When my sister Branwen and I each had one baby, we'd take them sometimes to daily Mass at a nearby chapel and see big families there, and these mothers of big families would smile at us and encourage us and tell us how much they missed the days with just one small baby.
And I totally get that now, because when I'm shepherding four small children through the grocery store parking lot trying to keep them from getting hit by rogue texting maniacs in SUVs, I think about how easy it was when I could grab my one baby from her car seat, balance her on my hip, and go.
Other than that, though, it turns out I don't miss the single-baby days. Sure, life was logistically simpler then, but I was so bored.
Once we get in the grocery store, I might have to remind the children not to grab things off the shelves, but I have four of them to talk to. We talk and joke together. They might argue once or twice, but they are kind to each other too, and they hold hands, and I get to enjoy their presence and their relationships with each other. Going to the grocery store with one baby was easier because I could just strap her on my chest and zip through my list. But these days it's an adventure and it turns out I like adventure.
We're in a sweet spot right now, parenting-wise. We don't have any babies, but all our children are too young for the tough problems of older childhood and adolescence (and we've been lucky that Camilla's school years have so far been free of serious issues). And life is full of all the little problems like biting and food-throwing and nighttime wake-ups and Cheerios all over the floor, and the fight against entropy is a constant uphill battle and Bryan and I fall into bed every night exhausted, but ohhhh we laugh so much. So so much.
I like adventure, but the small everyday kind, which is maybe why I've always been a voracious reader. (Hmm. Which is the chicken and which is the egg, there?) I read a book recently in which a character claimed a "big life" is fast-paced and full of big-ticket adventures, and in the weeks since I read it I've gotten continually more angry about that idea. I mean, even if we agreed that "big" is the right adjective for that kind of life, what makes a "good" life?
My life feels big when my twins play their game in which they turn my head to kiss me on the lips, one then the other, back and forth. My life feels big when I come across Camilla curled in her favorite chair, reading a book I loved as a child. When I'm in bedroom and I hear the big two bustling in the living room and Blaise yells, "Mama, don't come out!" and then a few minutes later he comes to get me and they jump and yell a gleeful "Surprise!" at me because they've cleaned up. (They do this regularly. I feign utter shock every time.) When all four children are playing together happily for an hour, making a "party" out of blankets and pillows and stuffed animals and books. When the simplest jokes make Linus or Ambrose scream with laughter, when I find them reading on the bed in a row, when they climb on my lap or need me for comfort and my family is just... my family. As it is every day. My life is big, and it is definitely good.
Life was a lot easier with just one baby, and quieter, but I used to watch the clock then. There's no time for that now and I love it. I love the pace of our life now, the fact that it doesn't quite fit in the allotted hours, that the meager half hour of calm that Bryan and I get each evening when the house is finally quiet and tidy feels so valuable because it is so rare. I know that this is our ordinary time, and I will miss it when it is gone.
I'm just... lucky.