I might have mentioned before that I am not at the top of my form while pregnant, and carrying twins just magnifies all the usual symptoms. Fatigue and lack of stamina are the most noticeable and overwhelming. I find it incredibly frustrating that I just can't do everything I want to do. Recently my standards have dropped to making sure we have food for dinner and that everyone has clean underwear. Anything more than that is a bonus.
This is where my older children have really stepped into the breach to help out. (It is also where I'm very glad I've taught them to cook when I was functioning.) All three (M., B., and A.) have made dinner for me when I just can't. They also have helped care for the younger 4 when I've needed an extra hand, as well. A. and P. have become adept at making granola for breakfast, and A. keeps us well stocked in desserts. M. and B. have taken turns the last month going to the grocery store with me. It's getting to the point where I can't lift heavy boxes in and out of carts and cars and when it's slushy (nearly a constant state around here these days) I really can't push the grocery cart through the parking lot. These grocery store trips have the added benefit of giving me some one-on-one time with each of them and helps me to teach them to do grocery shopping. All three (and P., too, when she can) have been generous and gracious about helping.
This behavior flies in the face of all the comments I've received over the years of "Just wait 'till they're teenagers," said with the appropriate tone of gloom and doom. Perhaps if we had teenagers these comments would hold true. But, before M. reached the dreaded age, J. and I decided that we didn't buy into the whole teenager philosophy. In our home, our children have two choices: they can be young adults, with the accompanying benefits and responsibilities, or they can be children. Teenager-hood seems to take young people who are physically and mentally capable of doing important and adult work and keeps them children until they become a more suitable age. Often these teens' entire lives are subsidized by their parents; school and sports leave little time for anything else. In the process, these teenagers try to find ways to be adults, which often takes the form of undesirable behavior.
Do you remember the PBS show "Frontier House"? The thing I found most interesting about that particular reality show was watching the feckless teenagers. These teens, whose previous lives revolved around pools, parties, and shopping, were dumped in the middle of nowhere and expected to help their families do real work in order to survive. The interviews with them afterward, when the teens were back in their pool, was illuminating. All of them expressed regret that they had to leave the show. These teens had found out they were capable of much more than they thought and it wasn't just busy work...it had real purpose. Back in suburbia, they all realized that their lives had gone back to having no meaning at all.
This does not mean we have it all figured out, or that our children are perfect. We are imperfect parents (as I'm reminded daily) and we joke that M. is our 'practice child'. The problem is that M.'s brothers and sisters are not exactly like her, so we feel as though we are back to square one with each child. But J. and I have felt compelled to try something different than what much of society is doing with the ages of 10 to 18. We have met young adults that we admire and hope our children will be like, but we have also met plenty of teenagers who are self-absorbed, overly peer dependant, and filled with a world weariness that is unwarranted by their chronological age. The idea of teenage-hood is a relatively new idea. While the idea of extending childhood for a few more years might have seemed positive, the statistics (which I won't bore you with) about teen suicide, substance abuse, etc., would seem to argue against its desirability. We like our young adults, and we suspect that they enjoy the responsibility of being a contributing member of the family much more than they would enjoy the gilded cage of a teenage life.