>Fair warning: LONG post.
I have been stewing a bit lately. Maybe it was another migraine, pushing my thoughts outside their normal box. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Maybe it has been the intensive discerning process we’ve been in. Or now, the idea that we have EIGHT children (we just need CIS to verify). Very likely, that.
(This is an older picture, w/ our Korean exchange student/daughter from afar, but not counting Gabriel or our new daughter to come)
But, clearly, I’ve been thinking, a LOT, about the large family.
Now, we, to some, are a large family. To many of the families I know, we are a smallish large family. Or maybe a largish, medium size family. Or a big small family. By some standards we are a middling family, no big deal. But, by others, the vast majority, we are a Large family. By modern American standards we are a freaky big family!
And I think, isn’t that odd?
And isn’t that kind of sad?
But then again, I have to think about that a lot. Because my kids have to grow up in this family. And some people have written about how hard and bad it is for kids to have to grow up in a large family; what a disservice it does to the kids. Hmmm.
Obviously, I have a bias.
I like to think that a large family, or a largish medium size family, or even a crazy big family is on the whole: good for the kids. Kim at Starry Sky Ranch is thinking about this, living it, as well. Worth a read that.
But too often, in our modern or postmodern culture, the large family is considered not only not so good, but detrimental. Huh? Because in the modern ethos, if you are filling all the bedrooms and then some in your house then surely you are shortchanging your kids, right? They must not have all the “things” they need materially. Because modern kids are not only entitled to their own room and an education but the newest backpacks and electronics and flat screen tv’s….really? Ok, I’m not saying everybody holds to this, but oddly enough, I get asked about this sort of thing. And of course, you might guess, I disagree. Kids are not entitled to such, to our excess consumerism, nor is it best for them (and we are all too guilty, all too often, mea culpa). But this is another post topic, really…the idea of how much and of what? Kids need a certain financial stability to thrive and certainly the adoption process ensures that. But it is a much wider swath than some I meet presume.
But to take it further, people wonder, and (to my waning shock) ask outright, if we are being “good stewards” of our resources. We have been questioned, point blank, on whether we have all our kids’ college funds funded (more than once). And you know, thankfully, so far, God has provided and no we don’t have every child’s entire education funded. We are figuring that we will figure it out and we will find a way to be sure that all our children get the education they want and need. It is a priority, but not a panicked stash. This is our personal decision (so don’t flame me, I get it when you decide otherwise).
So really, it begs the question: good stewardship, how is it applied to kids and a big family? Well, I think it’s simple. The best investment, ever and always, is in the life of a child. Period. That may be easy to say, but if we can make it work, we are gonna and so we figure we can raise one more, again. It might not be easy, it’s an expensive process and prospect. But, we, in faith, figure we will figure it out as we go.
But as for stewardship and the good of the kids, there is a much bigger picture to go with…..again, the fingers get pointed at the bigger family. Because you can’t possibly be a good steward of your other resources if you have so many kids can you? Can you really give those kids all the attention they need? Really? The love, the time? Can you really focus on their needs, their individual quirks and nurture them fully?
Yes, you can.
Is it hard and challenging at times?
Is it noisy and messy and chaotic?
Oh boy, yup, it is that!
But here’s the secret that people forget. They must forget because surely they know, if they pause to consider. One of the best, the very best, reasons to have a large family is: siblings. Yeah, the rivalry thing is real and can be maddening and intense. But siblings are simply the greatest gift you can give a child, any child. Even kids who have special needs, and might need more of your attention and resources (financial or otherwise); their best gift from you is a sib. Because only a sibling will always be there for them. Siblings are the only people who will have a relationship that spans the lifetime – even if it gets broken. There is still something there. And more siblings aren’t a drain, it’s a literal expansion: of fun, silliness, madness, emotions, opportunities, support, touch, love. They may not always be happy about it, and some sibs will be closer than others. But no one else will make you fall off your chair laughing til you cry when you’re grown. I remind my boys when they fuss that no one else will be able to make fun of me, after I am dead, like his brother. OK, or even now as I am quite alive. Love ’em or hate ’em, there is nobody like a sib. Ever.
And then we come to the one that makes me feel quite the curmudgeon:
“what about you?”
“How can you, as a mom, as an adult woman, feel fulfilled and challenged when you are tied to a house full of kids?”
What about “me time”?
People have asked me this in opposition to our latest adoption.
And you know, here’s my answer:
I do not live under a rock, I am aware of this concept, I see the magazines. And yes I do get tired and burnt out too sometimes. However, I am the most selfish person I have ever met and I must say I have a remarkable knack for carving out ME time.
But my “me” time may not be yours.
And it is a huge mistake to judge how much or of what type is claimed.
And in our culture, there is such an emphasis on self that it has gotten skewed. The best sort of “me” time I can really give, is to my kid (one or all). Not that I always remember that point, or do it. But the times I DO remember and value and that restore, are the ones that are those good quiet parent moments: laying down with a cuddled up small one for a rare quiet moment or two, the discussion (happy, funny, sad, intense) where you make those connections, the sideways look of understanding each other in a crowd (even if that crowd is your own kitchen). Don’t get me wrong, I love having a hot bath, I took the time to run far slow runs, I love a good book. But. When someone, friend, family, or stranger, tells me that we shouldn’t have another child, love another, because it will cut into “my” time (and they have, more than once)…then I’m thinking, um, something is wacked.
And I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m a bit dismayed over the flip. The cultural flip. It’s wonky. We are the stranger now. Our family. We have gone off the grid. We are freaks. We don’t fit, anymore. Because we have been deemed freaky. We are, weirdly, “other.” We feel freaky, really.
But here’s my take on it: it’s not politically correct, but I think our culture is freaky. Our society, in postmodern America (ok it’s even beyond, look at Europe) is the freaky thing. It’s wacked. The family, no matter the size, is under attack and when you are obviously centering your life around the family instead of the golden calf of “self”…well, you are labeled as a freak or crank or a pompous poof….or well, the list could go on and on.
If you are “lucky” people will presume you are ‘strong” or “good”…but even that is not so. Nice to hear, if embarrassing. Because, in actuality I am (we are) selfish, again. Because loving this family is everything to me. These kids, this life, this family, even as it grows…..is the biggest challenge, hardest, most exhilarating, most exhausting, most worthwhile thing I can begin to imagine.So, tell Gabriel that we are a freaky funky family, right after you pry him out of his big brother’s arms. Try it. I think he would disagree….