People ask what it’s like to have kids in their twenties and twos, what it looks like to have college kids sharing space with toddlers, how it feels to talk about planning for the future just around the corner while setting up a wooden train track.
In so many ways, it’s hard to describe. Because it’s our norm, it just is. In other ways, there’s a unique tension that I’m aware of all the time as I walk the tightrope of parenting kids who need to talk tuition and kids who need me to tell them what the word they just tripped on in their primer means.
We’ve found a balance that holds, most of the time. Because this life has been a gradual unfolding, the skin that is our family has stretched to cover the needs of us all. Space is shared. Conversation space, which stays politely G-rated in the presence of the younger ones, can be filled with those burning questions about sex, marriage, sin, and anything else too heady for little ears when the evening hours roll around. Physical space is carefully policed, allowing everyone to be who they are while respecting others. Spiritual space is encouraged, Where the older ones share truth and the younger keep us all keenly aware of the beauty and marvels we might allow ourselves to forget.
There are breakdowns, no doubt. Moments when the 15 year-old finds that someone has violated his “special things” area and co-opted something precious. Times when a teenager forgets who’s present and brings up a topic beyond what we want to really dig into within earshot of a preschooler. Days when I am so pulled in one direction or the other that I feel I can’t do either end very well, let’s alone the space in between.
But then there’s this: a sister carefully teaching her baby brother to tie his shoes, a little one on the lap of a young adult who was, just a moment ago, overwhelmed with a to-do list of school work that seemed much too long. There are six and a half foot tall boys running with squealing 2 year-olds on their shoulders, and nine year-olds volunteering to help with chemistry experiments.
This tapestry of ages isn’t for everyone. I know that. But when I look around, what I see blesses me and, more over, it blesses my children. We are a messy assemblage representative of so many stages of life. But we’re doing it together, and it brings us joy.