My kids have been outside since a little after 8am this morning "playing in the pool."
Why would I put something so straightforward in quotations, you ask? Because things that sound simple are anything but when you have a big family.
You see, by "playing in the pool," I mean yelling at each other to stay out of the pool until it's completely filled up.
I mean blowing the damn thing up again and again due to an undetectable hole. Inflating it with a shop vac. Before breakfast.
I mean screaming, "mom, watch!" as loud as humanly possible before taking a flying leap into the pool. This is alternated with shouting, "mom!!! He splashed me!!"
And at the risk of stating the obvious, I simply respond, "it's a pool filled with water. Water makes you wet."
"Playing in the pool" means someone crying about something every five minutes the entire day we're outside because someone hurt them, they hurt themselves, someone was making fun of them, or they stepped in dog poop. Again.
Intersperse the shrieks of joy and spectator requests with all the crying, and the loudness is pretty much at a constant tempo. To top it off, the 3-year-old just started running laps around the house screaming, "ambulance! ambulance!" with a look of such determination you would think there was actually an injured human desperately awaiting her assistance.
Wailing sirens have nothing on a preschooler with a hero complex.
By "playing in the pool," I mean the storm door slamming repeatedly because someone decides they no longer want to swim in the pool, only to come back outside, now fully clothed, to find everyone else still in the pool "having fun." So they go back inside to change again.
"Having fun" is in quotations because this phrase only applies to a single party within earshot, which would be the children.
I realized this holiday weekend that big families, with their loudness, tendency to overwhelm, and expertise in stealing sanity, are an acquired taste. Especially big families with boys. And it's okay if you don't like them.
Really, it is.
I know many of you don't want to sit by us in restaurants, which, truthfully, we don't tend to frequent, because--five kids.
I know you probably wince when you see us walk through the door at a party, especially if your walls are free of fingerprints and you value your breakables.
I know you probably groan a little internally when you see us show up at church on the week you're scheduled to teach Sunday school. A little row of Roberts' that will inevitably need to be separated.
I get it. We are a presence, and usually a very loud, ornery one, at that.
Do you want to know the truth?
Some days I don't like big families, either.
As crazy as you would imagine life with five children to be, I can guarantee you that it's even crazier. It's like a three-ring circus of ongoing chaos, unless they happen to be watching TV or reading for their mandatory 20 minutes. The requests for attention are constant, the bickering is often relentless, the laundry piles quickly in the hall, and the dishes stack up even quicker in the sink.
Some days despite the best of intentions, multiple cups of coffee, and time with Jesus, I'm unable to tame the monster of stress and want to run away from them all by 9am. The only difference between you and I on those days is that you have the ability to walk away.
Unless, of course, you're my neighbor. Sorry about that.
But if you're willing to give us big families a chance, you might also be able to see what I see:
Little people who, simply because of the sheer volume of them, need to learn early on how to extend some grace to each other. How to make room in life for other perfectly imperfect people. How to share and work things out when they're mad. How to look out for one another, help each other, and do even the most mundane of tasks with laughter. How to function as a team.
They learn how to love well, and they discover that siblings are the very best of friends in the long run because they're friends for life. Solidarity in the flesh.
Please remind me of that the next time they want to play in the pool, which will probably be tomorrow morning...