For the past week I have been a (temporary) mother of seven. In addition to my own five children, I've been watching the two boys (ages six and three) of a friend here at post. Something came up and she had to be in London, so I offered to watch her boys so her husband could come along. London is always better with a friend.
I'm not a martyr, however. We had already talked about a child swap before and I'm pretty sure that she's getting the worse end of the bargain. Because two children and five children, no matter the ages of the five children, is not the same number of children.
I've watched more children before - when we were in Virginia I watched my sister's four children and so had nine children ages eight and under for four days all by myself - so I wasn't that worried about two extra boys.
And for most of the time, I was right. The six year old went to school (another reason to pity my friend - one extra child during the day is not five extra children during the day) and the three year old played very well with Joseph and Edwin. He may have wandered around the house naked from the waist down from time to time, but that's a pretty regular occurrence here anyway.
I still got my nap and school still got done. We had the situation so well under control that on Monday we held Family Home Evening. As I cuddled in between the two boys for our lesson (also known as Stories From the Friend), the younger gave me a big hug and exclaimed, "I LOVE you, Sister Sherwood!!!" I felt the warm glow of a mother hen taking in a few extras. See, easy. No problem. Let's all sing Kumbaya together.
We took the children on a picnic for International Women's Day and everyone enjoyed themselves. Yes, there may have been some rumpled feathers when people had to stay in the stroller, but everyone recovered enough to enjoy their picnic. We were just fine.
Then Eleanor got feverish and Brandon had to make and emergency trip to the embassy. Followed by daily visits to the med unit. So our mornings went like this: get everyone fed, get everyone dressed, put child number one on the bus, put everyone else in the car, go in to the med unit, get Eleanor's finger inspected, get everyone back home, start school.
Thursday night I hosted Ladies' night, which meant that I made three dozen doughnuts, cleaned up the house, made dinner, fed dinner, and packed everyone off to bed, all before seven o'clock. Then on Friday, in addition to getting Eleanor's finger inspected we also took everyone's pictures for Uzbekistan visas. Before heading into the embassy, I gave everyone a buddy then gave them an order in line. So as we marched into the embassy I trailed three pairs of children, all holding hands, marching in formation. It wasn't quite twelve little girls in two straight lines, but we were halfway there.
Saturday was rain, so we didn't go anywhere and Brandon and I took turns napping while the children played happily upstairs, destroying the toy room. But toy rooms are the sacrificial room so that the rest of the house stays intact. By that night the boys were back home with their parents and I was once again the mother of only five.
I've realized that, no matter how well behaved children are (and these boys were well behaved, often better behaved than our own boys), two extra children is two extra children. It is two more sets of pajamas to be put on, two more sets of teeth to be brushed, two more plates to dish, to more pairs of shoes to be put on, two more mouths to ask questions with, and two more pairs of hands to make messes with. It's just a little more chaos in an already chaotic house.
It's almost enough to let my friend off her side of the bargain. Because I know that five more is so much very worse than two more. I can't actually imagine the chaos that will create. It will be a perpetually unfolding nightmare complete with sound effects, smell effects, and mess effects. I don't think that's nice to do to someone I like, much less a close and dear friend.
But it's just not quite enough. Because the Greek Islands - all alone with no bums to wipe, meals to cook, or messes to clean up - are looking really, really nice right now.