"We must absolutely take care of one another. It does take a village, but we have to be a village first. We have to take care of each other's children." - Ruby Bridges
We've been studying a bit in our homeschool studies about activists who have made a difference. One of the most recent people being Ruby Bridges. I read this quote and it resonated with me so deeply. Things in the Bolte house have been good. Everyone is doing pretty well, we had an amazing Christmas vacation and things have been relatively uneventful. Nevertheless, I am tired.
I don't just mean I could use a nap kind of tired, though a nap would be nice, it would not come close to alleviating the bone numbing exhaustion I suffer from. Raising six kids, two who are currently very active in sports, two with some significant special needs, a dramatic seven year old and infant is a lot. Each day I find myself more overwhelmed and tired than the last.
Raising special needs kids is something I never realized was as intense as it is. It feels like every day is a battle and many days, I feel like I am losing. Decisions are made every minute of every day that have to be thought through in their entirety or the consequences can send us in a downward spiral or worse. I have a child who does not correlate cause and effect, has no respect for boundaries and has no fear, she has to be supervised every single minute of every single day. My kids have to be wearing the right pants, their socks have to be just right, their backpacks packed with the appropriate tools (wiggle seat, sensory soothers, books, etc) to help them be successful for a day in school, and the list goes on.
I wake up in the morning, feed the baby and try to chug a cup of coffee while it is remotely warm, when this fails, I'll later pour the coffee over ice and pretend I intended it to be that way. I wake Jacob and Lily and get them dressed for the day. This can go well, but more often than not I've chosen the wrong pants or the wrong socks or we want to wear three dresses at once. When it comes to wardrobe, if it is weather appropriate, I typically don't fight that battle, I pack backpacks, making sure each kid has what they need to be the most successful on the bus and at school. I brush hair and teeth and hope the bus comes on time because it is all a delicate balance.
Once they are safely on the bus, I walk back up the driveway where I hear the baby screaming because she cannot see me and I've gone outside in the 10 degree weather without her. I come in and scoop her up and check emails for the day, I return emails to caseworkers, teachers, therapists, biological parents, grandparents and other service providers. Most days there is then a doctor appointment or caseworker appointment or therapy appointment to deal with. I wake the other kids and they get breakfast, (which I am learning to have them do for themselves, clean up, get dressed and brush teeth, they then begin work on their homeschool checklist for the day that I have prepped at an hour no one should see.
We get the schoolwork done, read books, play games, create things, while I juggle a baby, dinner plans, bills, and phone calls from caseworkers, school, therapists, etc. at 3:30, I realize I have forgotten the second cup of coffee I made and just pour it over ice and suck it down. The bus comes and two four year olds who have mostly held it together all day come home in tasmanian devil fashion. They blow through the door and it all falls apart, I spend time trying to decipher their behavior and what it means and how to help them, I lose my patience, I begin again, I finally send everyone to separate areas with a screen, because I am human.
Howard comes home, we sit down to eat (I won't even try to describe dinner chaos, but imagine feeding a herd of finicky tyrannosaurus rex, it resembles that), Howard kisses me and out the door he goes to coach either Luke or Ben, sometimes both. I clean up dinner whilst refereeing UFC style four year old brawls, and wrestle them to the tub where I assembly line bathe the three youngest children, lotion them up, brush teeth, read stories, snuggle and tuck them in, clean up the bathroom, sit down, get up, tuck kids back in, repeat. Oversee showering of older kids, laundry, food prep for the next day, feed the baby, lie down to watch The Daily Show and promptly fall asleep.
I am sure that is not even it and that is just a normal day not a day where the s#it hits the fan. It is exhausting and overwhelming, and amazing and rewarding. Not a day goes by that someone doesn't look at me very seriously and say, "I don't know how you do it all" or "I think you are taking on too much" or "you can't save the world". The thing is...maybe I can't save the world, but I can make the world better for a few, so I will keep just doing that. Just because I can't do all things for all people doesn't mean I should do nothing. These days the world praises independence, not having to lean on others, we are missing our village and I am a product of a village of adults who cared enough to invest in me when my own mom was missing. I might be tired, but I'll keep doing that for as many as I can, because these kids, they are amazing gifts and they have so much to offer the world, they make ME better, and maybe, just maybe the village starts with me. The tears, exhaustion and sleepless nights are more than worth it. We have to stop viewing kids as other people's children and a burden. They're all our children and our future. Let's stop blaming and shaming and making parents feel they aren't doing enough, lets take care of each other and each other's children. Parenting is hard. Extend grace. Lend a hand. Be the village. World change is going to start there.