I don’t know what you consider a “big” family, but judging by the random comments I get from strangers everywhere I go, I am going to assume six kids fits the bill.
People are always asking me what it is like. That is really hard to say because for us, it is our “normal”. Of course, our definition of “normal” is always changing. Maybe that is because we keep throwing new people in the mix, but the kids are growing and changing and so is the dynamic. Nevertheless, there are a few constants.
For example, someone is constantly crying. Not the same person. Just someone. Don’t be alarmed- it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It probably means someone isn’t letting them be the boss. To make this more fun, we decided to adopt a toddler that had trouble controlling his emotions. He is now four and growing out of it, so we quickly added an infant to the mix to keep the momentum going.
Someone is constantly missing one shoe. If we are talking about my 7 year old, then make that one shoe FROM.EVERY.PAIR.
You are constantly at the grocery store.
You are constantly running late.
Someone is constantly talking. Usually three at the same time.
You are constantly stepping on legos. OUCH.
There are constantly dirty dishes and clothes. It doesn’t matter that you did laundry all day and just proudly pulled that last thing from the hamper. Someone will come behind you and add a pile of clothes. If it’s the 7-year- old, you might notice as he throws it in that one of the shirts is still on the hanger. <Growl.>
You constantly have to retake pictures. It doesn’t mean that you will ever successfully get them all to look at the camera at the same time and smile. You won’t.
There is constantly someone asking questions or making comments. If only I had a dollar for how many times I have heard “how do you feed them all”? “Are you done”? “Do you own a t.v.”? It’s usually in Walmart- like the man who tried to lecture me about how the earth was overpopulated because of people “like me”. Ironically, I only had three kids with me at the time. It turned out fine, though. While I was scraping my jaw off the floor that 7 year old (the one who can’t find his shoes or pick up his legos) respectfully put the man in his place. So I just smiled as we went on with our shopping.
Family dinner around the table is a constant; at least in our house. We will go around the table saying what we learned that day, what we are thankful for, or something else to spark conversation. Almost every night I have to try and keep my tea from coming out my nose because I am laughing so hard. Many nights I try to blink away tears because I am so moved by unexpected things they say.
There is constantly something to laugh about. Kids are just naturally funny. Sometimes they are trying to be, but most of the time they aren’t. Bonus points if you can learn to laugh at yourself and laugh when things don’t go according to plan. Life is guaranteed to be a fun ride.
There is constantly a parody being written and sung. Sometimes there are instruments. Sometimes there is dancing. Maybe this is just our house. (Okay, it probably is.) There is always a way to put anything in the form of a song and sing with your husband to make a point, annoy the kids, or just keep each other entertained. It is like Disney, but with more sarcasm. Fun fact: When Ava weighed in at 21 lbs by six months old, we rewrote “I’m all about that Bass”. Her theme song: “I’m all about that milk” was so fun that even the kids forgot to roll their eyes and sang along. (Don’t worry – we are putting away money for their future therapy.)
There is constantly something to delight in. A baby’s firsts (which by the way are SO much more fun when you have a ton of other kids who delight in them, too), mastering a math concept you thought they might struggle with, seeing them overcome things they didn’t think they could, seeing them love each other, or a million other things I could go on and on about.
There is constantly someone willing to snuggle you.
There is constantly something to pray about. I recommend investing in a good pair of knee pads.
There is constantly someone watching you. Not in a creepy, stalker-ish way. Well, sometimes. Maybe if you are trying to sneak a candy bar. What I really mean is that if you mess up – and we all will – there is someone young and impressionable to see it.
Here is the thing: I have been at this long enough to know that those needy little people that talk constantly, can’t control their emotions, say your name 3295820 times a day, and lose one shoe to every pair ….. they teach you a level of love and delight that you didn’t know you had the capacity for. Sometimes, you discover new levels of heartache, too. But even when they let you down, you will find you still love them as much as you ever did.
Maybe the biggest constant you find when you are trying to raise a big family is the constant need for God’s presence and help. At least twice a week I say, or catch my husband’s eye and mouth the words, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM DOING”! Just a couple of nights ago I had to ask my 13-year old for forgiveness because I was snippy as I got frustrated over something that mattered Not.At.All in the scheme of things. If you are wondering, humble pie tastes nasty. Just be sweet always. You’ll need a lot of His power for that – especially in a large family.
In my 19 years of parenting, I actually have learned a few things. At the top of that list is a deeper understanding of how our heavenly Father loves us. It is deeper than I can understand, but as I look at my children I get just a tiny glimpse.
This I am sure of:
His love for us is constant, and children are absolutely a blessing.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! – Psalm 127:3-5