This past weekend, my husband took the older two kids a camp out. That left me and the little guys on our own overnight. At first I was fustrated because I had a bum ankle and didn't think that I could do anything with them. Then I realized that I had to suck it up and deal because me and two little ones in the worst hours of the day (dinner prep, dinner, baths and bed) home alone was going to hurt more than my ankle. Since George was going to meltdown when Daddy left, I popped the kids in the car with the promise of chicken (Chik-Fil-A) and the park.
Chik-fil-a was blissfully empty. Without their siblings to bother them, both boys ate a remarkable amount! (And then took the leftovers and ran around the store, spilling them on the floor... but hey the resturant was empty and, well, they ate!) When I realized the running around wasn't going to stop, we high-tailed it out of there for the park.
The park was new to us. It had a great playground that is not too big for Cole but not too baby-ish for George. There's a little creek running near it that a) reminded me that I had had two glasses of tea and b) Cole got into- twice.
Between the sand, slides and creek, the boys had a great time! George played his version of "Pooh-Sticks" by throwing mulch into the creek and shouting "go! go!" as they went over the "water fall." Cole went up and down the slides multiple times and tried to splash in the creek. We saw two hot air balloons and a group of teenagers dressed up for Homecoming, having their pictures taken.
My camera was out of a card and my phone was dead. I don't have any photos of the perfect evening I spent with my two little ones. I was able to just enjoy them and live in the moment.
I realized something too. People say, "I don't know how you do it!" when I am out with all four. And, yeah, all four kids can be total chaos especially when they want to go in 12 different directions at once. They can be loud, busy and goofy. BUT my older two are also a big help. I can trust Joseph to hold not George's hand and not let him run across the parking lot. Camille can help buckle and unbuckle Cole. If someone does something that they aren't supposed to, there are 3 others to tattle on him or her. When George wanted to play in the sand and Cole wanted to head down the slide, I had to try and be in two places at once. With the big kids there, they could be playing on the playground with the toddler close by or in the sand with the preschooler. They could play and help keep an eye on a younger child.
I defiantly don't expect my older children to be the mother or father. I don't want them to have to "parent." However, they act as an extra set of eyes, ears and hands for me. They can help me while having fun and being "just kids." There's a balance here, like everything within a family (especially a large family). They need to be kids, have fun and do goofy things but there is also the expectation that they will keep one eye on their little brothers and tell me if they little dudes are doing something crazy.
It was eye-opening and oddly statisfying to realize that some things are really much easier with four. Four years ago when we had George, I would never have believed this had someone told me. When he was born, things were so crazy and difficult. When Cole was a newly-mobile young toddler and George wasn't speaking much.... man, that was hard. It was enough to keep up with the two of them who needed ME and only ME that dragging all four of them anywhere was... a 24 ring circus. But now? Now with two older helpers, life has gotten a smidge easier.
For now. :)