Thursday, October 13, 2022

10 Things You Learn When You Have a Big Family

I have 6 children, a fact that lands like an atom bomb when routine small talk prompts the question "Do you have kids?" 

People usually respond in one of two ways: either they dust themselves off and change the subject like nothing ever happened, or they stammer something like "What... How?! I mean  I'm sorry, did you say SIX?"

I think they mean it as a compliment.

I think they also mean "What in the world is your life like? Because I certainly can't envision it, not even for a moment."

Drawing a family portrait on the driveway requires a full box of chalk and a nap.

And so for the folks who find themselves unable to string together the coherent question they probably want to ask, I'd like to share 10 things I've learned from parenting my large brood:

1. Some things just don't matter. Who cares if the baby wears pajamas all day, or whether those pajamas coincide with their gender? Who has time to argue with a toddler who wants to wear their pants backward or carry a potato around in public like it's a stuffed animal? Out of necessity, parents with a lot of kids have figured out what's ultimately not that important, and like Elsa, have let it go.

2. You can't actually die from repeating yourself a million times. Even if I say the same thing six times, I've still only told everyone once. (And for the record, the number of times my kids have remembered something the first time they're told is zero.) With a big family, you spend all day dispensing information on an infinite loop and someone still ends up going "WHAT?? WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME?!"

3. You've only got things figured out until you have a kid who proves you wrong. It's easy to luck out and have one or two kids with "easy" personalities, sleeping habits, eating preferences, or health profiles. But your likelihood of having these magical unicorn children decreases with every baby you have, and sooner or later you'll be forced to admit that your stellar parenting had less to do with it than you originally thought.

4. It's possible to raise a baby (or two or three) in a minivan. Once you have multiple big kids involved in multiple activities, you don't schedule around your little kid's naptimes. Their "crib" has a 5-point harness now, and naptime is whenever you're commuting from dance practice to play rehearsal and back to catch the last 30 minutes of the junior high basketball game.

5. Kids are more capable than you thinkIt surprised me the first time my 3-year-old crawled up on the counter and made himself a sandwich because I was busy. After that, I came to depend on it.

6. It's usually a phase. Most things that I worried about when my kids were little ended up resolving themselves without developing into lifelong problems. By all means, keep an eye on it if you notice something unusual about your kid — but don't freak out. They'll probably grow out of it.

7. Even if you look like you know what you're doing, you probably don't. By virtue of having 6 kids who aren't yet in juvenile prison, people honestly seem to believe I have it all together, saying things like "I don't know how you do it, I can barely handle my two!" Considering that I feel like a complete dumpster fire 95% of the time, their admiration may be a little misplaced.

8. If you can teach multiple teenagers to drive, you can do anything. You no longer fear death. In fact, you regularly stare it down as you get in the passenger's seat and unflinchingly hand the keys to someone you remember teaching how to use a spoon.

9. Teamwork makes the dream work. The disaster regularly produced by 8 people living together can best be expressed by a quote from the venerable Dr. Seuss: "This mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up; there is no way at all." When I mobilize the troops, though, it's amazing how fast we can whip the place back into shape.

10.  It's all about the fighting-to-playing ratio. Big families spend a lot of time together, and it's a truth of life that kids who play together are also going to step on each others' toes. I think my kids get along really well, but that's not to say they don't also argue like they're going for an Olympic medal sometimes. (Side note: watching your kids play together is pure heaven on earth, and there's simply no love like sibling love.)

Whether you're seriously interested in my large family or just gawking like those drivers who slow down to check out accidents on the freeway, I hope this list is helpful. Now you can picture a little bit better what life is like in a big family!

(I didn't mention the laundry, but that's probably for the best. You don't want to know.)

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Katie said...

Number 3 is SO TRUE!!

mbmom11 said...

#3 describes my life. And I'm glad #1 is on there - it gives me a hope that someone else thinks this way!

Anonymous said...

Yes to all of it! I'm a mom of six and my favorite question asked at a kids' tee ball game (by a shocked mom after hearing I had 6 kids), was "Are they all with the same father?!?" I looked at her with big wondering eyes as if I had never thought about it before and replied, "I have no idea!" My one and only husband and I have laughed so hard about that through the years!