The year was 1999. I was sitting next to a friend on a bench at the Sedgwick County Zoo; we were watching our children hang like a bunch of monkeys on the fence near the giraffe exhibit.
I turned to my friend and told her that I was expecting child number four.
Her face froze. I could see her pull inward. And then she almost got angry and said, “I knew you would do this.”
And I was like, “Whoa...wait a minute...do what?”
“Have another child.”
I was quiet and she told me forcefully, “Lori, the worst thing you can do for your other children is to have another child. You will be cheating the three you already have. How are you ever going to give them the individual attention they need?”
Now, I didn’t get mad at my friend, I knew that in her heart of hearts, she truly felt like I was a crazy woman. She felt like there were only so many resources for each child and that I would legitimately be cheating my other children by bringing another life into the world. (However, I did divorce her quietly.)
That situation was triggered in my mind again this week because I saw a sign online that said something like: “The best thing you can do for your child is to not have another.” (I bet you can’t guess who sponsored that sign!)
And I decided to simply call bull crap on this line of thinking.
Children are awesome and I KNOW that having ANOTHER CHILD (and another child...and another child….and another…and then yet one more) was the very best thing I could have ever done for my other children.
Why do I know this? Because God is big. He does things His way, not our way.
And every time I was pregnant, He worked miracles within me. See, I am a naturally selfish person. I love my sleep. I love my body. I don’t want either one of those things wrecked. Yet somehow, with each pregnancy, God would show up and work His miracle. He didn’t shove another kid into my heart, He simply grew my heart.
Love expanded me.
We also did things differently from other families, simply because I witnessed the crazy RUNNING going on in our society. I chose to say, “No thank you.”
We didn’t put our children in basketball and baseball and ballet when they were three. They didn’t play an instrument when they were in kindergarten. They were not chess champions at age 6.
However, they all knew how to dance to “Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train” and they could build blocks and puzzles. They did one million art projects, including those with feathers, buttons, glitter and whatever else I could find in the craft section of the store.
They helped me cook and bake. They raked leaves and jumped in them.
They rode their Big Wheels and tricycles. They ate plenty of chicken nuggets and Kraft macaroni and cheese and sucked on popsicles after supper.
When we moved to a new house in Wichita, we got a big playset in the backyard and our children played for hours on that set. They played house in and around the playset. That’s what we did for entertainment. It was enough. (And after we paid for the initial cost of the playset, it was cheap entertainment!)
As you can imagine, with a large family, the expenses can ebb and flow.
And I think the idea of "not having enough money" is what stops many people from having more kids. However, this is what I didn’t know: when a person stops being so incredibly self-sufficient, God is given something quite rare: the room to show up in our lives.
I want to give you some concrete examples of this.
When my Eric was little...wait, he was never really little. When my Eric was younger, we bought him a teal and black coat. However, snow boots seemed like a luxury for my little man.
Out of the blue, a friend gave us a pair of snow boots. The perfect size. The color: teal and black. Every time I looked at Eric in those boots, I felt the providential love of God.
Another time we needed a certain amount of money; we were stressed. My husband received a phone call; he had won $$ from a raffle from his hometown, totally covering our need. We marveled at the timing.
When we adopted 4-year old Malaysia I knew we would need another bed. We had the money to get one but since the adoption process was going so quickly, I didn’t have the time. So I yelled out to Jesus, “Hey! We need a bed!”
Pretty soon the phone rang. A friend, Monica, had heard we were adopting; she had an extra bed and wanted to know if we needed it.
My husband went to Monica’s house to pick up the bed and about fell over. The bedroom set matched the set we already had in our home.
We are God’s people. He delights in giving us good gifts.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I know we are called to work for a living and work hard. But sometimes we also do this thing: we think that our lives are ONLY UP TO US. We feel like we have to have everything done. Checked off. Saved up.
When you have a big family, nothing is ever done. The check lists are never fully accomplished and there is never anything saved up.
And that, my dear mother friends, is the space where He shows up and meets our need.
Pretty outrageous, if you ask me.
Now, recall that my friend said that the WORST thing I could do for my children was to have another child.
However, I knew in my heart that THE BEST GIFT I could ever give to my children was the gift of another sibling.
Was it always pretty? Heck, no. Kids are messy. They mess with everything. They mess with the schedule. They have to poop at the most inappropriate times, like when we are late for an appointment. They mess up the house. They mess.
They also fight. Squabble. Lie.
Kids are messy.
But they also play together and while playing, they learn this important life lesson: they must share. That’s just a fact of life in a big family. They also have to learn how to wait for another and to tolerate differences. They also have to learn how to work because well, there’s too many of them for Mama Mia and Papa Pia to do everything.
And then, over the course of time, they do this thing: they.grow.up.
Russ and I now have four adult children living in Wichita. We LOVE how they love each other.
They are real with each other, authentically saying what needs to be said to each other. They also are incredibly competitive with each other and work hard to see who is the strongest. Matthew, age 20, in the orange Rogue shirt, always beats everyone.
Those adult kids meet on Sunday mornings (with the fiance, girlfriends and friends) and have breakfast in each other’s homes.
They give to each other in incredible ways. For instance, my daughter Rachel is planning on entering the convent next year and she knows that if that all plays out, she won’t (physically) be around for Eric's kids. How did she handle that? Rachel bought a rocker for Eric and future wife, Jessica, and is taking the year to pray in that rocker for their future children.
I did not think of that. Rachel did. And she gave a huge eternal gift to her sibling.
I also have four children still living in the home. Malaysia and Bridget are seniors. Now, of course, on one hand they drive me crazy because they are 17 and well, there are two of them.
However, it’s also incredibly beautiful to witness how well they get along. Some of the students at their very large school assumed M and B were friends, not sisters, since they were always laughing and hanging out together.
Their brother, Thomas, is almost 16. He has a flip phone and spends a lot of his free time either talking with girls on the phone or spending time with girls. I asked him, “How come you are so comfortable with girls?”
He replied, “I grew up next to two sisters, remember? I get how girls think and I can easily talk female.”
My 12-year old David is probably the most blessed child on the planet. Malaysia was newly adopted (and was almost five years old) when I gave birth to David. We marveled at how much Malaysia loved on her baby brother. It was pretty gorgeous.
Well, David just had a birthday and this is what Malaysia, who is a hard-working teenager, bought him with her own money:
Plus all of the other siblings gifted him, too. It was absolutely obscene and he loved it.
David also has The Knack. He loves to build with Legos. Last year he started experimenting with engines. His older brothers (the two with the Knack) helped him understand gear ratios.
Now the kid builds remote-controlled vehicles. His favorite thing: showing his older siblings his creations. Isn't that cool? It is his SIBLINGS that have helped him. It's his SIBLINGS that he looks up to and wants to impress.
We totally didn't expect the LEVEL at which the siblings help one another.
One thing my husband and I noticed early on with a large family: we can never have anything nice. The kids ruin it. They run it over. They put holes in it. They spill coffee on it.
But that’s also an odd and interesting blessing because it teaches a GREAT LESSON. This isn’t our real home.
We are just passing through. THE ONLY THING WE WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE WITH US IS OUR SOULS.
So I totally reject the notion that we need to depopulate the world. I reject the narrative that "the best gift you can give your only child is to be an only child."
I am grateful for all of the gifts given.
P.S. If you are a mom and if you really want to raise strong kids in our world, then you need to check out our free series. I wish I would have had a resource like this when my first kids were little.
RAISING STRONG KIDS.
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