"I don't know how you do it."
"God bless you, lady!"
As a mother of 5, I've pretty much heard it all. Life is busy and crazy in a house full of 7 people, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
And neither would my kids.
I've written several posts about why I love having a big family, and even a post about how my kids still get enough love even though my time is divided by five. But I haven't written about what my kids have to say, or what they get out of the deal.
Never a Dull Moment
"What's it like having older sisters?" I once overhead my oldest asking one of her younger brothers as they brushed their teeth.
"It's like real life," he answered in his 6-year-old wisdom. Then he clarified, "You know, like, lots of persons to play with me."
And that pretty much sums it up, from their point of view. Do they get annoyed with each other? Fight? Of course. But not nearly as much as they play. They would be bored to death without each other.
One day I think they'll all make better roommates, spouses, coworkers, and parents because of all the practice they've had.
Allllllllllllll the Love
When my fourth child was a baby, I used to go get her when she woke up from her nap and attempt to snuggle with her in the rocking chair. But I was never very successful.
She'd only humor me for a minute before squirming out of my arms and crawling down the hall to look for her siblings. I knew when she found them because the house would erupt in a loud chorus of "Hi! You're awake!" From the baby, there were happy squeals that only dogs can hear.
The way the express their love changes a little as they grow. The older kids are more likely to pounce on each other and start talking about Minecraft (ugh) the moment they're home from school, but the love is the same.
Learning the Fine Art of Compassion
When you have siblings of both genders and a wide variety of ages and abilities, you quickly learn that everyone is different.
I love it when the kids genuinely compliment one of their younger siblings on doing a "good job," whether it's scribbling their first few letters or building a simple jet out of Legos. Of course they know they can do it better, but they understand that people deserve congratulations for doing their best, even if it's not the best.
|Was praised more highly than most Rembrandts.|
The older ones feel important because their little siblings look up to them. The little ones thrive on compliments from their cool, older siblings. And everyone learns that 'love' equals 'help.'
Partly out of necessity, people in big families know that pitching in and doing things for others is just a part of life. Not coming from a big family myself (it's just me and my brother,) I was always paranoid about asking the kids to help each other. I was afraid they'd feel like "little parents" who felt forced to raise their siblings.
But in my experience so far, that hasn't been the problem I'd thought it would be. Of course I ask them to help pour the milk for their sister sometimes, but more often it's them asking, "Can I get the baby out of the crib?" (or more heart-warming, "Can I share my Skittles with my sisters?") And I'm stammering, "Uh, sure... but you don't have to!"
The Best Is Yet to Come
I think about our family reunions and how much fun they'll be. I think of the all the cousin friendships as they start to have kids of their own. And mostly, I think of how awesome it'll be for them to have each other as adult friends.
Phillip is one of 7 children, and I've seen how it works.
When my sister-in-law had some pretty severe health problems, the family network was there for her. All the siblings are scattered in different states, but a flurry of emails kept everybody updated and praying together for her. People took turns doing what they could to help. One sister was in a position where she could go live with her for a while, and she did. There were many, many hands making her burden lighter.
Everything Is a Trade-off
Having a big family, like pretty much any other choice you make as a parent, involves trade-offs.
Our family vacations will probably involve more road trips and camping than all-inclusive resorts in Europe. Life is more hectic, and we probably spend more of our quality time together as a whole family (or at least in groups of 3 or 4) than we do one-on-one.
Once they've grown up, will my children wish they'd had it differently? I don't have a crystal ball so I can't tell you for sure.
But I do know that if we'd had fewer children (and therefore, more money and time,) that would've been a trade-off, too.
They'd be missing the playmates. They'd be missing the sheer number of people to love and all the chances to learn how to live with others. And when they grew up, they'd be missing the network of family we're building right now.
We realize the trade-offs we made by having a big family. All in all, we still feel that we traded up.