life is generally pretty busy with so many bodies to contain.
But, even though our plan didn't truly take into account the craziness it would bring, it really did have a purpose. And that was to give everyone a friend and have everyone close enough to play together through the decades of moves to new countries and new homes and new friends and new problems.
Up until recently, this plan hadn't been in place long enough to see complete results. Sophia and Kathleen have been friends for some time now, but Edwin has only recently been behaved enough to be occasionally admitted, and Joseph has just been the baby. I realized just recently, however, that Joseph is almost two and is getting pretty close to the end of being a baby.
This evening, if only a short, golden evening on the brilliant green of astroturf, the plan worked. Kathleen, Sophia, Edwin, and Joseph laughed and shouted as they ran back and forth and back and forth across their new domain, hands linked like paper dolls.
As I watched them, I thought of all of the arguments against larger families - so much work, no time for yourself, no individual time for each child, too much money, too many years of your life sucked away - and laughed. Yes, yes of course all of those are true. They always have been and I would never deny that all of those things have an impact on my life.
But how could you compare that - money, time, a few extra years you won't need when you're dead anyway - to watching four little people that are attached to you forever, will always and forever have started with you, will grow up to be four people with lives full of meaning and more little people, run together on a quiet Sunday evening, full of joy in the way only little children can be? I don't think I could trade anything for that.
And so, when people smile when they hear the ages or count the heads, and comment that my I have my hands full, I smile back and say yes, yes I do. Some days they're full with aggravation. But others are days when they're full of joy. And those will be the days I will choose to remember when I'm old and tired and the sun has finished setting.