A long time ago, someone left a comment here, expressing their disapproval of our “large” family. I never wrote back because I was angry and hurt and didn’t feel capable of responding in a kind way. Instead, I saved her comment in hopes that I could write to her some day, in love. Unfortunately, I have since lost the original comment so I can’t respond to it directly, but the basic concerns were those usually expressed regarding large families… there was no way we could spend enough “quality time” with our kids… we couldn’t possibly be giving them enough “opportunities,”… they were being “deprived,” etc.
Thankfully, a lot has happened since then, and I now feel ready to respond without hurt and anger clouding my words. Here is my response:
I understand how our family must appear to you. I understand how it might seem that we couldn’t possibly give our children enough individual attention and I can understand how it would seem that our kids are missing out on lots of things the world has to offer. I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to respond to you. It’s just that, before now, I couldn’t figure out how to defend my family without being defensive.
But I think I’ve figured out a way. Because the thing I can see now, that I couldn’t see before, is that we both want the same things. We both want our children to have great opportunities, and fun experiences and to grow up knowing that they are the most important people in our lives. We both want our kids to be loved, and to know that they are loved. We both want what is best for our children.
The difference, I think, comes from how we define those things and what “opportunities,” “fun experiences” and “love” looks like to each of us, and in our families. You gave some examples of some fun things your girls get to do, and I think those things are great. We’ve also worked (very) hard to give our children fun experiences and opportunities that they can participate in every single day. Our boys are learning to build and fix things. Our girls are learning to make soap. They know how to sew their own clothes, and play instruments beautifully. They know how to milk cows and goats and act as midwives during life-threatening births and save lives. They know how to fish and plant gardens and butcher chickens and cook meals for ten people. They know how to volunteer their time and do so graciously with their whole hearts. They know how to raise money for those in need. They know how to write beautiful things and connect with people all over the world and they know how to pray. It’s true that they don’t play sports or visit the movies or go camping with the local girl-scouts, and I’m sure those things are great! But they’re not the only great things. And so, as parents, we try to surround our children with things they love and enjoy that are valuable and fun and will help them to be kind and loving and brave and all the things I’m sure we both want for our children. Our “things” just look different than your “things” and that’s okay. One goal, many methods.
You also mentioned “quality time” with your children, which you say is easier for you than for me because you only have two. I’ve never spent time with your family, so it’s hard for me to say whether your kids have more “quality time” with you than my kids do with me, or whether it is easier for one of us than it is the other. And, really, I wouldn’t want to make that call because it would just be one more unit of measurement by which to compare and distance ourselves from each other. What I can tell you is that I think spending time with my kids is important, too. It’s one of the reasons I stay at home with them, all day, virtually every day. It’s one of the reasons we don’t send them away to school. It’s one of the reasons my husband drives an hour to work 3-4 days a week, so that he can be home with the kids on the other days. And maybe, just maybe, you’re right. Maybe if we counted up all the hours that you spend one-on-one with your kids and compared it to the hours I spend one-on-one with mine, my kids would be shown lacking. But maybe, just maybe, one-on-one time isn’t quite as important as we’ve made it out to be. Maybe “quality time” can be just as meaningful when spent inclusively, surrounded by all the people that we love, as it is when spent exclusively. Maybe my kids are growing up blessed in different ways than yours, because they’re surrounded by these myriads of people who love them with their whole hearts and souls. No more blessed, no less blessed, just blessed differently.
What it all boils down to, I think, is that we’re different, and our children are different. And that’s okay. Good, even. Great, actually. I have come to believe that there is no “right way” to raise a child. There are just lots of good ways to raise a child. And each of us moms, doing the very best we can and loving our children the very best we know how, will impart to them something a little different, a little unique, a little bit special because we’re all doing it differently. And that is something to be celebrated.
So thank you for your comment, fellow Mom. I appreciate your concern for my children and I am thankful that there are people in the world who don’t even know them, but care about them anyway. Your children are blessed to have you.