We normally do Shabbat dinner at my house. It’s not always done WELL. Some Fridays, it’s haphazard and chaotic, and I don’t manage to light the candles until late at night after I’ve managed to wrestle everyone into bed. But there are a lot of Fridays when the table is set beautifully, the challah is baked, and the chicken is served in a pretty bowl.
Periodically, often, we have guests for dinner. Sam usually has a friend over, and we invite people over to join us. A few weeks a month, we have my in-laws over. It’s still chaotic and crazy, but when we have dinner at home, it’s somehow easier. Part of it is that we get the kids earlier, we pick up my stepdaughters about an hour before dinner, and part of it is that we just have more space – so if a kid is hormonal and can’t stop sobbing, she can disappear into her bedroom without too much drama. If a kid is maniacally obsessed with minecraft, he can slip off into his bedroom to play that without an issue. And if two kids want to brawl – well, we can generally send them outside to handle it.
My poor in-laws decided to take us out to dinner tonight. Which was lovely, and a wonderful, generous idea – but wow – we learned again that you just shouldn’t EVER try and take my five kids out for dinner on a Friday night. After being stuck in school all week, not seeing each other since the previous weekend – there’s just no way that they can hold it together to have a civilized meal.
Although, they did hold it together, mostly. Dinner was… okay. A little teary, for reasons that made no real sense, but a couple of girls had some issues. Sam hyperventilated waiting for the pizza to come. But the meal itself was mostly okay. It was in the parking lot that everything went bat crap crazy, and it continued well into the night.
We have two cars, and normally, we split up into the “quiet car” and the “psychotic car.” But for reasons that escape me tonight, all five of them wanted to ride together, except for two of them, who wanted to ride alone. So all five of them jumped into the car, out of the car, in the car, back out of the car. There were cups of water thrown, puddles created, laughing hysterically, sobbing uncontrollably – and it took about ten minutes before we managed to get everyone INTO a car and get home.
My kids range in age between 16 and 5. And logically, I have to assume that this is they way that they’ll be forever. I can completely see where, twenty years from now, they aren’t going to be any less likely to need a day or two of decompression before going out in public together. They need time to yell and scream and laugh and squabble and get it all out before they can behave like normal people.
And they’re awesome. Healthy, and happy and completely, utterly connected. These five kids, these five completely different personalities somehow manage to merge into a unit that’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. They transcend normal birth order, because we’ve got two oldest (Lilli and Jessie), three youngest (Sarah is the youngest of Lilli and Sarah, Jessie is the youngest of the three girls, and Julie is the youngest of all five). Sam is the only boy, and Jessie slips into the middle child role like she owns it. They aren’t a traditional band of siblings – but they are a unit. And anyone who happened to be in the Papa Gino’s parking lot tonight in Webster Square around eight can attest to it.