“I don’t know how you do it!” I hear this exclamation all the time – when we’re loading up the shopping cart with another eleven gallons of milk, filling out applications to enrol seven more kids in catechism, or charging around the house popping the old batch birthday balloons because it’s time to blow up new balloons for the next birthday party, again.
“How do you do it?” they ask. “How do you manage all these kids and still get everything done?”
There are several different ways to answer this very reasonable question. The shiny, polished, embroidery-worthy answer is my motto, and it’s really pretty good: Praise God and Cut Corners. It is truly the only way to get everything done: Accept that you WON’T get everything done, and don’t hog all the credit for what you DO manage to accomplish.
And now the edifying part of this essay is over, and the useful part begins. Seriously, how DO you do it? Here are a few scenarios to fill out my motto.
First problem: Baffroom. Imagine, if you will, that you are a stay-at-home mom, or even a work-at-home-mom. Now imagine that your “home” has four wheels and eight cylinders, smells like damp fig newtons, and makes a sort of whinnying noise when you turn left. You’re living a life of leisure!
Or you will be, as soon as you strap two kids into their five-point harnesses, pick up three kids at one school, drop one off at violin practice, pick up the other two from Shakespeare club at the other school, drop off one at work, swing by the library to get the one who somehow got your permission to rollerblade through the city streets to the library; desperately hope the two older ones took the bus home so they can babysit the four you are shoving out the door in the general direction of your driveway, shrieking “SOMEBODY PLUG IN THE SLOW COOKER!” out the window as you gun the engine because you suddenly remembered there is no violin today, but there is Roller Derby. In the next state.
What I’m trying to say is that everything is going according to plan until the four-year-old announces that she really has to go to the baffroom. And you’re proud of her, you really are, because usually when she brings up her baffroom needs, they are already in the past tense. And you’d love to stop and take her to that one gas station without so much rat in it, but the baby just now, JUST NOW decided to doze off, and if you do wake her up to take the other kid to the baffroom, she’ll spend the next two hours reminding you just how poor your life choices have been for the last eighteen years, or possibly for the last four hundred years, depending on whether or not you believe in punitive reincarnation.
Here’s what you do. At the next red light, you crawl into the back of the van and dig out that potty you’ve been taking on a three-year odyssey around the tri-state area, meaning and meaning and meaning to drop it off at the Salvation Army. You dig that potty out, you set it up on the side of the road, and . . . here’s the brilliant part! You stuff an open diaper in the pot. Let the kid wee, roll up the diaper, and be on your way. Easy peasy, no bladder squeezy.
Second, corollary problem: What do you do when all the kids have endured the afternoon commute with heroic patience (by which I mean there is no fresh sibling blood spattered on the windows), so you promise them a treat, but you don’t have time to stop and distribute it? Say you buy a bag of “fun sized” chocolate bars, and you’ve already done the math: Serving size is three bars, portions per bag is thirteen, so that means there are thirty-nine bars, which means that everyone gets . . . mathmathmath . . . everyone gets three, and then there are three left over, but you have to save those for when the baby drops hers and needs replacements fast before she murders us all.
The obvious solution is to pass the bag back and instruct everyone to take three and pass the bag along, right? HA HA HA. Do not forget that it’s the youngest kids who are seated directly behind mom, for swatting purposes, I mean so you can pat them on the head with great tenderness. If you pass a full bag of chocolate to the youngest kids, it will go no further. They will strap it on like a nosebag, and you’ll spend an entertaining week discovering just how long it takes for candy bar wrappers to pass through a toddler’s digestive tract.
This is how you manage: You grab a church bulletin, tear it into separate pages, wad up the allotted portions of candy into each page, and throw them backwards over your shoulder while shouting names. There is something magical about something with a name attached, and even a very hungry kid who considers himself more deserving of chocolate than anyone else in the van will respect the system and will pass the packet to its intended owner.
Only drawback: sometimes you hit them in the eye. But chocolate!
Third problem: What happens when you survive yet another of these brutal afternoons and are about to collapse like a bunch of broccoli, but you suddenly realise that you didn’t send an essay to those Catholics in Australia?
Solution: Remember that you mentioned “church bulletins” at some point, which totally makes it a religious essay. Finish it off with a hearty “+JMJ+” and you have an edification heard ’round the world. And don’t forget to plug in the slow cooker!
And praise God. And cut corners. +JMJ+ for real.