It takes a Village…with 8 kids, this is very true. Most families rely on family members or the occasional babysitter to help get everyone where they need to be. However with eight kids, it was not as easy to ask for help, and I needed it often.
When everyone was living at home, I had summer girls to help out while the kids were out of school and for a few years, we had nannies who would live with us for a bit longer than the summer. I loved having the help, but didn’t love that someone else was living in the house. The summer girls were the best—it was 3 months of a tiny bit more freedom and another set of eyes, but I was always ready to be back to normal by September 1. I am sure they were glad to leave too!
We live in a great neighborhood with lots of kids and lots to do. Summers were really like going to camp, but you didn’t have to pack and never got homesick. There were always families willing to help each other out with play dates. I joined a babysitting CO-OP (where mothers traded off watching each others kids), but I was the only one with 3 kids. So for every one time someone watched my brood, I had to babysit 3 times in exchange. I learned quite quickly that this arrangement was not going to work for me.
When the kids started Benilde-St.Margaret’s School, I had an angel to watch over my kids. Mary Fran O’Keefe (woman of all trades at the school: Homeroom teacher, Marketing coordinator, Student Council Manager, etc.). She would sign homework assignments when I forgot and even write the notes when I forgot to. You can imagine forgetting was a pattern with so many kids to manage. The kids dodged many consequences all because of the this “other mother” and her mighty pen.
Sports and activities were particularly tough, Jim and I could not attend everyone’s activities all the time, and for the most part the kids understood, and our Village was an integral part of this. If one of them had a gymnastics meet, a game, or even a tournament and Jim or I couldn’t attend there was always a team family happy to bring along our child with their own family.
There was the Senior Parents’ Hockey night that we couldn’t make, so Nell’s “Parent for the Night” was the team bus driver, Bill Shy. Bill stepped right in, had his picture taken with Nell and got the flower that was given to the moms. Everyone thought Bill was great; he was part of our Village. In a lot of ways, this made it even more special. I'm not sure this night would stand out to our family had Jim or I been able to be there.
Tess, #8, was the neighborhood kid; she actually felt the whole neighborhood was her family. Once she knew where the candy was kept, she would make regular visits to the neighbors' houses and help herself. We tried to stop this behavior, but from time to time I would get a call saying she had been to the “candy cupboard” of several houses. Neighbors began to rearrange their cupboards, so I guess, in effect Tess was helping them to keep their food items neat and tidy. (You have to have this type of find-the-silver-lining mind set with this type of #8.)
Sometimes our Village saved us when we really needed it. We had a very scary evening when Tess was about 4. We had gone to Children’s Theatre, and out to dinner. When we came home Tess, (still don’t know how, was left in the van in the heated garage) and we all went to bed. About 2 AM, the phone rang and the voice said “I have Tess”, it was our neighbor and close friend Bob. Tess had awakened and could not get into our house, so without her shoes or coat she walked across the street to the Allen’s house, knocked on the door and called out. Bob who had fallen asleep in his den woke up to her voice and took her in. Oh, it was about 10 degrees below zero and luckily Bob had the window cracked. If the Bob had not been part of our Village, this would have been a very tragic event.
My family has been blessed with wonderful, giving Village members, I hope we have been the same for them.