The other day we were in a play area at a restaurant with of our kids and there was a young family there with their first child; a toddler just a few months younger than our twins. The young boy was fascinated by our crew and was busy playing the entire time. The parents looked on in wonder and amazement as their child joined right in the fray. After a we had finished eating, I joined the mother near the play structure and made small talk about the age of her child and she asked about mine. She was very excited about our large family and told me how she thought that large families were so great an environment for children to grow up in. She also said she admired me and could not even imagine ever being a “good enough” mom to handle it. That triggered my protective instincts and I immediately wanted to encourage her motherhood! “Anyone could do it,” I told her, “you do most of the work with the first two.” The father had returned from the bathroom and chimed in on how great he thought our family is. I went on to tell them that parenting a large family is easy once you establish who you are going to be as parents, family culture and expectations, basic daily routines and positive/negative consequences. I told them that once you’ve established these things with the first couple kids, the younger ones just follow along, aside from the few manageable challenges. “The third and consecutive kids are freebies!” I said.
In a very simplistic way, what I told them was the truth…for me.
It wasn’t very difficult for Steve and I to establish who we were going to be as parents. We grew up in very similar families and we shared the same family values. We agreed on a lot of the basic parenting ideas, so there wasn’t a lot of conflict on parenting issues. In our family, we have established routines that are consistent and predictable, and its only natural for us, because we have a child with autism and everyone benefits. For us, our family culture is self sustainable and easy to duplicate from one kid to the next.
Now comes the lie. “Anyone can do it”
When I started on the journey of parenthood 19 years ago, I was not a person who could do what I do today. I really grew up little by little with every child I had and with every challenge along the way. I was willing to change, to sacrifice and to learn. Being a parent is the most difficult task I could ever undertake. It is also the most rewarding.
As I watched these parents trying to coax their child out of the play area for over half an hour, I felt like I had let them down. I told them that having more kids would be easy. I told them that anyone can have a large family like mine. This is where I lied to them like I have lied to parents for years. It doesn’t just happen. I had to change, to be willing to set boundaries, to follow through with what I told them, to admit when I made a mistake and to stand firmly on the principles that I felt were important for us all to learn. My kids aren’t perfect, but they are awesome! I am not perfect but I am kinda awesome too! I am not just anyone, but anyone can have the success that I have had if they are willing to grow.
I love moms and I always want to encourage and empower them to do the most important job that they could ever do: to nurture, shape and grow tiny humans!