The neighbor started to work herself up into a lecture on how crazy my friend was, but the really weird part happened when Allison informed her that this wasn't a planned pregnancy. In fact, it had been a pretty big surprise, for both her and her husband.
Suddenly, the neighbor's demeanor changed. She calmed down. She stopped acting like she was being personally insulted by the contents of Allison's uterus and accepted the fact that there was a fifth baby on the way without further complaint.
It was so bizarre, as if she might just come out and said, "Phew! You really had me worried for a moment there; I thought you actually wanted five!"
I've given a lot of thought to that scene over the years, because of my six children.
|Five of the kids and their dad. (The youngest was still in utero when I took this. It's an old photo, I just like it.)|
I understand that having big families was easier a few generations ago, when times were different. Households with one stay-at-home parent were more common, and let's not forget that each kid wasn't legally required to have their own rear-facing car seat until they turned 15.
For a lot of reasons, big families are kind of rare now, so I'm okay with having people stare, count heads, or even ask me questions when we go out in public.
Curiosity is one thing and that never bothers me, but the contempt or pity that sometimes accompanies it does.
I don't personally know Allison's neighbor so I'll probably never get the opportunity to tell her that having a house full of kids isn't a tragedy, and wanting it doesn't mean you're crazy.
To me, kids are an amazing blessing and having a lot of them just multiplies the joy.
To me, my big family is more fulfilling than a mission trip to Guatemala, more breathtaking than the view from a cliffside village in Santorini, and sweeter than when you come home and the dog goes so ballistic with joy he's doing triple gainers in the air at the sight of you.
When my daughter nails her violin solo or my son asks the new kid to sit by him at lunch, it makes me prouder than any professional success could (and in my case, I suppose 'professional success' might mean this blog.)
I don't have anything against mission trips, or Mediterranean vacations, or pets, or rocking your paid employment. Or blogs, obviously.
What I'm saying is that as great as those things are, to me they pale in comparison to the work of having and raising a family. And since there's nothing I can think of that would be more meaningful or worthwhile in the long run than raising another little person, I've never been in any rush to hurry out of the baby-making phase of life.
I have a lot of children, not because I'm crazy or unfortunate or not planning ahead or trying to bug you. I just want them.
Of course we all have different mental and physical capabilities, and life has a way of throwing plot twists like miscarriages and surprise pregnancies and a hundred other things into our perfect plans. So I'm not suggesting that everyone should or even could have six kids.
What I am saying is that if you ever see my family crossing the street, there are two things you need to know: one, it's going to look like a Thanksgiving parade for a medium-sized metropolitan area, so put your car in park and get comfortable while we finish crossing.
Two, there's no need to worry about me, my sanity, or my situation because the big family filing through the crosswalk is everything I ever wanted.
Just smile, and maybe catch some candy as we go by.