Apologies for being missing in action over the past week or so. It’s because I’ve been taking part in a mind-bending, limb-exhausting live action role play experience called ‘hosting seven children under the age of 13’.
This ‘parenting of multiples’ boot camp lasted five days and involved my wife, the Bubster and I welcoming two of my wife’s cousins and their six children into our home while they were visiting London. And do you know what? It taught me that having seven children under the age of 13 is a breeze and everyone should try it. Just kidding. It was intense. Exhausting. Fun. Chaotic. And very, very eye-opening. Here’s what I learned from playing host to seven children under the age of 13.
1. At breakfast time, you feel like you’re working in a Diner
“Order in, chef. One toast with butter and jam, but no crust cut into diamonds, two toasts with butter and no crusts cut into squares, one bowl of Cheerios with blue milk, one Weetabix with almond milk, one porridge with blue milk and blueberries, and one porridge with green milk and strawberries. Wait three of them have changed their minds, there’s a Peppa Pig related scrap and I need to clean up a water spill…”
Still, at least the kids eat everything when you eventually get the right stuff in front of them. Yeah, right. There are leftovers everywhere.
2. Leftovers are your fuel
Talking of leftovers, I learned pretty quickly that a parent of seven’s daytime diet consists of whatever your children abandon on their plates. This partly because you don’t have time to make anything else, and partly because you need to clean up and the food bin is already overflowing.
3. There’s no point in planning anything for the morning
In five days, the earliest we made it out of the house was 11.30am.
4. TV is your friend
When you’re trying to get seven kids of different ages to sit at the table and eat a meal, there’s a) no ‘one board game fits all’ solution, and b) no time to come up with a challenge, task or game that interests everyone. My solution? Handcuffs. Only joking. Shove on PAW Patrol and hope for the best.
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5. Sneaking off to the toilet is surprisingly easy
As the parent of one, taking an uninterrupted bathroom break is nigh on impossible. So, hosting seven kids means permanently peeing with an audience, right? Wrong. The kids entertained each other, leaving me free to pee pee in glorious, wonderful silence.
6. Snacking is a serious business
When you are looking after seven children, shoving a packet of Pom-Bear and a bag of fruit into your rucksack and resolving to “buy anything else we need when we’re out” just doesn’t cut it. Every time we left the house, we were carrying at least two full-to-the-brim snack bags. And every time we returned, we were carrying at least two empty snack bags.
7. It’s harder to treat your kids as individuals
One of the things I love about having one child is that it means that I am able to take him to sports classes, chat on the way to nursery and generally spend a significant amount of one-on-one time with him. With seven children in the house, this type of solo attention just isn’t feasible.
8. Work, work, work, work, work, work. Ain’t no time to work, work, work, work, work, work
After five days in the seven-child firing line, I can just about see how it is possible for two parents to raise this number of children. I cannot, however, see how it is possible to raise this number of children without at least one, and possibly both, parents staying at home full-time.
9. There’s no ‘7’ in routine
Routine is a much-used modern parenting buzzword. But here’s the thing. When you have seven kids under the age of 13, there’s no time to worry about pre-bedtime or post-shower routines. If you can get them all in the bath once a day, out of the house in clothes and into bed without a screaming fit, then you deserve a medal.
10. There’s something really nice about having a big family (that you can wave off at the train station after five days)
I’m knackered, I’ve eaten terribly and I can’t remember the last time I did any exercise, but, hand on heart, the last five days have been a blast. Ooh, does this mean that we’re going to be attempting to create a huge family over the next few years? Ha. No, it doesn’t. It just means I’m no longer absolutely dreading hosting another big family get-together at Christmas.
Until next time…