Elizabeth is officially talking. She's been saying words for some time now, but in the last month she has mastered the art of three- and four-word sentences. Overall, I'm very happy when my children are capable of communicating things to me. The crying decreases dramatically because everyone can understand each other enough to keep emotions generally stable. When they need something, they can tell me instead of bursting into tears when their incomprehensible gabbles don't get what they want.
But the one time I'm not happy about talking toddlers is dinner. Dinner is often the top of the crescendo of noise and craziness that has been increasing throughout the day. By the evening, everyone is tired, the activities of the day have created hurt feelings or resentment, people have been pushed through their required school work, and I'm ready for everyone to get to bed so that I can finish my work day that began at 5 am that morning.
Dinner is also the time when everyone wants to talk about their day. And it's when they want to ask me questions about the most strange things they can think of. Additionally, it's the place for unresolved fights to continue. And the children want to make all the requests they've been saving up during the day. Also it's when everyone has all the conversations they couldn't have while during their school work.
It's basically when everyone makes all the noise they can think of, combined with spilling milk, food, or both. Sometimes I have to shout so that everyone can hear me.
And now that Elizabeth can talk, there are nine people trying to talk over each other at once. Most of the time, having seven children isn't too much trouble. Our house is big enough that everyone can spread out. I usually only have to help one child at a time, and often I can get a bigger sibling to help out a smaller sibling if I'm already busy. It's a lot less work than one would think.
But when everyone is together at dinner, I can really tell that I have seven children. Our kitchen isn't that big, and all of the noise seems to bounce off the cupboards, tile floors, and high ceilings and multiply into a dull roar. And now we've added a two year-old to the mix. Since everyone else is already noisy, Elizabeth figures that she's got to be even noisier so that she can be heard. In the usually declamatory fashion of toddlers, she will sit in her high chair and talk about whatever comes to mind.
"PICK UP FORK. EAT FOOD. YUCKY FOOD." She has has no idea what conversation is, so she figures that if everyone else is talking, it must mean that she should also be talking. But even worse than her 'conversation' is her requests for things.
"MORE MILK. MORE MILK! MORE MILK!! MORE MILK!!! MOOOOORE MIIIIIIIILK!!!" If she asks for something and nobody gets it for her in five seconds or less, then she figures that she needs to ask again and keep asking repeatedly until she gets what she wants. And in her defense, that's probably true most of the time because we don't hear her until she's said things at least ten times because everyone else is trying to talk over each other.
Every now and then we try to bring up the idea of everyone taking turns talking during dinner and it lasts for maybe ten or even fifteen minutes before someone can't stand holding their thoughts until all of the eight other people have had their turn and everything degrades into a free-for-all again.
Or if one conversation gets boring, various side conversations pop up because there's always somebody else available to talk to. And it's a guarantee that at some point during dinner one of those side conversations will turn into a fight. With so many people in the family, there's always someone you can find to disagree with. Often I spend half of dinner not saying anything at all, if only to do my part in lessening the general dinner noise.
The only bright spot of hope is that our usual dinner conversations will now be capped at nine participants. Unless we have an intrepid dinner guest or two, nobody else will be joining the fray. And as everyone gets older, they might begin to learn how to listen to what everyone else has to say before just talking over them. But for now, our dinners can get very, very noisy. But I suppose that's what happens when you have seven children. In the end, I've got nobody to blame but myself.