As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Better and Better

I read a blog recently of a couple who had been cautioned against having children too early in their marriage by well-meaning friends, families, and leaders in their faith community.  The justification, which has become a sort of anthem for newlyweds these days, was that it was better to give yourselves a few years to be "just a couple" - to do the things you want to do first, build a solid foundation with just the two of you, make some money and build financial security, and then have a baby.  When they found themselves expecting within months of their marriage and their first child born before their first wedding anniversary, all they could think was, "why did people tell us to wait for this?"  They saw all the beauty that bringing a new life into the world with your new spouse can bring, and just like that it washed away any of the lesser benefits of waiting.  Sure it's practical and logical in many circumstances to do the things they were advised to do, but what you gain from those things pales in comparison to the way a child transforms your life.

Having just welcomed our sixth child three weeks ago, I can relate.  People ask us all the time if we're crazy, or think we're some kind of super-family because we have as many children as we do (and are open to having more).  And with each new child, I just don't get it - why do people think this is bad?  What makes people so afraid of having children? 

Here is what I know to be true, from my own experience of having children every 1 1/2 - 2 years since my husband and I got married.  That every time a new child enters the world, I fall in love with my husband all over again.  I see his tender care for me, for our new child, and the children that we already have, I soak it all in - and fall head over heels.  In a world where couples routinely fall out of love and romance dies, ours continues to be challenged, taken outside of itself and driven to new heights, not because of anything we read in any self-help book or saw on Oprah, but because having a a child with someone you love just naturally does this.  And it's beautiful.

And every time a new child enters the world, we go right back to square one with our household routines, and the things we thought we had under control.  We put everything else on the back burner to accomodate that new little baby, we slow down and relax, and search for a new groove without putting too much pressure on ourselves.  We drag ourselves out of bed several times a night to change a soggy bum and feed a hungry baby.  And in case we haven't gotten good at serving others before ourselves, we have a whole new reason to get lots of practice.

And every time a new child enters the world, our older children rise to new heights that we previously could not have conceived.  My last "baby" will be two later this month, and has been super clingy and *a bit* tempermental.  I was so worried about how he would be with the baby and you know what?  He has not been jealous, not once.  Even though I only have about 10% of the time to devote to him that I did before the baby came along, he's cool with that.  And he loves that little baby, they all do.  Want to see how quickly your heart can melt?  Watch the way older siblings will coo over a brand new brother or sister.  It's just beautiful!

And every time a new child enters the world, I get one more time to do this motherhood thing from scratch again, and hopefully try to make good on some of the mistakes I made with my earlier children.  My second child was much more demanding than my first and I didn't handle it well at all.  One of my biggest regrets as a mother is that I expected too much of him from the beginning, and it breaks my heart to think of how little patience I had with him, even as a brand new baby.  But you can bet your flying stars that every time I have welcomed a new baby since, I do so with no expectations.  This baby could cry day and night, and that just has to be okay, because I never, ever want to be that way again.  There are many more things I could list that I hope I will be able to overcome this time around (and soon enough that my older children can benefit from my newfound virtue!) but these are things that only prayer, time and experience can help with.

And every time a new child enters the world, it forces us - all of us - to give a little more of ourselves.  Our kids have one more person to share their toys with, to bunk in their room, to share their space and their lives with.  My husband and I have one more mouth to feed, one more person to cart around on family outings, to tend to in sickness, to plan a birthday party for.  What better way to teach a family, parents and children, that the world doesn't revolve around you, and that we have a duty to serve each other and to share our lives with one another?  I used to feel bad that my children didn't have their own rooms, but now I see the benefits that come from the fact that they just need to share each others' space.  Sure they drive each other crazy at times, but they also have this crazy bond that comes from staying up past your bedtime and chatting with your brothers (or sisters).  They are necessarily good sharers, and would sooner leave their toys in common areas for everyone to use, even when given the option with really special toys to put them away and bring them out only when the others are not around.  They look out for each other, they are conscious of each other, because that's what is natural to them.  And it's beautiful.

There are so many other things I could say, but I will end here.  I'm living in the newborn stage of being completely, romantically, hopelessly in love with life.  It's no cake walk to be sure - babies are a lot of work.  I don't sleep much, I don't get much free time, and my brain is always racing with things to do - housework, school for the kids, change-nurse-burp-repeat!  But just like with any good relationship, you know it takes work.  And the things you love are worth it.  There is a beauty, a joy in the work.  Being a wife and mother is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.  Wait to have babies?  No way!  Are we crazy?  Nope - just living life. If you found a wellspring of the sweetest nectar, wouldn't you keep going back?  That's what we're doing.  Sure we could have stopped long ago.  But the benefits that come from having the children that we did far outweigh anything that could have come from not having them.

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