Monday, August 4, 2008

Large Families Redux

An open letter to oglers and skeptics (and those who are just curious) of large families.

The pressures, expectations, and life in general of large families.


Behavior-

My kids have extra pressure on them to behave in public. Most of it brought on by their mother and I. We stress to them (and stress them I sure) the importance of being well behaved when we go out. It's not really fair to them - actually it's kinda sad in a way. But people are just waiting for them to act-up, like in those unrealistic Cheaper by the Dozen and Yours, Mine and Ours movies where the kids run wild (the remakes not the originals). So to be a good witness to the joys of large families we stress-out our kids so they mind their manners in public, hardly seems right.

But if they don't behave in public you can just read the looks on people's faces (usually their are yuppies with 0.0 kids and a few designer dogs). "See what happens when people breed like rats" or "I bet they get hardly any attention at home".

So as we are driving in the stereo-typical 15-passenger van, the vehicle of choice for large families, we give them The Talk - no not that talk. The jist of which is, act-up and I'll tear your face off.

Fortunately our kids are pretty well-mannered when we go out. We even get people stopping and commenting how nice it is too see a large family with well behaved children. These are always older people who make these comments. The younger childless couples probably just think we are freaks...that's OK at least we'll have someone to take care of us when we are old. Let's see their dogs do that.

And if they act like they don't want to talk to you in public, it's not because they are being rude, it's cause you are embarrassing them with all your questions. They aren't a carnival sideshow. The younger ones will probably talk to you but the teens...forget it. They want nothing to do with the 100's of questions that come their way. Heaven help my kids if people find out they are homeschooled too. They leads to whole set of new and rude questions.


Discipline-

No we don't beat our kids or make them kneel for hours with their hand stretched out holding bricks - although some of them sure could use it at times.

We use the same old techniques as other families; timeouts (kinda lame), counting to 3 (super lame), taking away of privileges like desert or going places (works ok), being sent to their rooms (some of them like that too much), or giving them extra chores (a favorite around here which if it doesn't change their attitudes - at least it gets our house cleaner). And yes on occasion we...gasp...spank them. I'm sure they will grow-up to be societal misfits who need years or therapy to overcome their dramatic childhoods :-P

Money-

"Wow you guys must be rich to have all those kids". "You must have a fantastic job, how much money do you make"? Why do people think those questions are acceptable? They probably wouldn't ask them of someone with 2 kids. When did it become ok to butt your nose in other people's finances?

And for the record I have a good but regular paying job. Nothing special but it works great for us.

We are blessed with lots of great family and friends who live nearby and help us out. Grandparents, Aunts Uncles etc...who are always dropping in to lend a hand or take a kid or five to do something special. But for some reason I'm thinking other families do this too.

Oh and we are rich, we have everything but money.

Food-

No we don't own a cow or live on a farm. We live in a regular old suburb like most of the people in this country and we buy our food at grocery stores and wholesale clubs like everyone else. We just buy more of it - but not as much as you would think. Sure the teens can eat a lot but the little kids aren't exactly gluttons.

We don't cook outrageous amounts of food. Our breakfast's' aren't 3 dozen eggs, 5 pounds of bacon, a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. A normal breakfast would be something like a dozen and a half eggs, 2 pounds of bacon and half a loaf of bread and some milk or juice. Or maybe just a box of cereal. Yeah one box of cereal can feed the whole family.

The hardest part isn't the shopping (you just throw extra food in the cart) or cooking (doubling or tripling recipes is pretty easy. No the hardest part is serving it up. You've got 11 kids asking for their food different ways plus you have to cut up any meat for the little kids (and the 18 year-old)

There aren't food fights at the dinner table, unless dad is the one to start it.


Housing-

No we don't live in a McMansion and now we don't live in a double-wide trailer in a trailer park or in a shoe. It's even worse, we live in the suburbs. We bought our current house 8 years ago just after our 7th child was born. The house was a 5 BR 3 BR foreclosure that seemed like a good deal at the time. We spent many months fixing it up while living in it at the same time. Fortunately we had many relatives and friends (now former friends) helping us out. A year after we moved in, with #8 child on the way, we added on 2 more bedrooms. We didn't add a bathroom since we have 6 boys and plenty of trees outback.

clothes-

No we don't make our own clothes; this isn't Little House on the Prairie. Sure a lot of their clothes are hand-me-downs, from thrift-stores, or presents from relatives. Just like a lot of other families, big surprise there. And the close we buy are more than likely to be from places like Kohl's and Target instead of Nordstrom’s or Niemen Marcus. Somehow they all survive.

Don't feel sorry for my kids if their clothes look a little (ok a lot) dirty or worn out. It's not because we are poor and can't provide for them. It's cause they are kids! And kids get dirty and wear out clothes.

As the kids enter their teen years and start earning their own money, they buy their own clothes.


Pregnant again-

Announcing another pregnancy when you have a large family can be stressful occasion. You are sometimes met with confused or pitying looks. I expect it from people we don't know too well or people we meet out in public. It's when it's from fellow "Catholics" that it can be painful.

Fortunately our family and close friends are great about - or at least their are used to it by now - so they take it well.

...and no we aren't expecting...as far as I know...

Feeling sorry for us-

We don't want your sympathy or pity. We love our lives the way they are - most of the time - sure we have our tough movements like all families but we get through them. We don't want anyone feeling sorry for us and our choices we've made. We aren't worried about them so why should you be.

And just as importantly we don't really want your admiration or respect either. I'm not saying this to be mean, it's just that we don't think what we are doing is any big deal or makes us special. Having people come up to us all the time telling us how much they admire our family or how inspirational we are just makes us uncomfortable. We aren't special or some super family - you should see us in our private moments, we are more than human. We just want to be treated like a regular, albeit larger sized family. Don't get me wrong, we don't mind people complimenting us or asking for advice on parenting or homeschooling, it's when it is taken to the excess that it starts to get kinds creepy and stalker-ish.

We are not even close to being saints (well Sam is for putting up with me but that is a whole other post) although that is what we strive for (some days). We aren't extra patient. We lose our tempers just as easily as anyone else. We don't have any special parenting wisdom although we are happy to share what little we have.

We are just like every other Catholic parent out there. We are trying to raise our kids the best we know how and help them to get to heaven. We have learned a lot from older couples who have gone down this long and winding road before us. But a lot we are learning and trying to figure out as we go. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we screw-up (big time). We try and learn from our mistakes and get it right next time. Hopefully the first few guinea pigs, I mean kids, aren’t too angry with us for not knowing what we were doing. So far they are good kids.

Stop back 50 years from now and I'll let you know how it's turned out.

See Sam's post today on the same topic

7 comments:

Tina D said...

I just loved this post. I'm not quite sure why -- we don't have nearly as many as you do so I don't exactly relate to that part -- but I just love the honesty. You're just like most Catholic families trying to live out their faith (in fear and trembling!) and the world should just accept that for what it is! Amen to you!

the donk said...

dude, if i wasnt in the life of the fatzingers all hell would have broken loose by now... you owe me...

how can you repay me? name number 12 David... :)

or The Donk... ;)

btw... when people find out about your large fam from me i ALWAYS say, "their kids are great" as if to say... they do a great job with them because they are all good kids...

except for that punk caleb!!!! he is GOING DOWN!!!!!!!

Kristi said...

Love your posts:)

momto5minnies said...

Don't worry, I don't think your special or anthing ;)

I'll have to sneak over to your wife's blog.

Sam said...

momto5minnies:it is about time you got some taste!!!Love to have you over to my blog!!!

Mau said...

momtofiveminnies:
I read Sardonic for laughs but Thy Will Be Done for inspiration. They are quite a team, aren't they?

Love this post and Sam's too!

Gretchen said...

Like it or not, you DO get my admiration. I have 5 children and i think they are either ready to trade me in or commit me. But, you are doing what you want, the want you and God want you to, and that doesn't need accolades OR pity.

God bless you for being so faithful! You have a beautiful family.