Friday, September 30, 2011

This Wild Ride

If you really  must know what life is like in a large family, I'm here to spill the beans.  It's not all glee and giggles, but it's also not always messes and noise, either.

When I decided to have a large family (and my husband, surprisingly agreed), what I signed up for and what I received, was much more than I expected.  I was picturing a serene, homey, "Little Women" sort of family - my children adoringly crowded around me in front of the fireplace on a cold winter's day as I read classical literature.  Instead, today as I read a chapter of a biography to my older kids, I was interrupted a minimum of 32 times by the following:

"Mo----ommmmmm!  I'm done!!!!" (yelled from the bathroom, by my 3 year old.)

"Can we have a snack????  Mom, can we have a snack?  Mom, I'm hungry!!! Can we have a snack!?"

"Mom-meeeee!  She took my toy!!!"

Then there was the very bad, very horrible smell coming from the vicinity of the toddler...

Then some spilled water, another bathroom break, the breaking up of the younger siblings' squabble and.. finally, we were done a chapter!

Speaking of interruptions at inconvenient times, I've often wondered how many diaper changes has our family has gone through over the past 12 years.  Given that there has NEVER been a period of time with no diapers, and that we have had significant stretches of time with 2 children in diapers, I am guesstimating that we have gone through at least 30,660 diapers!!!  (Before you freak out about how our family has single-handedly filled up the space of a small-town's landfill, I have tried to be kind to the environment and have used a mix of both cloth and disposable diapers.) 

Besides the thousands of diapers, there are the immense mountains of laundry, the gigantic grocery bills, the endless crumbs on the floor and the fight for the use of the bathroom that occurs on a daily basis.  Yes, having a large family is expensive - but I will argue that it is not so much in a monetary sense, but in the areas of time, emotions, commitment and responsibility.

These are the areas which I didn't envision in young motherhood.  When we had our fourth baby - who was content and sweet, and hardly any trouble at all, I was quick to sign up for more!  Suddenly (I think it was about 2 years ago), we had 5 kids, I was 7 months pregnant, getting ready to move into a VERY unfinished home and our 1 year old was the most mischievous trouble-maker I had ever seen!  I was trying so hard to keep in a state of calm.  I counted my blessings continually.  I closed my eyes to the mess around me.  Most of all, I just tried to survive!

While many of you are probably ready to write me off as insane, I do have a point to make.   Raising young children (and raising many young children) is a lot of work.  However, on the plus side, my organizational skills have grown by leaps and bounds!  I have the ability to multi-task in the worst of situations - chaos and screaming can be all around me, and I can still answer the phone, stir the pot of stew and hold the baby on my hip; all at the same time (while giving my children a glare that invokes their silence).

Besides some fantastic skills, my children are an endless source of comedy, companionship and cuddles.  As they grow and their personalities become more pronounced, I am astounded at their love and care and how they are so different from each other and from me!  Six children means that I have way more opportunities to be proud of my family; having so many kids to watch excel in different areas of life!

Large families are bustling families - and there is always someone around to talk to, offer a helping hand or just keep you company.  Holidays like Christmas are full of joy and happiness and the house is brimming over with excitement.

If I were to think more industriously about my large family, just consider of all the little workers I have in my home.  (Sweat shop, anyone?)  We can make up our own sports team in a church tournament or even play music together and start a traveling family band - more like a circus, really!  Okay... I'm getting a little ridiculous now!

In the end, I can conclude wholeheartedly that raising a large family and being in a full house is hard.  Sometimes really hard.  You have many opportunities to lose your temper and feel selfish.  Sometimes you just want to be alone, and there is a little person who needs you - again!  Sometimes my husband and I wonder, that with all the emotional output required for our children, how we will ever have time and energy for each other.

Yet it is in the challenge that I am stretched, and my patience increases, and I grow.  I invest, and the returns will come back to me for generations.  Too soon, I will be visiting my children's homes, allowing them to cook for me and serve me.  Their lives will become wound up with the demands of young families and I will be winding down; basking in the warmth of grand-babies.

Raising a (large) family is truly like a wild ride in an amusement park.  You basically climb in, buckle up and hang on for dear life.  Sometimes you feel overwhelmed and you think you're gonna barf - other times, you are taking it all in, eyes wide open, experiencing the many thrills of child-rearing. 

No comments: