Spending a month and a half with my family was a big learning experience for us, as regarding how different life is when you live with children vs. when you live without them.
I say "us," although "Angel" is more accurate. I'd never compare siblinghood to parenting, but being the oldest kid in a big family makes you pretty comfortable with a world where little ones are are seemingly always running around somewhere underfoot.
Angel was positively shocked at some of the aspects of life with a bunch of kids. He figured out all on his own that staying around the apartment complex and only going places within walking distance (the pool, the park, the library) was far, far easier than trying to organize a family outing and wrangle feisty toddlers on the public bus.
Toddlers sometimes play with far more toys than they have any logical reason to play with. And you have to sweep after every single meal with them because no matter how hard you're trying to instill table manners--rice is going to end up on the floor. This shocked him--and the fact that it shocked him made my wiser-in-the-ways-of-children family members say, "That's cute."
The husband finally discovered the amazing thing about naps, because when all of the kids happened to fall asleep simultaneously in the afternoon, that's when we could do utterly irresponsible things like watch Pirates of the Caribbean or play board games that involved small pieces. The miracle of naps is a familiar one to me. When we lived in Texas more than a decade ago, our most favorite thing to do was to play hide and seek in the dark with our friends in the afternoon. I would put the two littlest sisters down for their afternoon nap so that they wouldn't be trampled by preteens, and we'd play as quietly as we could (side note: Hide and seek in the dark is not a very quiet game. People always scream!) until the first cries let us know that naptime was over.
Doing housework suddenly becomes harder than it ought, because not only do you have to mop, you have to prevent small children from attempting to jump into your bucket of soapy water. I thought it was a genius idea of mine to hand scrubbrushes to the 4 year olds and assign them the task of cleaning the bathroom (no soap was involved, of course, just plain old water). They had a grand time, and the bathroom is one that won't be hurt by excessive amounts of water being sprayed everywhere. Of course, afterwards, everyone had to change out of sopping wet clothes, but that's part of the fun.
It's funny to me to look at what we both got out of the experience. Angel says that living life with kids forced him to face his own innate selfishness. I got a great refresher course in rules and strategies for life with toddlers, for example, the classic, "If you two fight over the toy, no one gets to play with the toy." Banished toys are simply a part of life, folks. I also found out that kids are rough on the body. I bruise easily, and my legs were nearly constantly covered in bruises while we were there, due to being grabbed at and head-butted and jumped on by overly-enthusiastic little ones. I think I did eventually convince them that if they want a piggyback ride, they're going to have much better luck with Angel.
It was hard to say goodbye. It's not easy to answer a beautiful, brown-eyed little girl's question, "But why? Why do you have to go to work?" I'm a tough cookie. When they cry because they want to play with a toy that's in jail, it doesn't move me one iota. But it's a different story when they cry because you're leaving them.
Life sure seems a lot quieter now.