There are people out there that sometimes criticize those of us with larger families. One of the predominant negative reactions is based on the notion that the older kids are forced to “parent” the younger kids in a large family. Well, no, that is not the case for the most part. (Although many of us with larger families do expect the older children to lend a hand here and there when really needed.)
An example of how the opposite of just that is true happened a few years ago when my older teenage boys did a token few hours of babysitting for a noble cause (I was delayed at work). (Had my family been like the stereo-type image of the large family these older kids would have been mini-parents and known just what to do!)
My husband and I work opposite shifts. So that up until now there has been no outside daycare arrangement. Our hours of work have been scheduled and sought out to achieve a situation where the kids are continuously cared for by one parent or the other. This makes for very little impact on the siblings, is financially cost-effective and allows the other parent to not worry in the least knowing that the children are in the other parent’s care.
However, the odd time there may be a situation where an “older” kid is expected to care for a younger sibling. But on the whole this is not the usual scenario.
This one particular day I was delayed at work with a very important meeting that ran overtime. While on this day I was not terribly late leaving work I would be delayed by about an extra hour (even if I leave only a little later than I usually do, the delay in traffic commuting home often is as much as an extra hour or more).
This particular day my three eldest boys were home alone (as the teenage daughter was staying at school late for a music rehearsal). In order to appreciate what this meant, the ages of the teenage males were 18, 16, 15 years respectively and they were left caring for the 2-year-old baby for about an hour. Dad had to leave at the usual time and I was stuck in this important meeting. Not to much of an imposition. Although up to this point none of these young men had ever had (in their entire life) to change a baby diaper (not bad for being the elder siblings of a family of 9 kids!).
This meeting was pivotal and involved senior management and government stakeholders. Sadly I totally forgot to turn off my cell phone as is customary protocol when attending one of these meetings. Just before the meeting was about to wrap up my cell phone goes off and it is my home number trying to reach me. All I can think of is the baby must be up from her nap and these guys would not be calling me unless it was an EMERGENCY.
I slink down under the boardroom table to figure out what can be such a crisis that this team of teenage boys had to call me. First question “Mom…when are you coming home?” I am now under the table trying not to be obvious telling them I “will be home soonest…why?” The middle boy proceeds to explain. “The baby needs a new diaper!” Hmm, okay… then change the baby…no big deal…right?
“Well mom it is not that kind of diaper (!!)…You have to come home NOW! We are not changing THIS!”
Great… I am still under the boardroom table feigning rummaging in my purse. Speaking in the most sepulchral of tones (so as to be completely inaudible to the folks up five feet higher perched around the meeting table) while maintaining the air of serious authority (!!). “That baby cannot sit in that diaper as I won’t be home for a least an hour! Take the diapers, wipes and change her on my bed (big queen sized bed). Surely the three of you can figure it out. DO NOT CALL me again. Love you all…bye!”
I stuck the phone in the bottom of my purse hoping to cover up the fact I had even taken the call. I then slowly squirmed back into my seat and continued with the meeting. Pretending all the while that my under-the table dive was merely to locate a throat lozenge hidden deep in the black hole known as my purse and nothing more.
As I drove home that evening from the meeting the phone was strangely silent. I smiled to myself and thought …silly me; three teenage boys…one messy diaper… these awesome guys of mine must have risen to the occasion.
When I got home the two-year old met me at the door. I had to laugh the diaper was on backwards (tape at the back) but she was diapered all the same. I asked how it went and the boys told me it was “no problem.” Again smiled to myself thinking that a new level in maturity had been reached and I need not worry in the future the few times I might be late coming home from work. These fellows had it covered.
After supper I went upstairs to my bedroom en-suite bathroom to get baths started for the children. I looked at my queen bed dreading to see what small mishaps or spills might have occurred during the DIAPER FIASCO (possibly requiring a full laundering of my bedding). To my surprise none, everything was pristine…with the exception of a whole bunch of duct tape seemingly placed strategically all over my bed (????)-
Back downstairs to talk to the boys.
“Why the duct tape?”
The answer… “Well Mom you told us to just handle it and we did not want the baby to squirm and get THAT STUFF all over us…so we duct taped her to the bed so she would be still. Don’t worry it didn’t hurt her, we put it over her shirt and socks (not on her skin) and we did not get covered in that nasty diaper junk!”
Really glad that this was not a day child services planned to drop in and visit me.
Thankfully the baby was smiling (even with Elmo facing the wrong way on her behind) and the duct tape was easy to remove from the bedding.
Memo to self…next time hide the duct tape and be sure turn my cell off before entering the meeting room!
The Garden Goat