It’s the first of June and I can smell summer. Henrik is just below me, sitting in a basket of Lincoln Logs, industriously and determinedly throwing them out onto the floor. He’s too young to have the weight of consequence bothering him; no idea that messes made mean messes that need cleaned up by the mess maker. He pants with exertion as his chubby fists fling another handful of logs.
It’s strange, the variety of reactions you get from people when you share that you’re having your fifth child. I’m sure you can imagine the tenor of the remarks. Head shaking. Eyes rolling. Eyebrows lifting in silent disapproval. Laughter. “Better you than me!”, “Don’t you know what causes that?!”, “Oops?!”, or the perennial, “You guys are nuts”. Some think we are carelessly making a gigantic mess, like Henri flinging Lincoln Logs. I think the most cutting remark I’ve heard has been when my children were acting up one day and it was whispered, “And you want more children?”. They laughed, I didn’t.
Then there’s my favorite response, “Oh, that’s wonderful. I grew up in a big family and my siblings and I are so close. There was always someone to play with. We made such great memories together, and even though we didn’t have as much as our friends did, we had each other”.
As I write, Reuben is out on the front walk singing Amazing Grace and punch-dancing. I kid you not. My life, and as you see, my writing, is peppered with humorous interruptions. And now Reuben is standing beside me with a strawberry from our patch, taking a bite, and dramatically exclaiming “SO JUICY!” while he swivels his hips in delight. Back to my train of thought…
I make no claim that big families are better ones. Not in the least. Your decisions and/or physical limitations are your business, not mine. Likewise, our decisions to have a big family are our business, not particularly yours. Imagine me coming up to a small family and snorting derisively saying, “Don’t you know how to make kids?”. When people make negative comments about the size of our family, I’m seriously tempted to call the children over, line them up before the commenter, and saying, “I’m sorry, which of these shouldn’t we have had?”
We all choose our chaos. Really. Some people with two kids are WAY busier than we are; schedules packed with cello lessons, rugby, clubs, and PTO meetings. Some industriously set about making an ever-better version of themselves by striving to maximize their personal potential (marathons, French lessons, career advancement, plastic surgery, etc.). Some immerse themselves in ministry. Some faithfully keep up with a dozen tv shows each week. We choose.
We chose wash lines full of diapers, always making at least a double batch of every recipe, NEEDING to garden and can in order not to empty our account at the grocery store, NEEDING to make most of our food from scratch to stretch our food budget, wearing secondhand clothing, sleepless nights with sick children, and, for me, having my body stretch out to gargantuan proportions every couple of years. But this is not flinging Lincoln Logs across the floor heedlessly and carelessly.
We are building something.
Memories of boys jumping on our bed wearing underwear on their heads. That first breathtaking look into each newborn face. The wonder of seeing these chubby toddlers stretch up into leggy kids every time I blink. Seeing Reuben holding open a door for an elderly couple with a huge proud grin on his face. Sledding. Hiking. Walking streams together as the sun slants down. Mother’s Day homemade cards with all their love coming out in crayon hearts and misspelled perfect words.