Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Home, Sweet, Home

Last Father’s Day I was given the greatest gift a father of eight can possibly receive… three solid hours of peace and quiet. Unless your home life is a solid wall of diaper changes and toddler wrestling matches, you can’t possible imagine how even 20 minutes of silence can change a person’s whole outlook. Just being able to use the bathroom without someone calling at you through the door is a blessing of gigantic proportions. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the needs of small children can’t easily be postponed, but there are moments in one’s life when you would really rather not focus on someone else.

And herein lies the problem in our family. The ratio of 10 to 1 works beautifully in many of life’s circumstances. Can you imagine what our educational system would be like if we had classes of only 10 kids to 1 teacher? Imagine the lowering stress levels of middle managers if they had only 10 employees to keep track of. But, 10 to 1 is a decidedly troubling number when applied to the number of Gariepy's to the one, incredibly small bathroom that serves as our family’s privy. Imagine a room the size of an exceptionally small closet and you have a room at least twice the size of our powder room. It’s a charming room as far as it goes, but it is disconcerting to be able to brush your teeth and wash your feet in the tub all while sitting comfortably on the commode. There is something to be said for small rooms. My wife appreciates the ease with which she can clean this room and I am sure that it’s perfectly comfortable for the smallest people in our home. You also can’t beat the sink as a place to rest a heavy book, if you’re inclined to do so. However, the convenience of having at least two such rooms is highlighted a few times each year when the dreaded flu hits the family. Of course, I try to remind myself and my children that that when the house was built nearly one hundred years ago, it’s rather unlikely that this room existed at all. Farmer Joe would probably have found our bijou powder room quite luxurious.

It’s not just the size and singularity of the family bathroom that surprises people when they see the house. No, our house is rather small, especially in relation to our family size, in nearly everyone’s eyes. My mother frequently asks when we are going to move to a larger home. I don’t want to suggest that we’d be happy to move as soon as she was willing to pay the extra expense, but my wife and I like our house. It’s relatively easy to clean – no small consideration when at least 50% of your day is devoted to that activity – and having all of the boys in one room makes it unlikely that they will be able to get into too much trouble as the years go by. After all, it’s hard to hide really bad behavior when your youngest brother already runs to your mother and dad when you say a “bad word” (I wonder just what the “L” word is, anyway…). It’s also allows us to use a very effective form of discipline on our seventeen year old daughter. At the earliest hint of trouble from her we only need to mention that the boy’s room is getting rather crowded and shouldn’t we consider moving one of her brothers into her own private sanctuary? Problem averted.

I suppose a larger house would be more convenient, but it’s comforting to know where everyone is and to have a sense of what they’re doing. There’s enough time to be apart everyday but, in our small house, we are forced to spend time together and that’s not all bad. For the children, it’s a great way to learn how to get along in the world, and how to share. For their parents, it’s an opportunity to create a welcoming and secure place for the kids to land at the end of each day. However you explain it, it’s not the amount of space that counts, but what kind of feeling you fill it with.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this made me feel HAPPY