Categorized | The Past

4 girls+(twinsX2)+1 boy=9 kids


I come from a good-sized family.

I remember an unknown lady telling me one day, when my mom had a house full of kids, that someday I would understand what my mom was going through. “Maybe someday”, I’m now thinking, but not even yet! I was the eldest, followed by a few sisters of which one was handicapped, and has needed the same care as a child for most of her life. The next four girls came in sets of two. Lastly there came a boy, to bookend the lot of us. The last five of the children were born within two and a half years. So, in essence, there were six babies. This math really tells a tale of a struggle for my mother.

While Dad was making a bigger house for us, we all spent some really cozy time in that tiny ‘beginner’ home. When the first set of twins came along they were put in a crib in the living room-kitchen.

twins

I love twins

There were only two bedrooms partitioned off of this one room house, and these bedrooms were already occupied by my parents and four of the older children. Then when the next twins surprised us less than a year later, they got the other side of the crib. Yes, really… four in a crib!

twin-toys

Double everything

Diapers became a chore all of their own. They were made of fluffy flannel or heavy cotton, towels, flour bags or whatever. Imagine-no disposable ‘throw-aways’. The rotten smelling, poopy stuff had to be carefully scraped off of the material into a container that could be hauled out to the outhouse, by using a flat stick or a table knife. After they were pre-soaked and washed, someone would hang them outside on the line to hopefully dry. Whether they dried or not depended on rainstorms and temperatures. If mom couldn’t hang them, then I would, because I was the oldest child and the tallest. Who cares that I was only nine years old. I’d just get up on a bucket to help stretch the distance.

I clearly recall being sent out to the clothes line, to recover some badly needed clothing. It was winter and the temperature was sub-zero. It takes a long time to freeze-dry wet material, so naturally, it didn’t dry at all. Instead, each piece of clothing turned into a frozen, stiff, board-like replica of its former self. I found it totally hilarious to ask mom if she wanted a pair of pants, and then grabbing the pant cuff in one hand, extend the pants out toward her like a flat and frosty ‘hardboard’ about 4 feet long! There weren’t any laundry dryers, so you hung or propped these icy articles everywhere around the house. Eventually these would start to wilt and drip, and exude the most aromatic and fresh outdoor scent imaginable! If you didn’t want to go through this long process of freezing and thawing, then you could make an indoor line, but the material took on a putrid and musty smell that permeated your home, your clothes, and consequently the minds of those you met each day. Another benefit of the great outdoor ‘dryer’ was the purifying, bacteria cleansing quality of the sun and wind. A real down side, though, was that white colors more often attracted the flies at certain times of the year. A good white shirt might get permanently specked with dribbles of fly turds, and the stain from that almost never came completely out.

so-many-babies-to-look-after

There were so many babies to look after and things to wash

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I could fold diapersblindfolded. It always amazed me that it didn’t matter what size the diaper needed to be, the design could easily be enlarged, or vice versa, by using different sized angles (I used the Kite Fold method – there’s at least 6 different ways to fold diapers). Eventually an extra square could be added for more absorbency. Thankfully plastic pants had come into vogue by then. They were put on the outside to trap it all. I was putting diapers on all the babies by the time I was ten. I had to be able to negotiate a large and very sharp diaper pin through the material without stabbing the tender infant underneath it. The thought of accidentally stabbing one of these dear creatures horrified me. I always left a finger in the way of the deadly tip so I would wound myself first, as I did occasionally.

baby-things-everywhere

Baby stuff was everywhere

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I liked looking after babies. Well, except for the dirty diapers. The worst part of changing a dirty diaper was every part. It’s hard to believe how gentle and sweet the outside of a baby smells, as opposed to how repulsive the internal product can be. They could puke all over me, and I wouldn’t mind too much, but if the bottom end started emitting foul odours, then my adrenaline would kick in.

My sister, that was just younger than me, would join me on the couch at feeding time. Mom handed us each a tiny little bit of a baby and a glass baby bottle, with reminders to burp them at the right time. She kept an eye on us while she went about other things. We would have been more help than we were, but we couldn’t be there at school time.

Normally babysitters weren’t an option. There wasn’t a lot of cash around when we were spending all we could muster on a new place. Also, there were few people willing or able to babysit that many little people. I remember once, that 2 women came together to manage it. I remember that I had to leave with my parents, so I didn’t get to witness it. I bet they had fun. They had to do the whole bath time procedure. I always felt like it was akin to working in an assembly line. I remember getting one in the water, and shouting orders like: get wet, sit up, arms up, arms down, etc. while I did the scrub down. Then someone else might towel dry, and another would comb hair, and yet another (if there was one) would do the dressing.

twin-dresses

Lots of clothing the same size and many hand-me-downs

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I think that children of this time frame should have more chores to do to help their families out. Many parents think their children are too young, or they might break something, or they have no time due to other activities. For some children these other activities are just fun sports, video games, Facebook time, and parties, but remember that this is play. They need to do more than their schooling and homework, because this is still for them. Work for pay is fine to a point, but work for no pay is like sending them down a higher road.

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I had some chores when I was young, but still had plenty of time to get away. I didn’t have to be constantly amused with expensive gadgets and entertainment. It’s hard to take these things away from kids after they’ve had them, but they can accept less if it isn’t offered in the first place. I have to admit that it’s tough as a parent to keep them from things that most others have, but it creates character in a person to not be on the top of the social heap. Being at the bottom isn’t good either, but any that survive, do it as a result of high self-esteem. Self esteem is created by learning how to do things for yourself, and seeing a good outcome from it. That means work ethic is needed. In short – they have to work. I’m not saying that you have to start them with washing your breakable china at age 5, although that’s when I began. Today there are unbreakable dishes. They could even wash their toys in order to learn. Remember that it isn’t about saving you much time in the short-term, especially if there’s a dishwasher present. It’s about teaching them to work. Children can clean floors.

wash-the-floor

Kids need chores to do

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Give them an old dish towel and a small pail of water. They have lots of energy, and they don’t have to know how to run equipment in the beginning. Teach them attention to detail. If the water is dirtier in the end versus the beginning – you’re winning! Last of all…help them understand work comes before pleasure, and praise them again and again. One of my first great shots of self-esteem came when I became a much sought after babysitter.

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15 Responses to “4 girls+(twinsX2)+1 boy=9 kids”

  1. deena . says:

    love this it so say’s it all, Love reading your blog.

  2. Naomi says:

    Thank-you.

  3. Nadine says:

    She has my respect. All I had were three and I marvel to no end that she survived nine!

  4. Wendy says:

    This was so beautifully expressed. I was smiling and wiping tears, because its so personal and it says alot of about you Sherry; about your values; your strengths. Excellent advice, truly! I can’t quite fit it all on a fridge magnet….

  5. Nadine says:

    I’ve read this to the end this time and it was delightful! I could never have grasped my blessings had you not shared. Your last line made my heart sing!!
    Luv ya, Sher!

  6. Brenda says:

    What amazed me, is that I never ONCE saw your mom without a smile on her face!! And I never heard her complain! I know it was a lot of work for you and your sisters, they are amazing women now because of it! Work is good for children!!! Children who grow up with NO chores are children who cannot care for THEMSELVES! I love you my cousins, and am proud of how you helped your Mom!

  7. Anna-Marie White says:

    5 kids in Diapers. They were all washed in a wringer washer and hung out on the line to dry. DIAPER MOUNTAINS.

  8. Anna-Marie White says:

    Pretty sure you would have been diapering at the tender age of 8 or 9 actually. If you do the math.

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