Disclaimer: strong opinions ahead. Keep in mind that my opinions as presented here are just that–my opinions. It’s hard enough to make decisions and priorities for my own family and I’m extremely thankful that I don’t have to do so for yours. Just the same, as we carve out our lifestyle, we all form opinions, and some of mine are expressed here. Please don’t take offense; we know that most of America thinks we’re insane. But I’m entitled to that, right?
“Three girls and a boy?” For some reason, I get asked this all the time as people are looking at my children who are quite obviously three girls and a boy. I guess people just feel the need to comment and don’t know what else to say, but it seems kind of redundant to me. But, yes, I have three girls and a boy. This question comes in other forms, with the second most frequent being the comment, “You finally got a boy!”
“So are you done now that you finally got a boy?” or “How many kids do you want?” or “Surely you’re done now, right?” or “You mean you still want more!?!” One of these, or one of their various companions, shows up at least once a week and I’m not kidding. (Disclaimer: opinions ahead.) My verbal response: “No, we don’t plan on being done. We’re not sure how many we want, we’re trying to take a little break and then we’ll see,” or something polite like that. My mental response: “Do you know how rude you’re being right now? Do I question your family make-up? Do you know how idiotic you’re making me feel for having lots of kids? What is wrong with having a large family? I’m not asking you to take care of my kids, I don’t take money from the government, your taxes are not raising my kids. So where does your opinion fit in? I’m not passing judgment on your family choices-quit passing judgment on mine.” Now, I understand that for some reason, seeing a family with four or more kids, especially close together like mine, tends to shock people into talking before they think. And even if I think these thoughts at the time, I do not generally hold grudges against people who say these things, because, quite frankly, if I did, I’d be holding a grudge against tons of people. So don’t worry if you’ve asked me these things. I still like you. But maybe you could think next time you want to question someone’s choices regarding their family make-up.
“Poor little boy, having to grow up with three older sisters.” Now, I have to say I kind of agree with this one. But I solemnly promise to do my best to protect Samuel from having dresses put on him, from getting all the worst roles in the make-believe world, or from having to play baby dolls or princesses. His daddy and I are making it our mission to see that he grows up all boy.
“How do you do it?” By the grace of God. We’re finally back in a good groove, having recovered from the addition of another new baby (it takes a few months). Some days are nothing but chaos–arguing sisters, crying toddlers, crying big girls, messes, dirty diapers, etc. Other days are smooth as butter and make me take a deep breath and think, okay, I can do this after all. Basically, I tend to let slide what other people might not, just to focus on the urgent. I haven’t cleaned glass or windows or things like that since we moved in. I don’t jump to completely clean up every little mess (except for the ones involving bodily fluids). My kids might stay in their jammies for the whole day. They might go a day without combing their hair. But we get the essentials done. Daddy has family Bible time with them every morning. We’ve worked out a way for me to get exercise and Bible study time every morning before Daddy goes to work. Even Abigail now does her own Bible study in her room every morning. We do school every day. We pick up clutter every day so that we don’t live in physical chaos as well as kid chaos. Except for church nights, we eat supper together every night, and lots of days we get lunch together too, since Daddy can usually come home. We’ve set some priorities and we try to cover those, and do the rest as time allows. My house is cleaner now than it’s ever been, but I don’t stress out about it. Also, we don’t allow our kids to be the bosses. We don’t give them everything they want. They are able to play with each other or by themselves, and I don’t have to entertain them all day long. I think a lot of the time, when people can’t believe how I could handle four kids all day, it’s because they would probably do a lot more for their kids than I do. I can’t drop everything to fix them something to eat between meals; they wait for meal time or snack time. I don’t run to put in a movie for them every time they ask. They can wait for TV time. I find myself saying, “Just a minute,” and “No,” a lot, usually more than I wish I had to. Sometimes I feel like I’m slighting them all by having so many. But that’s usually a fleeting moment. It’s good for them to know that the world does not revolve around them, that in a family you have to wait for things or go without things for the good of all. That in a family, you cannot dump all your Littlest Pet Shop toys out, play with them for five minutes and move onto something else leaving them for Mom to pick up later. That in a family you don’t always get to pick what you eat, or what game you play, or what character your sister gets to be when you play Brady Bunch, and that’s okay. That in a family, you will have to help Mom out by dusting or folding laundry or cleaning your little sister’s room even if you didn’t make the mess. That being a member of a family requires you to learn manners and to respect people around you. You cannot run and be loud while someone is sleeping or if someone doesn’t feel good. You will speak when spoken to, and speak in a happy voice, even if you were listening to a song you really wanted to hear. You cannot take what someone else is playing with or using, even if you do really want it. You will forego your rights and desires in order that someone else might get theirs. You will place your sister above yourself, you will learn to be the boss of your feelings and not let your feelings be the boss of you, and you will learn to obey Mom and Dad all the way, right away, and with a happy heart, no matter what. These are the things we focus on, and as our kids learn these things, we find our days going smoother and smoother, and they are much happier to0. There might be crumbs under my table or smudges on my mirrors, but I can clean those up after my kids have learned to be respectful, productive members of society. Now, do I accomplish these things perfectly all the time? Do my kids always behave the ways I just described? Heck, no. Ask Ms. Chasta at Mission Friends if you want to know the answer to that. But that is what we try to focus on. Not making them happy or giving them the things that they want. Those are desires, of course, but I don’t exist as a mother simply to make my children happy. I would be doing them, and those around them now and as they grow older, a great disservice to place my focus completely on what they want. Sometimes, I mess up. Daily, I mess up. But, the next day is full of new mercies to start all over again.