Our 8th child, Gemma-Rose was our most needy baby of all. Unfortunately, she had silent reflux and was in pain for the first few months of her life. She screamed whenever she was awake, and never slept deeply, waking constantly to writhe and moan, and then she’d need settling again. She never fed to sleep: feeding wasn’t a pleasurable activity for her. There were many days when I was exhausted. If Gemma-Rose had been our first child I’d have fallen in a heap. If she’d been our third child I would have despaired about ever being able to homeschool. But she was our last child. By the time she was born, I’d learnt a lot. I’d learnt what is really important in life.
Every child in the family is important and a real blessing. A child such as Gemma-Rose who found life extra difficult, is especially in need of our time and attention. But we can work around our needy children. We found out that it is not important to get school work completed on someone else’s time table. We’d learnt that every child comes before outside expectations, our own plans… God is still in charge. We learnt to live in the moment and to trust God. By relaxing and accepting circumstances we coped better.
Eventually, Gemma-Rose grew and her digestive system matured and life got easier. We no longer had to spend all day soothing her and carrying her around. We could once again accomplish other things in our days. We found out that with time all things pass.
And did our older children miss out on their education while we were occupied with a needy baby? No, they learnt so much just from caring for their sister. They’d learnt to get on with things by themselves. They were independent and didn’t really need me sitting alongside to teach them. And they were patient knowing that when I could, I would once again be available to do all those activities we enjoy learning together as a family.
Anna also knows what a struggle life can be sometimes, juggling babies, toddlers and unschooling children.
This is something I have struggled with for sure. My youngest are currently 3 and 4, two boys 21 months apart. My other kids are girls, 7 and 9. Well I feel like I am coming out of the woods now (though I am pregnant again so it is only a brief breather!), but really there was a long time there that I pretty much gave up on reading a story with the toddler around. For some reason, the boys, esp the older one could NOT sit still for a story. I wouldn’t mind if he just left us to it and went and played with something else but he seemed to talk constantly in a very loud voice and reading time was just me trying to out-talk him. It was MADDENING! He loves having a story now though it can be a challenge finding one they all agree on!
I know what it is like to look back with rose coloured glasses and not remember the seriously sanity-trying moments and days. There is enough of them still around here that I am cannot think it ever was all plain sailing. Even while writing this, I have had to pull apart a fight between the girls and my eldest boy and now my ds has gone off all dejected and I need to go and see if I can help him find something interesting to do. I really do find it hard keeping everyone going and someway constructive, or at least not completely falling apart. Loose ends can be good and the start of another project but often they can just spiral out of control and that is hard to keep on top of with little ones around with all their own particular needs.
Well, that’s my two cents…not a lot of help I’m afraid but just acknowledgement that I have – and do -find it difficult to juggle all the different needs.
Maybe I should add some positives that I have found that help… get older child to read or play with a younger one while you have some quality time with another child. Homemade playdough has been a constant with all my kids and bought me some valuable time in keeping toddler happy while I was trying to do something else with older children. Lower all standards generally – the house can’t be perfect and the kids happy (or at least very rarely it seems!). Also trusting that kids really will learn even when you are doing NOTHING constructive (or so it seems ) with them for days on end! Definitely, it is when I am least involved with them that the kids tend to start the most involved made-up and role playing sort of games. They always seem to involve the most amazing amount to construction and rearranging of furniture, bedclothes, toys etc, but a good mess usually means good fun is happening and so the challenges continue……
And Willa also talks about what is really important.
I found that planning things for the toddler to do was very helpful. My very active fourth child happened to love coloring and that kept him busy while I was reading to them. Others loved playdough or water and bubbles in the sink.
If it’s a hands-on project, the toddler loves to join in.
And if it’s time in the car — that’s tough, but maybe a good time to listen to stories on tape that the toddler or preschooler can get into. Or sing together, if your family is talented that way.
And nursing can be a great resource. I can’t count how many times my baby or toddler would nurse while I read to the others.
And if NOTHING is working, then maybe God has other plans for you that day. I found it consoling to read somewhere that Jesus once (I think it was recorded in Matthew) was interrupted no less than 11 times on his way to somewhere. Our interruptions are in a way our duties.
Generally, a baby or toddler is nothing else if not a representative of Christ in the house — reminding us of what is REALLY important, reminding us that our pace and comfort zone may not be that of Heaven, reminding us that our plans are to be put aside for more important things. … like monastery bells.
I miss those days because a baby or toddler is just such an obvious reminder from God of real priorities.
Please visit Willas’ blog The Quotidian Reader