Eleven years ago we welcomed three kids from a sideways inheritance into our lives, hearts and home. We already had granny up the end of the veranda, a child of our own, hurricane Nikki the Labrador, Bing the allergy ridden Shih Tzu itchy dog, two cats, one bird and dare I admit, welcomed the kids two pet rats into the swelling family as part of the bundle of impending joys to come… oh the delightful, gratifying joy of living with two pet rodents.
Suddenly we went from a family of four to a family of seven. Suddenly we were no longer the parents of just one child but of four children aged fourteen, thirteen, twelve and eight.
The last little fledgling has exercised her wings and flown the coop for a new life in the big city to attend university; the new exciting roost for fresh secondary school leavers where they learn innovative ways to party hard, make new friends that share their knowledge in innovative ways to party hard and also swap innovative strategies to convince their parents that they are not partying hard but unquestionably and innovatively studying hard.
Three have already flown before her… I’m now unshockable.
What have I learned from this life changing experience?
After much deliberation I decided not to scare anyone too much who may be contemplating opening their house and home to extended family members. It just may turn out to be the most meaningful time of your life so who am I to be responsible for denying such contemplation and possible warm and fuzzy rewards.
I should state the following post is mostly tongue in cheek. In all seriousness this experience has brought so much to our lives I couldn’t begin to tell you. It has been the most meaningful thing we will probably ever do in our lives.
The people who we have crossed paths with in the last eleven years as a result of this experience are people who we can’t imagine our lives without today. We are so blessed to be so loved and supported by an incredible community and amazing family and dear friends… old and new.
Here you go:
That a good cry is just as valuable as a pee your pants, gasp for breath belly laugh.
You can put locks on your bedroom and bathroom doors without any prior handy man experience necessary.
If you hold your breath and count to ten your head doesn’t explode, despite you wanting it too, because your ears act as pressure valves and the steam escapes… yes, just like in the cartoons… I kid you not.
Your Mother will delight in requiring a glass of water with each and every evening meal to wash down the food she almost chokes on from snickering at the Karma of shenanigans that fill the seats at your dinner table while you give her the evil eye that says “Don’t you dare share one story about me, not one!”
Your Mother will also delight in recounting the time one particular child quite diplomatically pleaded “Aunty Sandra, it’s really nice you try to cook us food we like and all, but will you please stop trying to cook us rice?”
You realise that your talents lay in other areas than cooking and despite your frantic searching there are no culinary delight abilities left over from creation day playing hide and seek in your kitchen.
You will be asked “What’s for dinner?” in varying tones of dismay four times over, every single day… just say you don’t know because Nan is cooking… even though she’s not… the smile is less soul destroying… or is it?
That every time the phone rings it’s not necessarily the school saying that the middle model is hanging out the top story window mimicking animal noises with convincing audible comparison during religious instruction class while quizzing the outraged teacher “But can’t you hear that? Can’t you hear God? He’s telling me to make these noises, really he is!” Did I say not every time? I might be fibbing.
At times your husband may be inconsolable… he may also jump and twitch when the phone rings.
The laundry floor becomes a distant memory… for years.
So does the clean fresh smell.
When said children can’t find something (socks, jocks, ipods, phones, imagined completed homework) there is much accusing that somebody must have stolen it or lost it, and that someone is always you… yes you Mum!
Never expect an apology when said items turn up that someone stole or lost on purpose, namely you… there is just a quietness that you’ll gladly settle for instead… and possibly the sound of more steam escaping from your ears.
The dogs get fatter but apparently no one is feeding them half eaten biscuits and untouched school lunches.
Bathroom floors become the new towel rails.
Toilet paper at all times at all costs is your new must have item.
Don’t believe children when they wail “But I’ll be the only one of my friends not going to the party!” It’s a lie… they are playing with your head.
You realise that you’ll never sleep again.
You are inconsolable.
That brief moment when you find the kitchen benches and sink and you blu-tack a sign to the tap saying “If you can’t be bothered cleaning up then don’t be bothered eating”. Clearly you have become delusional. Go have a cup of tea, a Panadol and a good lie down.
That people think your husband is joking when he says if he wants to see you he either sits under the clothes line or in the garage waiting for the car to pull in… he’s not really joking.
You become accustomed to questions such as “Do seagulls turn into pelicans?”
I could go on, but as I said I don’t want to scare anyone contemplating opening their homes to those in need of a little love and shelter. What’s that? Are you saying that sounds like a fairly normal family of seven and it doesn’t even sound that bad? Not even that scary?
Well then, you just may be right!
Once you come to the realisation that you are all just behaving like a fairly normal or crazy family of seven you understand that regardless of the challenges and dynamics and unknown certainty of how this scenario will work out, that it is indeed working.
You realise that your now three children and your own child, despite all the adjusting to life as you now know it, are paying you the best back-handed compliment that they could possibly ever give you.
They feel safe enough and a family enough and loved enough to act like normal kids without fear.
And that’s a whole lot of warm and fuzzy right there my friends.
It’s a huge adjustment for all, adults, childrens and pets alike, but I urge you to ponder this…
Never underestimate the difference a little kindness and compassion and a willingness to embrace change can bring to the life of a child… or your own life… or even the life of a couple of pet rats.
Ever had pet rats?
Are you packed to the rafters?