Friday, September 12, 2008

One big, (usually) happy family

Thinking lately about larger-than-average families. (Which I guess we're considered, even though I know lots of people with 4, or more.) I don't have any siblings so I have no real reference point on what it's like to grow up with brothers and sisters. My kids are obviously being raised with siblings, and if God sees fit, one way or another they will have more someday.

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 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.


Jeannett Gibson said...

Love your family. Don't ever second guess your choices. You guys are awesome.

And, the dresses...well, I guess it's okay. :)

Brianna Heldt said...

you're so sweet! (note that my husband did NOT approve of me taking that picture, or of me posting it. ah, i am indeed a non-submissive wife...emilie barnes would be really, really angry.)

Anna said...

Your family seems to get along so well!!! haha. I had great memories of my brother and I playing well together but honestly...we would wail on each other sometimes. haha. Like the time we got in a "shoe fight" which turned into a "plunger fight". It started as an "innocent" game of who could with stand the most amount of pain from getting hit with a flip-flop. Then one of us must have smacked the other person TOO hard and some how it ended with my dad waking up (most fights happend before the parents woke up!) to me being on the floor and while my brother stood over me with the giant plunger that he had wacked me upside the head with.

Now THOSE are things that NO kid should miss out on. I know there is a part of you Brianna that realizes the void you have in your heart from that. It's'll heal! :-)

Brianna Heldt said...

HA! anna you crack me up! and i can assure you that my kids do NOT always get along. just most of the time. :)

Munchkins said...

Totally agree with you. I only had one sister, but can imagine how much fun it would have been with lots of siblings! (many of my friends had "big" families)

Anonymous said...

LOL! I love the boys in princess dresses. Kyle would be so jealous if he knew. ;)

Big families are wonderful. Now that I have three close together (and thinking of more)I always think life without one of them would be super-boring! What would I do with all the extra time and sanity?! ;)


Samantha said...

One thing we forget in our "modern" culture of choosing our family size is that for thousands of years people had large families. There has always been women who were barren, but that wasn't the norm. Children were looked at as a blessing and an asset to the family, not a burden. I always think about the family that God chose to put Jesus into. God knew that Jesus would be one child of many in his family, and that was good enough for our Lord and Savior, which means it is most definitely good enough for our kids. People keep asking me how I am going to have enough time for baby #4, and I always reply that I will lucky enough to ever get to hold him or her. The kids are there for each other in such a special way. I love seeing it too. Ellie never wants to play with me, she is always off toddling after her big brother and sister, and they love having her there! And yes, my son too can often be seen wearing a tutu and a holster carrying his pistol. It's all about balance :)

Mike and Rachel said...

I love your royalty picture!

I grew up a lot like you, I have a sister and a brother, but they are both over a decade older than me, so we weren't playmates. I went where my parents went, and don't remember having a baby sitter. I didn't mind not having siblings close to me in age. I loved hanging out with my friends and their siblings, but I never considered my parents having more kids. I guess when you come 13 years later, it's a bit different.

When I think about having a larger family my fears have nothing to do with spending individual time with the kids. If that is important to you, it will happen. My fears have much more to do with the person I am. I know I've talked to you about this. It's not about getting back to work, or kids being a burden. It's about how raising my kids brings out all of my ugliness and flaws. I hate the person I can be when I lose my temper, and before having kids that person didn't exist. I'm not quite sure why God gave me a child who challenges me on EVERYTHING. I feel like I could have had a better trial to persevere through. I just hope I don't scar Aubrey too much in my learning process.

You are an amazing mom, and if you have 4 kids or 40 that won't change.

Joanie said...

I say go big! I love hearing about your plans for more.

If it were up to me, I'd go big too, and quite frankly when I tried to justify the attention thing with just two kids, it always rang hollow in my ears.

So I don't try to justify it anymore. It hurt too much. Big families are great, and I just give the rest to God.

Awesome photo layout by the way. Great captions, too. Where do you find the time? (NOT because you have four kids, just because I'm always curious how any mom finds the time. Where is the time? Can I find it at a store?)

Brianna Heldt said...

samantha, great point about how people used to have lots of kids. i was thinking about that the other day. gotta love margaret sanger...

joanie, i don't have much energy and am generally just resting b/c i'm still that means a lot of time on the computer while the kids play. :)

rachel, yes, being a mother has been SO humbling for me my kids to pieces but i lose my temper far more than i'd like to admit. there are many days when i ask God, "are you SURE i'm qualified to raise these 4 children?" He seems to think so, so I try to remind myself of that. what a refining process it is being a mom. i'm so far from where i want to be!!!!!!! (i always pray my kids will turn out okay in spite of me!)

Joanie said...

Great to know such a pretty thing can come out of that dreadful mono. We hope you're feeling back to 100% as soon as possible.

joy said...

very beautifully and simply stated,brianna. i think there's way more to life than how America tends to think family life needs to be. not meaning to culture bash, but do our kids really NEED their own car at 16? is it truly NECESSARY that we as parents pay for all of their college? larger families provide so much love and companionship that just isn't available in a smaller family. growing up with 4 sibs,i could usually find at least one, usually 2 others to play with. i'm not meaning to knock smaller families either. although, there are times, when i feel i would love more children, i know that my husband truly feels he's at his limit--his emotional limit. so, anyway, i think the choice is so unique and i'm thankful to have the choice and not have it be government mandated like in China. i was thinking of you the other day, too. i walked into Bible study, holding Esther, boys in tow and this older lady, said, "boy, you have A LOT of kids!" she said it in a little bit of a negative way. all i could think of was that she should know better because she was old and was probably raised when people had like 10 kids! i didn't say that, but i thought it. long enough comment, sorry!

Brianna Heldt said...

heehee joy, you're right--old ladies SHOULD know better! i get so frustrated when people say that. and it usually is said in a negative way.

there is much freedom in Christ and for that i am so grateful. i'm also so grateful to live in a country that allows me to live out those freedoms!!!!


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