Tag Archives: Joys of Parenthood

Parentgood: In Defense Of Large Families

Alright, the title is a bit misleading. I don't feel any need to defend large families, or that they've been denigrated here, or anything like that. I was just trying to draw some eyeballs. And let me state at the outset that I, much like others before me, don't in any way think there is a "right way" to do families. Everyone is different, it takes all kinds, and I've no reason or desire to judge the way anyone else does it.

The last few Parentgood posts have been, in some way or another, about not-having kids. There was the having of someone else's kid, the not-going-to-have-them, and the prepping for an empty nest. All were much appreciated perspectives. So I thought maybe I'd just offer a little bit of my experience, since it's noticeably different from those previous entries. Quite obviously this isn't going to be the thing for everyone, (again, to each their own, and no one should condemn anyone's choices in this realm), but I thought maybe I could shed a little light on life in a big family.

First, I am the oldest of 13 children. So I have some insight into truly big families. Second, I have 4 kids of my own. Not exactly a big family, but certainly not a small one by the going standards. (As an aside, we'd be open to more, but that might not be the possibility we once thought it was. Doctors visits are pending, and prayers are appreciated. But not what this post is about.).

One of the things that stands out to me most about being part of a big family is that there's a certain generosity of spirit that is more or less required. The family motto is "there's always room for one more" and we really carry that out. We had 50 people at Thanksgiving dinner, and we've had bigger. There's always enough because everyone is always giving, contributing to the common cause. Indeed, my parents are the most generous people I've ever met. They are far from well off - we spent much of my youth as considerably poor - but the amount they give surpasses anyone else I've known. And I suppose that's especially true in the Biblical "widow who gave her last two coins" sense.

A more quirky aspect of the large family is that nearly everything is a large production. You can't have a get together without it being an event. You can't do an outing without it being involved. I still carry the habit of sliding to the back of a group and counting the heads of everyone in front of me. Just the role of the oldest, I guess. But with this comes a real feeling of accomplishment. Admit it: if you successfully took a dozen people to the zoo or hosted a 30 person bonfire, you'd feel pretty good about yourself. That's just a regular weekend in a huge family, so you learn some real skills, and to feel good about them.

It's also amazing to have such a wonderful support system. Whenever we need help, family is there. That's been true of little things like a couch to crash on or painting a room, and that's been true of big things, like a dentist sister who can do a root canal or planning a benefit for my nephew who was born with half a heart. That support is also amazing for dealing with the emotional baggage we all face. Grief, especially, has hit us hard these past years with a couple of deaths in the immediate family. But we're all there to help each other pull through, to provide support and comfort, and that system is amazing.

Sometimes there is a sense that with big families you don't really get to know your siblings, or that you're not as close, or, most horrible: that there is a finite amount of love to be had, so it gets spread thinner. Nothing could be further from the truth. My siblings and I all know each other really well. We're incredibly close, and, if anything, that love in the family is multiplied, not spread thin.

Finally, I want to talk about being a parent of a bigger family. I take it as an acceptable premise that a person's identity changes in some way when they become a parent for the first time. I don't know too many parents, if any, who wouldn't acknowledge that. I remember a conversation with a good friend after we both became parents for the first time, and we both expressed how much better we understood life, now that we were parents. We understood our parents, we understood love, we understood God, and so many other things in such a better way.

For me, there was a somewhat similar experience when I went from having 2 kids to having 3. Somehow, something about having a third kid, where you could no longer split them off, one to each parent, shifted my identity again. I became less of a parent and more of a family man. Yes, I am still a parent to individual children, and I have that relationship with them still, but there's a larger family sense that I'm more vividly aware of now that I have a larger brood. There are things I try to do "for the family" now, in a way maybe I only did "for Aquinas" or "for Aristotle" prior to Neitzsche's arrival. I'm more aware of the way in which the kids are interacting with each other, and how one kid's experiences are affecting the others.

Honestly, it's really cool. And really humbling. I became more of a servant when I had my third kid than I ever was before. And I like that. Now, I know it's not for everyone. But given my experience, it's something I'd recommend to those on the fence. I know I'm better for it.

Father Knows Best — The End

It’s been fun over the years reading about WGOM citizens as they started having kids and going over the joy and frustration of parenthood. I’ve had a lot of “yup, I remember that” as I go through FKB posts and other discussion threads. I smiled knowingly when Stick would be amazed at how fast Louisa was adding to her vocabulary or SoCal’s son Trey would have another good day out at the ballfield or someone would wonder about birthday parties and how to handle misbehavior. I lived those years too with all those same, and not so same, joys and frustrations. Given that, I beg of you to not take this the wrong way when I say: I’m done with parenthood.

Oh, I still love my kids and want to see then do well and will undoubtedly provide guidance when it's needed, but my kids are 22 and 24. I’ve been at this for nearly a quarter century and frankly it's time they make their own decisions, pay their own bills, fight their own fights. Sure, it hasn’t helped that I’ve been a single parent for over three years now with not even an Ex to help out but I also believe that it’s time for me to shuffle off into the corner and let the kids figure it out on their own. They’re old enough and and I'm not sure I have a whole lot to add.

Luckily, I have two great kids and in the past few months they have officially launched. Frances has been in Milwaukee for a couple of years now but recently moved to Chicago and got a real salaried job in the HR department of Guaranteed Rate Mortgage. So no more rent payments, supplemental deposits, or health care benefits from me. Charlie graduated in May and moved back home in August but he also recently got a job with a real nice salary. He’s going to stick around the house for a little bit and who knows, maybe I can get him to pitch in on groceries every once and while.

Parenthood is a great blessing and while there will never be a day that I’m not a dad, it’s also nice to retire from the day-to-day burdens of being the all-decision maker, the responsible party, the fixer-upper. I can still play those roles, but now it’s only in a limited, or emergency basis. Right now, you may be in the midst of full-on parenthood and can’t even imagine that the end is out there or that you will even welcome it. I’m here to tell you (and I bet Twayn, Runner, and brianS can also attest) that there will be a day when you will gladly handle over the reins. I bet your kids will grab them lustily, looking forward to the day when they can make their mark as a parent.

Now get off my lawn you snot nosed punks!

FMD 8-25-17: Teaching Kids About Music

Over the last few weeks I've had the chance to expose my kids to a good amount of music that they hadn't ever (or at least regularly) heard before. For our trip I burned some CDs (because no ipod/smart phone... a topic for a different forum). One an Oldies Mix and one a Weird Al mix (because fun!). The WGOM was instructive a ways back on the Oldies Mix, so thanks all for that.

I've also had my kids plinking away on the piano a little bit lately. I don't actually know how to play myself, but I know enough about chords and the like that I can point them in a direction here or there. I'm hoping to get Aquinas into piano lessons before too long, but there aren't too many people teaching out our way these days.

Anyway, it's been fun to watch the kids learning about music, making requests about new things, experimenting on the piano, etc. I'm often surprised by what clicks with them, and what they're interested in exploring further.

I'd love to hear more parents' "teaching their kids music" stuff. What should I be throwing their way? What about some of our more seasoned parents... did your kids take after your music tastes? Butt heads? Etc. So there's our topic for the day: teaching kids about music.