Almost a year ago I tried babysitting three other small children, plus the ducklings, for a few hours. At the end of the day I was reduced to a mass of quivering jelly, and actually had to order pizza for dinner. (That is not something we do at the Duchy, unless we just moved. I was very much moved.)
This week, I've had two of those small children over twice for three hours at a stretch. It was lovely. I read, did housework, gardened, and had fun playing with them. We'll have to do it more often.
Some of the differences are mere flukes. Our thermostat is still stuck on August, so we played outside for a couple of hours in the morning and ate lunch on the back patio: move the table and let the squirrels clean up the mess. And, of course, four children is a power of ten less than five children.
Still, it was amazing how much of a difference the increased age of the kids made. Everyone who was still being potty-trained last year was done this year. (And fortunately nobody else has given up diapers yet.) Everybody could move under their own power. Everybody could communicate enough to alert me to any serious problems. Everyone's movements and grasp of rules were predictable enough to allow me to dash inside for a Kleenex.
The girls (3 and 4) could keep themselves busy for hours with little intervention, writing with chalk or cooking or playing some incomprehensible thing that involved scarves on the heads and climbing over the couch. The boys (2) could keep themselves busy tagging along or just riding bikes back and forth.
I like this growing-up thing. So far.