Seven kids, one house, one Saturday

March 30, 2011

Andrew Hicks

2:20 pm

Tiffany and I have just spent an hour cleaning up our house to welcome, on the spur of the moment, one of her female coworkers, his husband and their five(!) kids. The female coworker has been successfully selling Avon products for the past two months, and my wife wants in. So they’re gonna try to get some Avon work done while her five kids, my two kids and we two dads hang out in the house.

In the front door they bound. Almost a half-dozen of them, all stacked right on top of each other in age, from 2 years old up to 8. Their parents brought over a giant bag of Popeye’s chicken for lunch, and with the herd of kids sitting around my kitchen table, Dad stands watch. He sneaks a bite of a chicken leg here and there while issuing fatherly instructions rapid-fire to each individual kid as needed.

I stare at this unfamiliar scene like I’m watching three-dimensional reality television, and I suddenly make a mental note not to bitch about my two-child workload for the rest of the day. The dinner scene is the most peaceful part of the visit. Once mealtime is up, the five kids and my 2 year old are turned loose throughout all of the upstairs, save the master bedroom. For me, all this seems like one part novelty, one part fun, one part tiring and one part complete chaos.


4:55 pm

In the past two hours, there have been toys strewn, crayons eaten and at least a hundred questions asked of me personally. My makeshift rubber ducky pond for the kids to play with has, naturally, resulted in a watery mess. The father of all these kids, knowing I’m a novice at corraling a roomful of preschoolers and elementary agers, has been giving me regular unsolicited parenting advice. Which I always welcome and take under consideration, of course.

I also hear about his typical day — wake up at two in the morning, deliver newspapers for three hours, return home, get the five kids awake and dressed and fed, drive two kids across town to one daycare, drop mom off at work, drive the other three kids to another daycare, return home, rest a couple hours, go pick up everybody from three different places, make dinner for everyone, give baths, supervise homework, put five kids to bed, have a tiny slice of personal time, then sleep a few hours until it’s two in the morning again. Once more, I will reiterate — not gonna complain about my two-kid workload for the rest of the day.

The other dad and I take a few minutes away from the rugrat cacaphony by going downstairs for a quick smoke that turns into a high-quality, 20-minute conversation about grown folks’ things. Dude’s cool, and he’s got a master’s in computer science. He knows things about the other side of the web game — in other words, not just the creative stuff like I do. We might be able to help each other. It’s a productive and enjoyable conversation, and it’s interrupted by my wife, who tells me she needs my help with Sarah, who’s crying her 2-year-old head off because of something one of the bigger kids did. Back to dad life.


5:45 pm

Tiffany realized, when Sarah’s toddler tears lasted far longer and were more dramatic than usual, that she hadn’t had anything to eat for hours. Oops, we both forgot. So I take Sarah over to the refrigerator to find something quick to feed her. She sees a trio of peppers — one red, one orange and one yellow — and is fascinated by them.

I let her play with the red pepper. She wants the orange one. I give her the orange one and, what the hell, she can play with the yellow one, too. She was just in tears in part because her uncharacteristically forgetful parents haven’t fed her in a long time. Keep her happy.

Sarah places the peppers side by side by side on the floor, OCD-style, with equal distance between the three peppers. She picks them back up, stacking them in her hands, and goes to set them down on the kitchen counter, again leaving equal distance between peppers. Then it’s into the living room, where Sarah displays the peppers — meticulously spaced apart, natch — on her little blue and white table.

I leave my daughter with her pepper toys, and it’s back to the fridge. I find and peel an orange , and I set it on a plate on the little blue and white table. The other kids crowd around. Everyone wants some orange. I divvy it up. Make sure my hungry daughter got a second piece. Then back to the kitchen. One more orange in the crisper. Kids are crowding into the kitchen. I show them our plastic scalpel-looking orange peeler. Let the oldest kid try peeling it. She’s pretty smart and intuitive about it. Then the peeler changes hands to a younger kid, and I feel like an irresponsible dude for a few seconds before I get it back.

The second orange is quickly devoured by all kids. I have one apple. It gets devoured. They start asking about the peppers. What are those? What do they taste like? Are they sweet? I remember I’ve already cut up a yellow pepper, so I ask the 4 year old if he wants to try some. He says he does. I give him a piece. He chews it thoughtfully and pronounces it good. Asks for more. Now they all want to try yellow pepper. They love it, they want some orange pepper now. The oldest kid wants her peppers steamed. It’s an orgy of fruits and vegetables. I feel like Jamie Oliver. Next will come the lesson on what’s really in your chicken nuggets.

Fifteen minutes later, we all say our goodbyes — every kid saying goodbye and thank you to each of us all at the same time. I promise to hook up with Other Dad on Facebook. The front door shuts, and the new quiet almost instantly permeates. The house is a wreck. I’m a little worn down, but I feel good.


Dad POV shot of Silas's dome.

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