I've got a minivan. Like most moms of five (and for the purposes of this blog post, I've got five - the odd thing about being a stepparent is that sometimes I've got five and sometimes I've got three). So three kids sit in the way back and two in the middle. We call it "Little Butt Cohens in the Back" because Jessie and Sam are both still relatively tiny enough and can fit on either side of Julianna's big car seat comfortably. That means that my three are the farthest away from me, with Julie in the middle spot and Jess and Sam on either side. Then Lilli and Sarah sit in the middle spot. It's cramped and crowded, and because I've got a zillion kids, my car is constantly a mess, filled with books and snacks and sippie cups and sporting equipment and jackets and whatever else we manage to drag out to the van.
So I'm driving home last night from a cookout at my in-laws house. Actually, and it's important for this story, I wasn't driving, but rather was in the passenger seat with a book in my lap. Marc was driving along, and oddly enough, Marc is impervious to noise. Just doesn't bother him even a little bit. If pointed out, he'll just grin and say that they're having fun. Which they were. Because all five kids were screaming. I mean, full out, no holds barred screaming at the top of their lungs, for no real reason that I could decipher. My stepdaughters were half heartedly bickering, not actually fighting but teasing each other to make the other one scream, and they were also half still playing a game that they had been playing at the cookout. My three were screaming in the back but because they were farther away, I can't tell exactly what they were yelling about. From what I could tell (and believe me, I really didn't explore this too much, as the volume was off-putting), they were pretending to be secret agents and holling into water bottles with code words and hysteria.
It was loud. I mean, really, really loud. We stopped to get air in my tire, and I saw the look on the woman walking back to her car. She glanced over at my rocking mini-van, filled with screaming, delighted, LOUD children and had a look on her face that was possibly pity. It's probable that, not knowing that they weren't screaming out of frustration, they were just screaming with the sheer joy of being together on a beautiful night, that I would have looked with pity at the spectacle. Because from the outside, it looked unpleasant. Poor, tired (because it had been a LONG weekend, and I was exhausted) mom, trapped in an old battered minivan with hordes of SCREAMING children.
I grew up as the oldest of four (or six, depending, have to love stepfamilies), and learned at an early age to just tune out noise as well. As long as I've got a book in my lap, I can concentrate on that, and for the most part, the noise didn't really bother me. I knew that they weren't angry or frustrated, I could pick out each individual voice, and even Julianna was back there screaming along happily.
The odd thing was, it was kind of awesome. I mean, I've got these five kids. All healthy, all gorgeous, and all completely delighted to be with each other. And who knows how many more times that'll happen? My oldest stepdaughter is thirteen, she's not going to think it's fun to scream with her younger siblings forever. How many more summer nights do I have when I can cram my van full and drive around with five kids absolutely thrilled to be there? They're all growing up so fast, and it really does go by in a flash. So what if they're loud? So what if the car is a mess, and the tire needs air, and I'm exhausted and still have to do baths for the grubby toddler and five year old? This, right now, this moment was awesome. And now that I think back, maybe it wasn't pity on the woman's face. Maybe it was envy - because what I have is amazing.
(I'm linking up with http://yeahwrite.me/62-open-challenge/ this week - an awesome writer's blog, really great for finding new blogs)