Every once in awhile my paranoia gets the best of me and I start wondering, what's truly best for kids? If I only had ONE child, or even two children, what would I be doing differently? How would life look for them, compared to how life looks now?
As far as parenting goes...not a whole lot different. I wouldn't be signing up my one or two toddlers for lots of activities outside the house. I honestly don't think they'd have more toys than these four have amassed (which have all pretty much been such gracious, generous gifts so far.) We'd still have the "go with the flow", laid-back-about-some-things-but-anal-about-others parenting philosophy. The big thing parents of two kids wonder about parents with more kids is, how do you pay each of your children enough attention? So far I've found that...it just doesn't work that way. The family takes on a dynamic of its own. Children play with, and love on, each other a lot of the time.
Even as an only child I really wasn't raised with lots of fancy entertainment/activities. I loved my childhood, and I grew up playing creatively and often independently. Out in the country (which I did, and still do, love!) Of course my parents were totally involved with me and would play with me (such fond memories of funny games my dad would make up, like "bucking bronco", "tower of doom" and "the button game"--which he now plays with MY kids!, and of playing Barbies with my mom. Oh okay, I'd get mildly annoyed when she'd play Barbies with me because she only wanted to rearrange the furniture in the dreamhouse). Interestingly I think my childhood, even though I was an ONLY child, is very similar in certain ways to the childhood MY kids are having. Simple, lots of time for creative, independent play, and very integrated with what mom and dad are doing. (For example, the kids go on errands, shop at the grocery store with me, go out to eat with us on the rare occasions we go out. That's how I was raised. My parents really didn't use babysitters. Neither do we.)
Really...the main difference between the life my kids currently have and the life they'd have with fewer siblings is...they wouldn't have each other. Kaitlyn wouldn't have Biniam "reading" Bambi to her. Or Anna praying for her baby sister's diaper rash to go away. Biniam wouldn't have Anna giving him a huge hug when he's not feeling well. Anna wouldn't be encouraging Yosef to not be afraid of the basement because "God is with you." They wouldn't share so many late-night giggles, or have such elaborate dress-up games of "Snow White". Fewer hugs, fewer kisses. Granted, they wouldn't know any different. But the life that kids lead in bigger-sized families is far from a deprived one. (Which is quite evident right now as Anna and Yosef are running around hand-in-hand playing "Cinderalla." Biniam's somehow part of the game too, though I'm not sure what part!)
Anyway, just some thoughts I've had lately.
***Yes, that is a picture of my young sons wearing princess dresses. And heels. But one of them is also holding a walkie-talkie and a nightstick. And that is really manly.