We have four children because I always dreamed of having a big family. When we walk through stores, a cart filled with toilet paper or children, people stare. We’ve grown used to them counting as we walk in a line, children trailing behind us.
“Wow, how many are there?” they ask. “You must be busy,” they say with a mix of confusion, disgust, and fear. To them, four is too many. I dated a boy who was one of seven and am now married to a man who is one of six. I envied big families and hoped to one day have my own. Now, I do. And if I were younger and had more money, I would have more.
Growing up, my foster mother had three children of her own, and she also took care of me and my brother.
There was always someone to play with or talk to. We were never alone or lonely. I remember standing in the bathroom when I was little and pushing out my belly, wondering what it would be like to one day grow a child.
Maybe our large family was the reason motherhood was always as much a dream for me as college and a career. And when I dreamed, I dreamed big.
Of course, I know having a big family is not everyone’s dream.
I remember calling my grandmother to tell her that I was pregnant with my fourth child, I was surprised by her response. “Another one?” she asked. “Wasn’t three enough?”
Knowing she’d mothered one child and felt overwhelmed, I tried not to take her words to heart. But I did wonder as one of five, hadn’t my grandmother loved having her siblings to share holidays and the raising of children and all of life’s struggles and joys?
I guess what other people think about my big family doesn’t matter.
I’ve learned to block out those who respond negatively to our big brood. Like the person who, last week, at a rare dinner out with our whole family, made a comment about population control. They wondered about our families outrageous carbon footprint and utilization of too many resources. This was noted in a loud ‘whisper’ that several tables heard.
I ignored it–because they don’t see what I do.
They do not have the gift of watching my oldest teach my youngest to play chess. Nor do they understand the way my children laugh together at dinner or defend each other with a remarkable and admirable loyalty. Yes, maybe our family is big. Maybe it’s crazy and expensive, and exhausting. So what? As I’ve moved through life, I’ve found many of the best things are.
I’ve also discovered just how little these worries seem to matter as we raise them and love them and watch them love each other so fiercely and so wildly that it comforts us even in the hardest moments. We have done this thing right.
So yes, it is crazy–the rushed mornings, the constant homework, the endless activities, the time, the money.
But we would never trade it or the gift we’ve given to our children–each other.
For the rest of their lives, my children will have their people, their tribe. A safe place–no matter what. They will carry memories no one else knows and moments only they’ll share into adulthood.
So no, I don’t care about the comments or the looks. Instead, I focus on how my kids will continue to carry each other in the way only siblings can from the beginning of their lives until the end.
And for this I am grateful, and I’m willing to bet one day my children will be too. Because yes, we have four children. But more importantly, they have each other.