“I always thought I would have a large family around me,” my mother’s friend, Mrs. H. said. “As it is, there just aren’t enough of us to go around.”
My mother, Mrs. H., and I were sitting in my father’s hospital room. Dad has been very sick for more than two months now, in and out of the hospital, growing weaker and more confused as the weeks go by. My mother has needed a lot of help. Thankfully, our family is fairly large considering family size today. My parents had four daughters, I am the oldest. Each of my sisters had three children, while I have more than doubled that number with ten children of my own. Many of our children are now adults, and I have nine grandchildren.
I have known Mrs. H. and her family since I was four years old. She has a daughter my age and another daughter a couple of years older than us. When her youngest child was seventeen years old, this lady gave birth again, to a son this time, who was diagnosed with autism.
Today, her daughters and I are in our 50’s, and Mrs. H. is in her 70’s. The oldest daughter is married, has one son who is also grown, and works full time. The second daughter never married, and recently, she was diagnosed with cancer. The son is living in a home for handicapped men. The father of this family is in frail health and is living in a nursing home.
So when Mrs. H. also became ill recently and ended up in the hospital at the same time her daughter was in another hospital for her cancer, it fell on the oldest daughter to take care of everyone. She ran between two hospitals, a nursing home, and the home her brother is in, all while keeping up with her job. It was almost too much for one person to be expected to do.
I listened in sympathy, but I also gleaned some insight.
Today, couples are encouraged to limit their family size. The wisdom of this age says you cannot give children all they need if there are more than one or two children in the family. The world has much to offer: trendy clothes, music lessons, sports, electronics and college. With this mindset, it takes two incomes to raise a family, which adds day care, nicer clothes for mom, transportation, lunches away from home, etc…
We no longer live in an agricultural age, where children were valued as a real asset to a family. Children are now viewed as a pet like creatures to be pampered and showered with material things. And more children mean less for everyone, including the parents.
But as I sat in my father’s hospital room, I had a different view. Having a large family of ten children, my life is different than most people’s. And that is a necessity, because it is very true that you cannot live like many people you see around you if you have a large family. You have to learn a different way, where different things are important.
Having a good church family has helped us so much. A family going on the mission field sold us their house at a good price. When we were ready to adopt, but needed more room to qualify, another family sold us a guest house for our older boys almost at cost.
We don’t have designer clothes hanging in our closet. We do shop resale stores, and I sew a little bit, but most of what we wear is new clothes bought on sale or at outlet malls. My children dress modestly, and we are often complimented by total strangers. “Refreshing” is a word I hear often.
My children don’t have the latest toys. My girls play with baby dolls and toy dishes, my boys play with trucks and blocks. We love half price bookstores, and we are well supplied with character building books.
As our children grow up, most of them have gotten jobs and bought their own first cars. If they want expensive things, they must earn the money to buy them. This has taught them responsibility.
We have two boys in college right now and one in his last year of law school. We have helped where we can, and their good grades have gotten them scholarships. They have used some student loans. My law school son knows there are places he can work when he has passed the bar that will actually pay off those loans over the years. He is weighing his options.
Last week, in the hospital once more, my father was having a serious test. My mother, my three sisters, one of my sons and I sat in the waiting room. Suddenly, we looked up to find Mrs. H. walking in. She came over to talk to us, and we learned that she was having a test done herself that day. Her oldest daughter at work, and her second daughter sick from cancer treatments, she was there alone. Right away she had several offers from us to drive her home or anything else she needed done. She insisted she was fine. We watched as she went off alone after the nurse called her. Later that afternoon, after Dad was back in his hospital room, she came in, her test finished. She stayed to eat lunch with my mother, still sure she was feeling well enough to drive home alone. And she probably was, but we still wished she had someone with her.
At this time of my life, with my father so sick, it’s been a blessing to have three siblings and a few grown grandchildren to help my mother while she tries to care for him. This is terribly hard on her. It is very scary. One of my grown sons happens to be at a place in his life that allowed him to move in with my parents to help them. My sisters and I try to spell mom during the day and at night sometimes so she can do other things and get some rest. I can’t imagine my mother trying to handle this alone.
I know when we are old, there are ten children and nine grandchildren so far who can care for my husband and I. We will never be alone. Caring for us, if it comes to that, will never be placed on a child or two. And all their lives, they will have each other during good times and bad times.
Children are still an asset to the family. Many children are even more so. Everyone needs to feel needed. No one needs to be indulged in material things to an excess that makes them think only of themselves. Large families are such a blessing as the years go by and we simply need someone. There is always someone to reach out too.
Psalms 127:3 & 5 “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from him. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”