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:
Dear Anonymous Mother,
Thank you for commenting on my blog. I understand how our family must appear, how it might seem we couldn’t possibly give our children enough individual attention, and how it might seem our kids are missing out on lots of things the world has to offer. I understand how it might seem we have “too many.” I’m sorry my response has taken so long. Until 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, fun experiences, and to grow up knowing they are loved. We both want what’s best for them.
The difference, I think, comes from how we define “best” and and what “opportunities,” “fun experiences,” and “love” looks like to each of us, and our families. You gave some examples of fun things your girls get to do, and I think those things are great. We’ve also worked hard to give our children fun experiences. They know how to sew their own clothes, and play instruments, and build things. They know how to milk cows, and goats, and act as midwives during life-threatening births. They know how to <save lives.> My children know how to fish and plant gardens and make soap 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 letters and connect with people all over the world, and they know how to pray. It’s true they don’t play sports or visit 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. As parents, we try to surround our children with things they love and enjoy that 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.” One goal, many methods.
You say it’s easier for you to spend “quality time” with your children. 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. But even if I could quantify our respective hours of time, it would only serve as a unit of measurement by which to compare and distance ourselves from each other. What I can say is that I think spending time with my kids is important, too. It’s one of the reasons I stay at home with them. 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 he can be home every other day. And maybe, just maybe, you’re right. Maybe if we counted all the hours you spend one-on-one with your kids and compared them to the hours I spend one-on-one with mine, my children 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 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 this tribe of people who love them. No more blessed, no less blessed, just blessed differently.
This is what it all boils down to, I think. We’re different, and our children are different. And that’s okay. Good, even. Great, actually. I have come to believe there is no “right way” to raise a child. There are just many good ways. And each of us moms, doing the best we can, loving our children the best we know how, will impart to them something a little unique, a little bit special, because we’re all doing it a little bit differently. And that is something to be celebrated.
So thank you for your comment. I appreciate your concern for my children and I am thankful there are people in the world who don’t even know them, but care about them anyway. Your children are blessed to have you.