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Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy January 6, 2013 09:15 AM
My house looks ransacked. All the time.
It doesn't matter how much I try to pick it up, or how many dishes I collect and put in the dishwasher, or how many times I beg, plead or yell. With all five children home, the place is just a mess.
My oldest two children were abroad for the semester, so they were really not home. It was most noticeable with Michaela, my eldest, who goes to college in Boston and tends to come home often to sleep in relative quiet, get her laundry done, and have someone else pay for food.
Turns out there are definite upsides to having only three children at home. There is less noise, fewer chores, fewer boxes on the to-do list and manageable grocery bills. There are fewer fights (doesn't seem to matter how much siblings love each other, they still fight). Life is just, well, easier.
When they all came home, all of that changed. Besides the mess, the grocery bill skyrocketed (Zack had been in China, and was particularly exuberant about his return to American food) and even still, we couldn't keep the house stocked with milk, toilet paper, American cheese, eggs or paper towels. I could never be sure that I'd have the car when I wanted it. And somehow, the children seemed to inhabit all the spaces in the house. My 15-year-old, who had been using Zack's room to study because of its desk, took over my little office. Even going to the bathroom gets complicated with seven people in the house.
But despite the ambient craziness, from the moment we finally had everyone home, I felt a calm I hadn't felt in months. My babies were home. I knew exactly where they were and what they were doing. I could reach out and hold them; I could hear their voices and know that they were okay.
And that means everything. Because as much as my children make me crazy sometimes (well, okay, often), they are as much a part of me as my feet and fingers. It's really hard to be missing parts. I muddle through and get used to it, but the feeling of completeness when they are near is unmistakable--and beautiful.
My daughter moved back into her apartment in Boston yesterday (taking her socially inept cat with her, thankfully--we'll all have fewer scratches now), and Zack leaves a week from tomorrow to go back to Virginia. It will be quieter and the house won't always look like someone tore it apart looking for valuables (not that we can afford valuables with five kids).
But I will feel incomplete and wistful. I will hold the ones that remain even closer--and count my blessings, every day.
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About MD MamaClaire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »
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