An experiment in pack parenting
Last night was an exciting one at our house. That's because our dear friends, the Smyths, moved in with us.
The main floor of Kelly and Colin's house is being renovated for a reality TV show (I don't believe I'm allowed to say which one just yet!), and that meant their family of five - including Ella, 6, Nolan, 4, and Carson, 2, plus golden retriever puppy, Marlowe - needed to be out of the space.
I have a small one-bedroom suite in my basement, bunk beds in Cameron's room and an extra cot, so we're all squeezing in for one epic playdate/sleepover.
Kelly and I met at a Fitmom prenatal yoga class when we were both expecting our first babies. And, along with our other dearest mommy friend, Lori, and her family, we've been sharing childcare, dinners, martinis, tea, sympathy and life's ups and downs. In short, our kids are growing up together, and so are we.
Here's a photo of the gang (the boys on the ends are Lori's Jake, (left) and Davis, who are not staying with us, but this gives you the idea anyway):
We're comfortable telling either others' two-year-old's to "get down from there." We know who likes their spaghetti with sauce and who likes it with just Parmesan cheese. It's not uncommon for us to have a pack of kids in pajamas watching a movie while we try to sip a little wine and eat some dinner while it's still hot warm.
This period is interesting to me in a couple of ways:
First, it's an experiment in what I like to call "pack parenting." (Maybe the phrase that will come to mind for you is that old cliché we use but don't really live: "It takes a village.") In pack parenting, whatever moms or dads are around work together to give everyone attention and move all the kids through routines of meals, outings, bedtime, whatever, invoking an "Everyone behind the yellow line!/Everyone clear their plate!/Everyone brush their teeth!" kind of group think. Any parent who has struggled through the "arsenic hour" feeling depleted and outnumbered knows how much easier that it is when there's another adult around. So these three-weeks-and-a-bit will be, I think, both chaotic and supportive.
Secondly, much of the world lives this way. The nuclear family is really a very modern idea. It's quite a western luxury to have four walls and a roof for just us. And as a person who lives many time zones away from extended family, I've often thought that perhaps multi-generational households have it right, with more people on hand to stir the soup, read a story or supervise bath.
Already there have been some memorable moments! While Kelly and Colin were schlepping things over from their place last night, I was supervising dinner. Everyone got along famously but there was a wee tussle over a stool between the two-year-olds. I caught one child by the footie pajama'd ankles just inches from doing a head plant, but entirely unfazed and still chewing a meatball. The puppy arrived later in the evening and skidded around the hardwood sniffing things and ecstatically wagging her tail before finding some blackboard chalk to chew. And this morning Carson "helped" me mix the orange juice, adding a little soapy dishwater for good measure when I turned my head to make the smoothie.
I'm sure I'll be chronicling a lot of this here and on Twitter, but meanwhile, there are some other things you'll probably want to check out today:
Humour columnist Vinay Menon's take on the CBC documentary Hyper Parent and Coddled Kids, which airs tonight at 9 p.m.
Kris Rushowy's fascinating story on innovative programs that use exercise to help at-risk children pay attention and stay on their best behaviour.
Ann Douglas's thought-provoking take on iPhone Apps for parents and kids.
Susan Delacourt's exclusive interview about daycare with former Prime Minister Paul Martin.