Saturday, May 8, 2010
If you ask any mother of a family of boys how she managed to cope with them all when they were small, I guarantee you that a certain far-away look will appear on her face, followed by a chuckle and a funny story that begins with, ”I remember when…” and ending with “I could write a book!”. That look is a combination of nostalgia and a remembrance of when they crossed the line into temporary insanity!
I distinctly remember the moment when it happened to me. There is less than a year between my first two sons and one day I was in the throes of mopping and cleaning the kitchen and up to my armpits in suds, when the youngest came running in to me crying and in a loud sob informed me that his brother had stolen his nose! I responded quite illogically and screamed at the top of my voice to the eldest boy, “Give him his nose back, NOW!” I realized at that point that I had crossed that line and forevermore life would never be the same. The wheels had fallen off!
I had four boys and, as all boys do, they loved knobs, keys, clocks, wheels and anything remotely mechanical. I got up one morning and as usual went to switch on my radio, except I couldn’t – the knobs were all missing. As it was still early in the day, I managed to ask them politely where they had put the knobs and was rewarded with a blank look, as I pressed them gently for more information, it became apparent that they either really didn’t know where they were or had forgotten. This was confirmed when the eldest, aged about five, said very earnestly, “I swear on the Bible, Mommy, I don’t know where the knobs are.” The four year old nodded his head fervently while the youngest, aged eighteen months, toddled off and settled behind the settee – where he had safely stashed them the day before! We got used to switching on the TV to hear the volume on full blast and a snowy screen hissing to let us know that ‘someone’ had been twiddling. Fond of playing Lego, the wheels were often found under the settee, behind the wall unit, in their pillow cases, and once in the toilet brush holder – safely hidden away for the next day and then forgotten. Lego without wheels is no fun for boys!
Animals were also a favourite and we had them all cats, dogs, fish, rabbits and hamsters and as they got a little older, mice that had thirteen babies the day after they came home from the pet shop, a tame rat that was often placed on my head while I was on the telephone, a pet snake that caused my husband to run out of the shower naked into the garden to get the braai tongues, and I once came home from work to two geese gaggling in the hallway. Of course these had to be returned the following morning after much begging and pleading and a noisy, sleepless night.
We once had the police caution us about a dog that wasn’t ours but had followed our son home from school and made its home in our front garden, and one of our cats – well it wasn’t actually ours but the boys had been feeding it, promptly had five kittens on my new lounge carpet. Of course the tiny kittens were a huge attraction for the neighbourhood kids and I had a long queue of admirers at the kitchen door - mostly female - who had come to “ooh” and “aah” over them. Sadly one of the kittens died and a garden funeral was arranged. The little mite was reverently lowered into the ground in a tissue box, prayers were said and mounds of flowers were filched from surrounding gardens to be placed lovingly on the grave. However, the rest and peace was not to last and hysteria broke out amongst the girls. My five year old had dug up the kitten a couple of hours later - he was just seeing, “If it has come alive again – like at Sunday School when they say we are born again.”
As the boys got older we became a medical aid nightmare and we saw more of our doctor than we did of most of our friends. My eldest was particularly accident prone and as he whizzed past the house on something with wheels, I instinctively reached for the medicine bag or my car keys depending on the volume of the shriek that accompanied him. One summer he broke his left arm on the first day of the school holidays while doing acrobatics on a skateboard. I thought it was lucky that the six week plaster cast would be off in time for the new school year and it was - only to be replaced on his right arm which he broke in the last week of the school holidays on the same skateboard. Needless to say the wheels came off!
One Christmas, the youngest fell off his new bike and managed to get a stone in his knee. Dad, by now very skilled in first aid, tried everything to remove it but by Boxing Day we realized that we had to call our doctor, who met us at the hospital. We were very apologetic about calling him out over the festive season, but the doctor reassured us and told us not to worry and was quite jovial about it. He then went on to tell us that the locum had drawn up a list of the 5 most likely families to call them out over Christmas, He was delighted to see us, as he had placed his money on us and had just won R200.
Teasing, practical jokes and the resulting squabbles were an everyday occurrence and there were days that I felt that I deserved the Nobel peace prize.
On one particular day we had been invited out – getting four boys all clean at the same time was quite a mission, not to mention getting the fifth male, my husband, spruced up! While I was seeing to the older three, I left the youngest in the bath to splash himself clean. I was busy dressing the middle one when I heard a blood curdling scream from the bathroom and rushed in to find my little 4 year old traumatized and saying that the bathplug was going to eat him. I comforted him as best as I could, assuring him that‘Mr Plug’ would not eat him. When we got to our friends it was still obvious that he had been crying so they asked what had happened. While I was telling them the older two began to laugh hysterically and as I reprimanded them they confessed that it was they who had gone outside and whispered into the overflow pipe, “I am the plug and I am going to eat you.” It was hard to keep our faces straight as they obviously thought this was the best joke in the world and it created a whole new form of communication for the family. They often waited for other family members and visitors to use the bathroom and then send them a message up the downspout! What our neighbours must have thought about the family that spoke to one another through the bathroom pipes doesn’t bear thinking about.
So please excuse the faraway look in my eyes when you ask how I coped with our four young sons. At times I teetered on the edge of insanity but their funny antics and a good sense of humour kept me just about sane. Now that they are older they love to talk about those crazy days – there is much that, thankfully, we were blissfully unaware of. I really could write a book !