Monday, May 12, 2008

Chaos and French Fries

Chaos reigns, yes, sometimes, in the house of a large family. Sometimes? Who am I kidding?!

When the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen" starring Steve Martin came out, I was skeptical. And even after I saw it, I scoffed. "Large families aren't all that chaotic! Seriously, roller-skating in the house? Buckets stuck on people's heads? C'mon!"

Obviously families that chaotic have problems with discipline. Large families get a bad enough rap without being stuck with the “just like Steve Martin’s crazy movie family” label. Here’s a good reason not to have lots of kids: they’ll get buckets stuck on their heads and swing off the chandeliers!

Pardon my sarcasm.

I’d actually forgotten about my dislike of that movie until recently, last week to be exact. After that day, I think I’ve changed my mind.

It was a Tuesday.

I arrived home from a long day at work. A long boring day, I might add, but I wasn't in the mood for excitement. No, I had plans for a nice quiet evening at home. Write, maybe. Clean up my room. Do laundry. Quiet things.

Cue for ominous music! But little did I know…

I found myself babysitting four siblings, including a particularly fractious nine-month-old who had decided she hated everyone except her mommy (who wasn’t home). This derailment of events was followed by a surprise delivery of industrial size canned tomatoes, tomato juice and ketchup, a large box containing six enormous heads of romaine lettuce, a box of soy milk, three cartons of french fries (each carton held six industrial size bags), another carton of frozen vegetables, two 3 pound bags of cheddar cheese and a lot more I know I am forgetting (probably because we’ve eaten it already), that we had no room in the freezer for. All the food spawned a trip over to a friend’s house where I found myself wondering how one earth I had ended up on this friend’s neighbor’s porch offering complete strangers bags of frozen French fries. And what is more, gushing thanks for taking them off my hands. The evening ended nicely with my arrival home, only to hear from an open upstairs window, the wails of a younger sibling who had an accident and decided to announce to everyone in the house (as well as the neighborhood) that she needed help changing her clothes.

Our house, chaotic? Never!

I sometimes feel a slight pressure to talk about large families always in a positive light, never touching on the chaos or all that goes into living with eleven other people, all in one house. Sharing two bathrooms; now that is often deemed gasp-worthy in itself. Only two bathrooms? For thirteen people?! And another person faints.

There is a slight pressure to always be cheery about it. Large families are wonderful and I would never trade mine for a thing in the world. I don’t want anyone – from co-workers to the clerk at the grocery store to the random stranger eavesdropping in on a conversation – to think that large families suck the life and joy out of you. I don’t want to give big families a bad name by complaining.

Still, there is a balance. And there is reality. Reality means that I love dancing around the kitchen with my sisters, from nine months to eighteen years, but reality also means that I sometimes want to never hear a Veggie Tales song ever again. Reality means that even though I do love it when siblings run to greet me upon my arrival home from work, I don’t always appreciate interruptions when I’m doing Something Important. Reality is life, and life is messy and complicated. Life isn’t a Thomas Kinkade painting or a Vision Forum catalog.

Life…life is made of up long days with french fry problems and fussy babies just as much as silly songs with Larry and dancing for the simple pleasure of it. Life is muddy little boys who won’t always listen – and snuggling on the couch reading books about ‘but not the hippopotamus!’

So, I try not to hide it. We’re a crazy lot, this large family and I. We aren’t freaks and we aren’t perfect. We have our moments of fabulous chaos and moments of horrific chaos. Whatever kind of chaos, I’m trying to be honest.

Now, honestly. Anyone want some French fries? For free!

- Krista S.


Sarah Dee May 12, 2008 at 7:53 AM  

I really like like this post... Because I too being from a large family feel the pressure to make it sound perfect all the time but it isn;t and sometimes that is the best part about it. I get people alll the time asking "oh, have you heard about the duggars? They are amazing and such a big happy family etc etc." It's difficult to live up to those standards that people get into their mind after watching that tv show about them.... Anyways, great post!

Valerie May 12, 2008 at 5:30 PM  

I seriously love roller-skating in the house... :-P

That wasn't a matter of discipline for us though, it was allowed. ;-)

Krista May 13, 2008 at 6:20 AM  

LOL, Valerie! ;-) Heh, my Dad would never let us do that in the house - particularly after we got the hardwood floors refinished. We'd be in serious trouble if we did that.

When I was younger, I would have jumped for the idea of being able to do it, though!

kalipay May 27, 2008 at 7:27 PM  

"life is not a Vision Forum catalog": great thought that clicked with me today somehow. i love most of Vision Forum, but i understand what you mean. it's encouraging to know that another big sister is learning a balance in life!

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