There is so much to learn as a parent. I started with recognising different types of cry, which is no mean feat. And as the children grew, my knowledge and experience grew with them. Then, there was a brief hiatus when life was calm. When the elder two were around 10 and the younger two around five, there was a small window when not much changed. The big ones grew steadily, consolidating what they had learned so far and the little ones just did what the big ones had already done. Easy peasy.
Sadly, it didn't last. Now, it's all change again. It's rather like playing bingo. As fast as you can mark the called balls on your card with your little stamper, then other numbers are being called relentlessly. Pretty soon you get lost.
The issue that is taxing me at the moment arises out of the increased freedom that the elder two now have. I am relatively relaxed so far about the things that they are asking to do. My comfort zone and their expectations are currently aligned. That is not the difficulty. Where things are going awry is matching their arrangements with mine.
It's busy at our house. Just keeping on top of the household stuff means that I am pretty much going at full tilt for most of the time. And I have a number of house rules. Breakfast and dinner are eaten en famille wherever possible and I don't do sleepovers. Sounds simple doesn't it?
Picture the scene. It's 3.10 and I get a text from child 1 requesting to go to someone's house shortly followed by another from child 2 asking if someone can come here. I check the calendar to see which activities require ferrying today. From this I can calculate which child needs to be at home and when, both to attend said activity or babysit for smaller siblings so they don't have to spend all evening being driven round town.
Child number 1's text comes in first so that gets priority. The first activity is not til after 6 when husband should be back. Fine. But she needs to be home for tea and it's dark so I have to collect her. So far so good. Turning to second child's text. Can she and her friend play here? Yes but as I don't like to leave other people's 11 year olds here unsupervised, they will need to leave before I have to go and collect eldest child.
This arrangement is unsatisfactory to each child. Child 1 has been invited for tea but that messes up both the food that I have planned and the childcare arrangements later. Child 2 objects to having to cut short her plan to fit in with elder sibling's plan.
Then, the mothers of both friends invite my two to tea at their respective houses. Now I have no childcare and will have to take smallest son to Brownies (husband has missed the train). Also, the food that I have carefully cooked will go to waste because it has been frozen once already. Finally, as I don't do tea for other children because we eat en famille, I feel guilty that the kind offer will never be reciprocated. So I say no to each child and then feel bad because I have been unable to reach a solution that works for everyone. The kids have all forgotten the plan by 4.00 anyway and are busy dreaming up some other arrangement that won't work.
I know I am a bit uptight about stuff. But just getting through the days is so complicated without the addition of other people's plans, especially when those plans always collapse when the friend involves their mother who has an agenda of their own.
Some days I feel like my head will explode trying to hold all the information that I need to make it work. And I've hardly started yet. The little ones are still accompanied at all times. Heaven help me when they start texting!