Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Work of Eternity

I was at the zoo the other day, on a field trip with J’s kindergarten class.  I was pushing R in the stroller and talking with another mom when she asked me about my pregnancy.  She shook her head and said, “Three?!  You’re brave.”  I laughed and told her that this would actually make five.  To which she responded quite seriously , “You’re crazy.”  She wasn’t smiling.

I am not oblivious of the looks I get when I’m out and about with my whole crew.  Sometimes we’ll get the sympathetic and understanding smile.  But more often I catch people trying to count just how many children I have with me.  And when they notice my belly bulge, they often stare harder or shake their heads.

I suppose, by the world’s standards, I have A LOT of kids.  And I suppose I would be more inclined to explain my choice to have this many children, if the opinion of these people mattered to me at all.

But it doesn’t, not really.  I notice it, but it doesn’t affect my attitude in the least.  I know several families who have six kids, and one who has eight.  Yes, eight.  And they are some of the happiest and most productive people I know.  I may not be eager to join their ranks, but I certainly applaud their efforts.

So I don’t agree with so many of the bystanders in the grocery store.  I don’t think I have an outrageous number of children.  I disagree with the people who make snarky comments about the planet's ability to support a growing population.  Or about social irresponsibility, thrusting too many children onto society.  Or even how there's no way we'll be able to support all these kids through college.

I think I have, or will shortly have, just the right number for me.  A family of seven . . . wow . . . ok, so maybe it is rather large.  But I maintain the belief that it’s the right fit for us.

Do I feel ready for another baby?  Well . . . not really.  But do we ever TRULY feel ready?  I don't think so. We just make the best decision we can with the information we have.  And we pray.  A LOT.  And then we pray some more, just to make sure we understood.

The decision to try for another child was a struggle for me.  I wanted to be done.  That was the easy choice for me.  But we just couldn’t ignore the feeling we both had that our family wasn’t quite complete.  Even though I was itching to get rid of all the baby clothes and toys and carseats and other paraphernalia, I felt that there was someone else, some sweet little soul looking down on us and waiting to join our crazy family.  So when I finally ran out of excuses of why now wasn’t the best time, I allowed myself to be open to the possibility.  It was only then that I was able to lay all my excuses at God's feet and say,  "OK, I'll follow your plan for me.  Instead of the one that I might have made for myself."

And it did take me a while to come around, I will be the first to admit.  But I’ve known for a long while, somewhere deep down, that there was another child for us.  Two Easters ago, I found some great baskets on sale, so I got new ones for all the kids.  But I didn’t just buy four of them, as logic would have dictated.  I bought five.  Because I knew, even if I wasn’t ready to admit it, that we weren't quite done having kids..

I have friends who think I was crazy to ever have more than two.  And while there are days that I agree with them, they are outnumbered by the days I can see the benefits of having a large family.  My older girls are learning lessons about patience, tolerance, selflessness, responsibility and joy that they would miss if we had stopped at two, or even three kids.  J, whose whole world revolves around his immediate family, is learning lessons about sharing, socialization and play that he can’t learn outside our home because he refuses to engage with most other people.  And little R, well, she’s learning that she has a whole mob of people who love her and help take care of her.  And she entertains us all in return.

Do I think everyone should have a large family? Of course not.  Most parents, I think, have an intuitive knowledge of what their limits are.  And they use that knowledge to make the best decision for their families.

As I was struggling with the decision to have another child, I didn't stop to consider what the world would think.  I didn't base it on how I will pay for their college education or how conveniently they’ll fit into my life.  Honestly, kids NEVER fit conveniently into someone’s life.  Our lives are changed and molded to fit around their needs.  Which is good for us--or good for me, anyway.  I’ve long felt that motherhood is my refiner’s fire.  It’s hard, uncomfortable, and utterly exhausting, but it’s the process that is slowly and agonizingly purging many of my flaws.  They’re being melted away through the mothering process.  And I truly believe that I will emerge from this experience a better, stronger person.

Provided that I survive it, of course, with my sanity intact.  Which, in all honesty, may come into question in the coming months.  Nevertheless, I will soldier on.

A few months ago, I heard someone talking about raising children and the struggles that go with it.  He said, “This is the work of eternity.”  The phrase stuck with me, expressing some truth that resonated with my approach to family.  We are raising the next generation, who will raise the generation after that, and so on.  What we do within the walls of our homes not only impacts the future, but shapes and defines it.  I believe that there is NOTHING that I can personally do, that will make a greater difference in the world than raising my children.  All FIVE of my children.

So why am I writing all of this?  Mostly just for myself, to remind me of why I’m doing this, of why I’m willing to endure the newborn phase one last time.  Something to think about during all the sleepless nights in my future.  Heaven knows there will be enough of them!


kara said...

This is an interesting place to live. I have had the comment made to me many times, "Isn't it nice to be done?" And I wonder what I ever said or did to make them think I'm done? But realized, it's just the idea that 2 is it. At least here. 3 is really pushing things around here. So, soldier on! My bro has 7, and their family is amazing. And no one is completely crazy yet. It is the larger families that amaze me.

Mom said...

Beautiful! I pray that He will watch over you and your little brood.
Love you,