It’s official. The Cushatt family has entered the Twilight Zone.

Friday, the littlest of our littles—twins—turned 6. I made cupcakes for the classroom, birthday cake for the family, pizza AND macaroni and cheese for dinner (carbilicious), and wrapped a ridiculous number of gifts. The children ate sugar, the adults drank (imaginary) martinis and the teenagers complained about how they “never had birthday parties like this” when they were growing up.

Whatever.

All in all, a good day. Now we’re safely on the other side of the birthday insanity. Except for one teensy, weensy detail:

As of Friday, we now have children ages 21, 19, 16 and … (wait for it) … 6. 6. 6.

Gasp!

If you didn’t choke on your bagel, something is wrong with you.

When it comes to our kids, we have one of drinking age, two voting, three driving, and three more who make me shake with fear. At least until May when the oldest 6 turns 7. For now, we’re anointing door frames, stenciling Bible verses on the walls, and taking communion at dinner.

Okay, maybe not. But I wouldn’t turn down a prayer or two, if you feel so inclined. We need all we can get.

Ever since the littles joined our family almost two years ago, I’m asked the same question again and again:

“How do you do it?”

Good question. Easy answer.

I don’t. WE do.

It’s takes the entire family (and some outside help) to make this work. And some days it doesn’t work. Not at all. When everything falls apart, we call it day. There’s always tomorrow.

All I know is we couldn’t have done this 10 years ago, even 5. We’re different now than we were then.

We’ve changed the way we view family, the way we do family.

Now we’re the anti-parents, the ones who DON’T stay up all night making Valentine’s boxes and DO sometimes skip homework to play outside. We’re the rebels who refuse the wide, fast river of “give-your-child-everything-so-they-feel-good-about-themselves” and “sign-up-for-every-activity-so-they-don’t-miss-anything.” Being tardy to school isn’t the end of the world, but missing a night of sleep just might be.

I wish I could go back and give my younger self a peek through these older eyes. Maybe I could save her some of the heartache and sleepless nights, help her enjoy more and worry less. If I could whisper in her ear, I’d say …

Do today, today and tomorrow, tomorrow. Make a list if you must, but write it in pencil. Regardless of popular (flawed) belief, you can’t control it all or do it all. Take one day at time. What doesn’t get done today can be tackled tomorrow. Or next week. Maybe next year. But don’t try to save the world on a Monday. You’re human, not divine. Cut yourself a break.

Everyone contributes. Responsibility isn’t something you teach a high school senior, right before they head off to college. It’s something you dish out in servings from the moment kids eat off a plate. Everyone contributes. Laundry. Conversation. Dishes. Dreams. Dog poop. Everyone. It’s a little thing we call teamwork. And it will impact every one of your child’s relationships.

Tell the truth, keep your word. When it comes to hills to die on, this is your Mount Everest. Lying isn’t tolerated. Promises are absolutes. All the other lessons you try to teach won’t matter if your “yes” and “no” aren’t bedrock. In a culture of gray, integrity is the family’s black and white. Cheat this, and you fail.

Family meals and a good night’s sleep matter more than you think. Every day you’ll be tempted to join this, sign up for those, register for that. It will all seem important, and you’ll wrestle with what to do. But extracurricular activities and packed calendars aren’t the priority. Emotional, physical and spiritual health are. Eat food that doesn’t come through your car window. Gather everyone around a table. Get more sleep than you think you can afford. Teach your children what setting boundaries looks like. It matters more than you think.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

 

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