People comment, semi-regularly, on the size of my family. "Oh my goodness, are they all yours?" or "YOU have your hands full!" or "My goodness, how will you ever pay for college?" (Note to the world: that last question makes me cry right now. Think you can live with making the dishevelled mom cry in the post office? Go ahead, then.)
I find these comments weird for a few reasons. First of all, it's just four kids, people. Fifty years ago this would have been entirely unremarkable. Clay was one of six kids and they and his parents all survived with sanity and good humor intact. We're not actually all that outrageous.
But most of all, I'm surprised by their comments because my family doesn't seem all that big. Don't get me wrong, I feel completely overwhelmed by them - often - but it's not because there's too many of them, it's because there's too little of me. But I don't have four generic children, I have Tre, and Max, and Raphael, and Sophia. They're remarkable not because of their number, but because of who they are, and what's overlarge is the hole left behind when one of them is missing.
That said, there are a few times when the size of my family does strike me anew. One of those is when we're getting on a plane. We line up, everyone clutching their rumpled boarding pass, and as I look around for what might have been left behind, I see us, all in a row, and I'm startled. LOOK at all those people! It seems like we'll never be done filing past the flight attendant.
That one's not so bad, because hey, we're getting on a plane! Something good is probably happening, right? But there's another situation that makes me ultra aware of how many kids I have, and it's one we're in the middle of right now.
It started Tuesday, when I picked Max up from school. He collapsed into the passanger's seat, shedding possessions everywhere. His phone immediately buzzed, frantic that he'd been failing to text for four seconds at least. As he tappitytaptapped, he said casually, "Demi was only here for a half day today."
"She had to go to the doctor."
"Oh? Is she okay?"
"She's been throwing up all week. She has something...what was it? Begins with an 'n'?"
My heart sank. No. Nonononononono.
"Yeah, that's it."
Demi, you should know, is Max's girlfriend. So it's not like she's a friend who waved at him from across the room. They've been enthusiastically exposing each to the other's germs for weeks. Norovirus? GAH.
Sure enough, Max got sick that night. I don't think, in eighteen and a half years of parenting, I've ever seen anyone throw up that much or that hard. It was impressive. Two days later, he's still a limp dishrag of a boy.
And now my life's work is swabbing down the world with Clorox wipes and monitoring the other kids for signs of illness. Do you know how contagious norovirus is? Other viruses, like the flu, require an exposure to roughly 1,000 viruses to be transmitted. Norovirus only requires 18. I am desperately disinfecting and praying that none of the rest of the family gets it.
And today, my dears, I feel like I have an enormously large family.
EDITED TO CORRECT: So the first time through, I called this rotovirus, when it's actually norovirus. It does not matter, but I had to set it straight. I am kind of dumb.