I get asked a lot how I do it. How do I manage to keep my sanity (or at least give the appearance that I've kept my sanity) while watching five kids under the age of five? How do I get them all in the car (uh...five car seats), how do I do anything with all of them?
When A got his diagnosis of Asperger's this summer, I knew life had changed. There was an explanation finally for most of his troubling behaviors, but now there were all kinds of things that I had to research, things I had to find out so I could be his advocate, therapies I had to implement with him, routines I had to establish, potty training techniques I needed to try. I'm not complaining, but it is a lot of work and it is time consuming.
I love my niece and nephew. I love that the kids are all growing up with each other. It's so fun to watch DN-A and J in particular play together. They will come up with the best imaginative play I've seen in a while. One day I came down and the two of them were sitting on the rug in the living room, pillows all around them, with the stick of the toy riding horse over their laps representing the oar and they were rowing to an island. They're on a kick now where they want to "take a nap" together. Somehow in their minds, this means sitting on J's bed with a box of crayons, two coloring books, and three stuffed kiddy chairs coloring away. Very sweet.
So like I said, they play really well together, except when they're not. And then it's ugly. The screams, the cries, the shouts of "NO!" can be heard throughout the house. It gets bad. And DN-A is going through a stage (and has been for awhile now) where he is very contradictory about everything. On Monday we were all getting in the car and J said, "It's raining." DN-A responded, "No, it's not." He was actually right, it had finally stopped raining, so I confirmed it, telling him, "You're right, DN-A, it isn't raining." He turned to me and said, "Yes, it is!" AARGH!!! He is also having a very tough time with major, major kicking and screaming temper tantrums. I don't put up with that at all, but even being firm, non-confrontational, and calm takes a tremendous amount of energy.
Bottom line, looking for ways to simplify my life, it seems the only thing is to stop watching my niece and nephew. Now there are numerous negatives to this, like the fact that this will put my sister in such a tough place, and the fact that as much as I looked at our budget and cut back everything I could, we're still short each month. But the positives, having time with just my three, being able to much more easily deal with A's therapies both in the home and driving him to sessions, not having to deal with the tantrums, having my mornings when all three are in school totally free instead of being responsible for the baby, all very very very good.
First thing first - I have to figure out ways to make up that extra four hundred a month we would be short that don't involve me working a street corner or swinging around a pole. We might be able to change DH's deductions for his paycheck to make a difference on his take-home pay, so we'll be looking into that tomorrow.
Of course, if this works out and I stop watching the extra kids, I will miss the looks on people's faces when the "clown car" pulls out the kids just keep coming out of the car. But aaaahhh, the stress reduction of only watching three kids would surely make up for it.