My grandparents raised seven children. Five girls, two boys. The perfect number for a baseball team. I’m sure if you were to ask them they’d tell you that life was a bit crazy back then. A bit crazy, a bit chaotic, but wonderful all at the same time. I love to hear their stories. One of my absolute favorite that Grandpa tells is of how the whole family, all nine of them, would pack into their little station wagon and go for a drive. When they’d come to a stop, the driver next to them would gape at the old station wagon with wide eyes. Grandpa could see their minds start to turn as they counted all the little blonde heads. one, two, three…little hands in the back seats would then shoot up holding the number seven next to the window, saving them the headache of trying to get a proper calculation. Then slowly the driver would pull away as fourteen eyes stared back.
Every time I go to the grocery store I hear the same phrase at least three times, if not a dozen. “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” It’s not that it bothers me, it really doesn’t. I’ve even caught myself saying the same thing to other moms and dads. I can only imagine the comments my grandma got when she braved the grocery store with her seven.
The scary thing about going from two to three is that your thrown from a comfortable one-on-one defense into zone. It’s six little, quick, curious hands versus four. All those well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) grocery shoppers are totally right. We have our hands full. Our nights non-stop, our cars packed, our heads racing, our emotions on edge, our days unpredictable, and our laundry never-ending. What those grocery shoppers may or may not know is that nothing in this world could make us go back. A friend of mine always responds with a smile and says, “Yep. Full hands and a full heart.”
No, I don’t mind the never ending barrage of having full hands. What does get to me just a bit is the people who like to make comments to the effect that having more than one or two means you won’t love them all as much. Like love is a jar of peanut butter that can only be spread so thin. I hope I would never make the assumption that someone who has fewer children loves their children less, just as I hope others don’t assume the same of our family. Love should never be given in quantity, whether it’s given to one or twenty one. When my third son was born, I can assure you I never once told my older two, “I’m sorry boys, I can’t hug you today. I’ve given all my love to the baby. Come back in the morning when I’ve found some more.” Love is not a finite number, and limiting it as such would make this world such a sad, sad place.
“Love is not a thing, it is not lost when given. You can offer your love completely to hundreds of people and still retain the same love you had originally.”
― Leo Buscaglia
As parents I feel like sometimes we tend to look at other moms and dads and compare. If they do anything different from what we do or what we would like to do, we think they’re wrong. One child or seven children are neither necessarily indicators of a less loving, caring family. No child is the same, no circumstance has a single fix-all solution. Families all function differently, and that’s ok!
When we moved to the country, we weighed the pros and cons. We made lists on what it would mean for our children and for us and what it would mean for our family’s future. When we took the plunge, we ultimately did it for our children. We did it so that they could grow up hiking in their back yard, fishing, sailing, and watching wildlife out their bedroom window. We did it so that they could learn the value of hard work and helping the family and helping others. We did it for all the open space to run around in and get muddy. We made the decision weighing heavily on our love for our children.
Others might find the city way of life suits their family better. Out of love for their children they might move within walking distance to schools, pools, little league practice, and in a neighborhood full of kids. Barbecues on summer Saturday nights, kids riding bikes and roller blading down the sidewalks, and picnicing every day at a park across the street.
Two very different lives, two very different families. Neither more right than the other, both parents doing what they feel is best for their children and their families. Doing it out of love.
When I sit at the table at my grandparents’ house eating a chicken salad sandwich and listening to the crazy stories of the good old days with a house full of girls and a couple boys, I wonder how on earth they survived. I wonder if they ever got a wink of sleep, if they could even count the number of band aids they went through, if they had even a second to themselves. I wonder how on earth they did it. But NEVER ever have I wondered if they loved all their kids, because I know they did. Just as I love my three, just as others love their one. I’m sure they made decisions different from what I make with my little family, but no doubt they weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for them and their seven.
We all make different decisions, have different values and dreams for our children. But for the most part those decisions are made out of love and with the best of intentions. Thank goodness love isn’t like peanut butter, that no child is the same, and that families can do what they feel is best for them under their circumstances. Thank goodness we can appreciate different parenting and respect other’s decisions even when they’re different from our own. Let’s try to do less assuming and remember we’re doing the best we can. It’s totally ok to disagree, but let’s choose to love, because there’s no limit to that.