“How many?” and “I don’t know how you do it!” are two of the most common responses to any sort of conversation about my family. For whatever reason, the DeWolfs are considered a “big” family.
The funny thing is that the eight of us don’t feel big to me. Besides the fact that we drive a 12-passenger van (a Nissan NV, which, by the way is the absolute coolest 12-passenger van out there), I feel normal. I don’t feel burdened, overwhelmed or like I’m missing life because I have too many kids. In fact, I’m convinced that life gets more joyful, more fulfilling, and yes, even easier, with a big family.
Ultimately, every family needs to discern for themselves how many kids are right for them. For some, it’s one. For others, it’s 19. That said, I meet so many people who would “love more kids” but are scared to actually do it.
So, in the hopes of claiming your fears and in honor of the eight members of our “big” family, here are 8 reasons that you shouldn’t be afraid of having a “big” family – one reason for each member of my “big” family.
1. Your other children are your kids’ best playmates (For Joe, the one who makes sure we have fun)
With one child, you are the entertainment. With six children, you have acquired a built-in entertainment system.
With your first child, regardless of their age, you and your spouse are the default playmate. Your child will undoubtedly learn to use their imagination and play together, but, ultimately, you will be a significant part of their play schedule.
I have found that the more children you have, the most fun our kids have, the more fun I can have with them, and the less the fun feels like a “burden” or requirement. We find our oldest (13) playing with our youngest (4) fairly regularly. Our 3rd is best friends with our fourth, but, when they fight, the fourth will quickly team up with the second and the third takes care of the babies. There is built-in play variety, and, instead of managing play time and making sure everyone gets along, you can have fun or go get something else done.
More kids increase the fun around the house and free you up so that you can participate if you want to. Your call. Your time. Your decision.
2. Your post-toddler children are your second pair of hands (For Jacob, is learning to help)
Once your first child graduates from toddler hood, you’ll have an extra set of hands.
Undoubtedly, young children are physically demanding. It’s understandable why so many people become scared of having any more. Full hands are full hands, but, it really does get better. For Teresa and I, our third was the most demanding. From there, it was all “downhill”.
I’ll never forget our “survival zone” (as coined by the Hernons) – the point of time in which we had 3 kids under 4. Life seemed a bit hectic and more than overwhelming at that point of time. We weren’t sure whether we’d survive. And then, our 1st magically potty trained and became a big help. By the time our 4th was born we had a second set of hands. Changing diapers and forgot the diaper lotion? No problem, call the 5 year old. She’ll be happy to help.
More kids increase the assistance you have around to help.
3. Your pre-teen and teen children are great babysitters (For Sarah, my first and best helper)
Young children do limit your ability to “get out”. Preteen children mean new found freedom.
Preteen children undoubtedly bring their own challenges. Physical demands turn into emotional demands, but, along with those changes comes the maturity (you hope!) to stay alone, or, better yet, watch their siblings. Why go through 10, 11, or 12 years of limiting your mobility without taking advantage of the added benefit that eventually comes from having built in baby sitters?
There’s little doubt in my mind that the most liberating moment of our marriage came the day Teresa decided that our oldest could stay home with the other kids. WOW! Running up the corner for a gallon of milk was no longer an adventure. We began to get more alone time – on a regular basis.
More kids increases the number of baby-sitters and multiples your return on your mobility investment.
4. Your first, second, or third kid has his/her own personality (For Rebekah, my strong willed lover)
“Strong willed’ children are difficult. No doubt. That doesn’t mean all of them will be.
I can’t tell you how many times someone says to me, “we originally thought we were going to have three or four kids, but, after my second (or first, or third), we decided there was no way we could deal with another one.
Listen folks. I have six kids and they are all opposites of each other. Don’t ask me how kid A, who is an opposite of kid B can be an opposite of kid C, when kid C is also an opposite of kid B. Seriously, don’t try to do the logic. It doesn’t work. But, it’s true. No two kids are the same. In addition, those strong willed, or difficult children, actually have many advantages as they get older. My most difficult (strong willed) child has learned to leverage her strong will for good, not just bad. If I had to pick one person in my family to join me in willing my way through a tough decision, she’d be the companion I pick.
Every kid has their strengths and weaknesses; each just appears at different stages of life.
5. Your parenting evolves as you gain more practice. (For Teresa, who is the best parent I know)
No child comes with a parenting manual. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get it right.
No parenting technique that I’ve learned works on all children, but, I have learned tips, tricks and techniques that make my parenting come more natural as I gain more experience. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that parenting is too hard to handle. Like everything in life, it gets easier as you practice (and you get more lax as you have more)!
I thought I was a perfect parent when we had our 1st. She was an angel until she turned 13. Now she’s a young lady and confuses me as much as Teresa does. With my second, I think I got a little lazy. Shoot, I’m good at this and it comes naturally. With my 3rd, my ego took quite a hit. I couldn’t stop thinking that I stink at this parenting thing. Luckily I pushed forward, and since, parenting has become more natural. It isn’t something I think about or grade myself at; it’s just a normal part of life. It comes naturally. I don’t think too much, or too little. I don’t always do it right, or, always do it wrong. I just do it.
As we’re learning techniques and how to parent different personalities, we can become discouraged or overconfident. The more kids you have, the more natural it becomes. You simply stop stressing about it.
6. Your greatest joy comes from loving and seeing their joy (For Teresa, who loves unconditionally)
The greatest joy I have ever experienced comes from giving and receiving love.
It’s easy, especially in the survival zone, to get caught up in the weeds of parenting and forget the absolute joy that comes from loving, and being loved. By focusing on the “burden”, we lose sight of the fulfillment we receive by loving and investing in our kids. Around 8, 9, and 10, the fulfillment really starts to kick in for me.
There’s no better moment than getting home from a trip and having my 6th run up and hug my neck. I absolutely love the fact that my 5th wanted to join me for golf lessons when he turned 5. I’ve never been more excited than when my 4th led her team to win her first ever travel tournament. I could sit in the living room and soak up the songs my 3rd plays on the piano for hours. I have never been more proud than the moment my 2nd hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the 6th to win the game. I love the fact that my 1st is becoming a young woman and I can let her start to experience independence. I love these things because my kids love them and seeing their joy fulfills me. It’s not only these moments, but the simple fun we have together that makes my life.
With every child comes more joy and more fulfillment. It’s worth the heartache; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
7. Your greatest gift to your children is another sibling (For Rosie, the baby everyone loves to love)
Children love children and their presence can teach them selflessness.
There are plenty of parents that do a wonderful job at teaching their children selflessness. But, one of the best techniques I have learned to emphasize the point that the world does not revolve around any single one, is to make sure that there’s more than one around.
The family is a natural, and safe, place to learn to deal with the dynamics of the world. Our kids have learned to share, learned to communicate, learned to deal with different ages, learned to fight fair, learned to be patient and learned to support one another from each other. I’m not sure I could have given them such first-hand experience without each other. I have seen them take care of each other, stick up for each other, defend each other, and simply love each other. The fact that my youngest is as comfortable staying with her big sisters as she is staying with me, or, Teresa, is a wonderful thing. She feels safe. She knows she’s loved. And she knows she’s loved in a BIG way.
Children are a gift, not only to you, but to each other.
8. Your social security isn’t dependent upon crooks in Washington (For me, in hopes I live to have them return the favor)
I’m only half joking. I’m pretty sure that out of the 6 (or, who knows, more) at least one of them will have the means and desire to take care of me, and more importantly Teresa, when we’re old, drooling, and in need of care.
On second thought, it might be unreasonable to expect that the same child will have both the means and the desire. But, then again, my chances are better the more I have!