I don’t know my children’s birth dates. I realize that most parents know these rather insignificant little details about their children: height… weight… eye color… and curiously I’ve also discovered that most parents are expected to know these things. I’m always being asked befuddling questions like “how old is she” and “what grade is he in” and I so try to seem like I’m being diplomatic when I look to the child in question and allow them to answer for themselves. I’ve also found it imperative to take a cheat sheet with my children to the doctor’s office because approximations are apparently not medically appropriate answers and “let me call my husband” is evidently not socially appropriate, if the looks I get are any indication.
But that’s what happens when you have eight children (and also when you’re a somewhat unorganized, forgetful, easily-distracted kind of person.) All those little details just start getting fuzzy. You buy the shoes that are a little too big and stuff toilet paper in the toes, grateful that they’ll fit a few more months. Cooking with missing ingredients becomes an essential (ie. daily) part of your homeschool curriculum – Creative Cooking 101 – and you consider rice and spaghetti sauce an excellent choice for lunch (extra points for ingenuity!) Socks become optional and wearing two different shoes out in public is simply a mark of your family’s innovative sense of style (it’ll catch on one of these days, and when it does I say to parents everywhere: you’re welcome.)
But there are some things you do know. Some things you’ll never forget. You remember that your oldest daughter bought you plastic flowers every week for months, because she knew how much you loved flowers (but not how much you hated fake ones) and that your youngest son can kill a fly on the ceiling with a projectile rubberband. You know that your youngest daughter’s favorite song is The Bandit, by Jerry Reed and her older sisters favorite doll is named after a character in Les Miserables (you even remember which character!) You remember which of your children to hide from when you have chocolate in your mouth and you never forget to dig deep into your meager reserve of courage when your 6 (or is she 5?) year old shoves a closed fist into your face and announces she has “something to show you.” You know that your kids can process an entire deer in about two hours, milk 8 goats in less than 15 minutes and that your family can work together to sew over 250 pads from start to finish in just two weeks. You know that when one child finds a new hobby, seven others will follow suit and that your children will always be best friends. Those are the things you know, the things you remember.
The important things.