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Recently, my husband and I were in a grocery store with our four children. We were on vacation, picking up a few items for a picnic lunch. The store was crowded, and the kids were hungry and rambunctious. I waited in line at the deli counter while my husband attempted to corral the children. Our youngest son was determined to run up and down every aisle of the grocery store with my husband in tow. My older three children thought this was hilarious and their laughter only encouraged his behavior. My little firecracker loved being the star of the grocery store.

I watched this scene unfold from the deli counter line, trying to decide if I should lose my place in line to chase after my son. However, the prospect of a hunger meltdown was even worse than the current situation, so I stayed in line.  

An older man, probably close to 80, witnessed my husband’s struggle to reign in our 5-year-old. He strolled over to my husband with a purposeful look in his eye. My husband, exhausted by this point, turned toward the grandfatherly-looking man, expecting to hear some words of encouragement or humor. Instead, the man glared at my husband and snarled, “Maybe you should stop having kids!”

He scowled at my husband and walked away without so much as a glance back.

My four children are all two years apart. For eight consecutive years of my life, I was pregnant or nursing. For the first eight years, I lived in yoga pants and usually smelled like some version of milk, either spit-up breast milk, formula, or 2% milk. I spent my days picking up toys, reading Richard Scarry books, building towers of Mega Bloks, racing Matchbox cars, and picking up dried pieces of Play-Doh off the floor.

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I spent hot summer mornings watching my children play in the sandbox in the shady corner of our yard. I spent afternoons pushing my baby in the bucket swing in our yard and my toddler in the big kid swing. I watched my children scoot around on ride-on toys, Big Wheels, scooters, and bikes. I pulled our children in the two-seater red wagon around the block more times than I can remember.

For years, my schedule was a continuous cycle of feeding, changing diapers, walks, and naps. I welcomed the quiet that descended on our house when nap time arrived. Even so, I loved those first few minutes when my son woke, still sleepy-eyed, from a nap. I cherished the post-nap cuddles as I held my son’s warm, drowsy body against mine as we gently rocked in the rocking chair.  

Being a mom to these four children is the life I chose.

What might be crazy, chaotic, or mundane for some is exactly the life I want. Are my children noisy and messy? Yes! Do they fight and yell at each other? Of course. Do I get frustrated, overwhelmed, and upset? Absolutely.   

My house is loud. My children argue about LEGOs, who got the biggest scoop of ice cream, who gets to go first (at anything), who gets to go last (at anything), who gets to sit in the corner chair, who was the unlucky recipient of the most broccoli on their platethe list is endless. Never underestimate what children can argue about.

Despite all the arguments, they spend equal amounts of time laughing and playing together. My children’s laughter is loud and infectious. You can only imagine what it’s like at the dinner table when they share jokes. Their boisterous laughter and silly noises may annoy others, but to me, it’s just the typical background noise of our family of six. My children love to sing and crack jokes, and their volume level is always off the charts.

Driving in my car is truly a unique experience. All four children have an amazing ability to carry on multiple conversations while singing along to the Moana soundtrack. The silver lining is I never get sleepy while driving. Between the constant questions, arguing, and discussion of baseball stats, I could drive all night.

It’s a lot sometimes.

The schedules, the laughter, the tears, the arguments, the grocery shopping, the food preparation, the clean-up, and mostly the laundry. Even when it’s stressful, I know my family is the perfect size for me.

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Does the constant chatter annoy me? Sometimes. Do I wish they would not yell when they are 10 feet away from each other? Yes. Yet, despite the noise, the chaos, and the schedules, I love being surrounded by my children. I love knowing there is always someone willing to snuggle or give hugs. I love watching them support each other and console each other. If you are looking for a case study on group dynamics (the good, the bad, and the ugly), look no further than my kitchen table at any mealtime.

To the grumpy man in the grocery store, you should know that having four children was not an accident. We planned to have each of our four children. If I could convince my husband to have another baby, I would be pregnant again now (just don’t tell him I said that). I would not change my loud, fun-loving, adventurous children for anything in the world, so please don’t tell us to stop having kids—my four children are the four best gifts I will ever receive.  

Erin Leigh

Erin is the author of Navigating the Newborn Months and Beyond, a parenting book for new and expecting mothers. She is the proud mother of four beautiful children, three sons and one daughter. Erin graduated from Vanderbilt University where she competed in cross country and track and field. She received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Erin enjoys swimming, running, reading, hiking, writing, playing the piano, and spending time outdoors with her family as much as possible. You can learn more about Erin by visiting her website at http://www.erineileenleigh.com and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/erineileenleighauthor.

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