How to Raise A Small Army


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When I tell people that I’m the mom of five kids, they stop, hesitate, and then proceed to look at me like I’ve lost my freakin’ mind. There is definitely a stigma attached to having a large family, and by large I mean raising a small army of offspring. By society’s unspoken definition, the maximum acceptable number of kids to have (unless you’re Jewish or a Duggar) is three. Anything beyond that is met with confused, sympathetic glances. I even had someone say to me recently, “I’m so sorry,” like having that many kids is the equivalent of coming down with a case of herpes.

What many people don’t realize is that once you hit that magical number of three, anything beyond that just blends right in. Like Metamucil in a milkshake. You hardly notice. I actually had more meltdowns when I had just two crazy ass boys than today with five. Five is like a full-on circus. It’s hectic, but we have a lot of fun! We juggle knives, swing from curtains, and even feed wild animals in the front yard. Yeah. Not really, but it’s not as bad as you might think.

Raising a small army? Here are the 10 rules of survival:

1. Have their names tattooed onto their foreheads. When you have this many kids running around, it’s hard to keep them straight. “Sally, Suzy, Sandy, Sharon, Shelly…? Which f’ing kid are you?” It can drive you batshit crazy calling them by 13 names until you finally get it right. Tattoos work. You can also use a Sharpie.

2. Buy Ramen noodle stock, lots and lots of it. Feeding the equivalent of a swimming team is expensive! You can’t beat $0.10 a pop!

3. Don’t let minor arguments or fist fights get to you. You can’t spend all your time playing referee. Unless there’s blood spewing, let it go! A little physical activity never hurt anyone.

4. Laundry will become your worst enemy. If it doesn’t smell like a barnyard or have fecal matter stuck to it, make them wear it again. AXE, perfume, Glade spray…all mask yesterday’s crab roll or spilled milk.

5. Your finger is now your best friend. When four or five (or more) of them are speaking to you at once in a crazed and furious manner, whip that finger up like you mean business. If they peep, poke it up higher. This not only confuses them, it’s also a source of instant entertainment—quieting them immediately.

6. Forget having a sports car ever again. Or until you’ve turned gray and your boobs are really sagging. You’re going to have to invest in a mini-van. Or one of those short buses. Personally, I’d opt for the short bus. They duo as a RV in case you need a quick getaway.

7. Showers are tricky in a family with many kids. First, there’s cleaning your own hoo haw. You literally have seconds to get from water to clothing before the door is torn off the hinges, all while zombie-like hands reach through the cracks in the bottom desperately trying to get to you. And then there are the kids. They need to bathe, too. Your best bet is the garden hose. Just have them line up, pass the soap, and spray away.

8. If you have a bunch of kids still in diapers, the assembly line method works best. Just lay them down next to each other—diapers off, wipes on, new diapers secured. Be gone!

9. Never underestimate the power of duct tape. It secures the diapers onto self-changing nudists, fixes broken toys, and even acts as an intimidator. Hang a roll within view. Kid swears, point to it. Kid bites, give the roll a little shake. Breaks even the worst offenders. (Just don’t ever apply it to their mouths or bodies. Durrr.)

10. Sometimes you just need to say f$%k this shit. Sometimes things become so chaotic and clusterchucked, you’ll want to give up. That’s okay! Step away. Get out the house. Go for a drive. Drink a tall glass of wine! Whatever you have to do to get yourself back into the game. And quickly on defense.


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  1. 1

    katie says

    As the mother of 4 small children (7,3,1,9months) I couldn’t agree with you more! most days i’m lucky to change their diapers before they say F* this and pull them off their selves (and pee on my floor) let alone do dishes with 3 kids hanging off of my pant leg.. When people ask me why I had so many I generally reply “because one of them is bound to like me someday when I’m old and not send me to a nursing home’ also by my calculation’s one of them is sure to have a great job and take care of me lol. Most days I get sad eyes from a child whos name I cant remember but I wouldn’t trade this life for anything!

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  2. 8

    Natasha says

    Ha! I loved this! We’re making the jump to 4 in June (ours are pretty spaced out-9,4,2) and when we made the (super cute!) announcement at Thanksgiving, family was like, um, Congratulations? I think? Maybe? Are you insane? I’m taking faith in 4 is easier than 3, hope it holds true!!!!

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  3. 12


    Love this Crystal. I can identify with it. I only had 3 kids, but came from a family of 7 kids. Those assemble lines work really good.
    And yes you pick your battles. if there isn’t any blood the excerise is good for them.
    My mother would take us somewhere and she could see people counting us as we removed ourselves from the car.
    My mother also had a tone to her voice and when she used that you knew it was the end of the line. Also that mother look that you knew you didn’t want to move another muscle.
    I like the finger going up that also works. And when you do remember what kid you are talking to and use the right name, if mom throws in the middle name after saying your first name, you better listen.
    Big families are fun and you do learn to work together and share lots.
    Thanks Crystal for the memories.

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  4. 17


    Well, I don’t have five, but I have an almost 4-year-old and twin almost-three-year-olds (so it FEELS LIKE FIVE), and I can relate to every single item. Every. Single. Item. My mother introduced the Ramen noodles recently. Definitely more bang for the buck!

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      • 19

        Joyce Parker says

        As the mother of a two year old when she gave birth to my twin sister and me, I know my mom would have loved being in on this one. Especially considering the things my twin sister and I used to do, such as setting our older sister’s bed on fire – while she was still asleep in it. lol

        I only have two myself but with them being ‘Irish twins’ (less than a year apart), I was laughing hysterically at all 10 tips, because I could relate to every one of them. Great blog!

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  5. 20

    Rita Stadler says

    Had to stop in the middle of reading to raise my finger in the air at a little troublemaker of my own, then had a good laugh at the irony as I resumed reading! Thanks for sharing :)

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  6. 29

    Rabia @TheLiebers says

    Where are you living that three is acceptable?? When I had my second child people assumed I was done because I had “one of each.” The first time someone said that I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard!! After the tenth time I just gave up. I have three kids and we live the chaos you are talking about on a daily basis. I was just thinking this morning that I can’t remember the last time my kids were bathed. I think the sitter gave them baths last time she was over…

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