How I ended up with a large family
A couple years after adopting our first two children, I decided I wanted to experience pregnancy and adding a biological child to our family. Having a third child seemed normal to us, as my husband and I both grew up in families with three children. Along came Elle and we were a happy family of 5.
Fast forward a couple years and we found ourselves pregnant with #4. For some reason, in our little enclave of the world having three children is completely normal and acceptable, but once you have four you are entering freak territory.
We knew of literally one other family in our town with four children, and to be honest they did seem a little weird. Suddenly I was panicked at the thought of what I had done to my sweet little family of five by turning it into a huge and bizarre family of six.
Now that our fourth has been here a while and the dust has settled, I can say that while going from three kids to four may tip you from “average family” to “large family”, it’s not all Family Circus all the time. In fact, I have found there are even some advantages to having this brood. Yes, with four kids comes more noise, more mess, and more expenses, but here are the perks to having a large(ish) family.
1. Mom is not on entertainment duty.
The obvious perk to having a lot of kids? They play with each other.
I got my first two children at the same time, so I have never had only one child. But there are times when I find myself home alone with only one child, and that child follows me around like a lost puppy asking me to play with them!
While I enjoy a nice game of UNO as much as the next girl, there is no way I could be tasked with entertaining a child all day every day.
Typically in our house, two kids will pair off and play an agreed upon game while the other two play independently, and then when the pair no longer agrees on the play, it will switch. There are different options for playmates according to interest and the dynamics of the moment. Of course like all siblings they get into arguments with each other, but it is usually easy enough for them to move on from their argument and go play alone or with another sibling.
2. It creates a culture of “team” vs “individual”.
In a culture where individualism reigns supreme, it can be difficult to raise children who don’t view themselves as the center of the universe.
In a family of many, kids know that their individual wants and needs may be important, but they are cataloged among other people’s wants and needs too.
The kids have a basic understanding that they are part of a group and the group needs come before any one person’s. Basic team skills like sharing are a built-in regular occurrence (in fact, my kids are not strangers to being given 1/4 of a dessert).
One thing that always amazes me: my kids are so used to sharing, they will come home from a birthday party and immediately divvy up their candy among the siblings. It doesn’t even occur to them to hoard it all for themselves like I did as a kid.
3. Sibling peer pressure can work in your favor.
Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing. When you have 3+ kids, there are enough people to create an atmosphere of positive peer pressure against whichever kid is making poor choices at the time.
Sometimes it’s as easy as offering a reward “if ALL of you do xyz” and then let them work out the rest. “If everyone gets their homework done before dinner, we can have a movie night!” inevitably results in the kids cheering each other on and motivating one another to complete the task.
Another example is potty training. Each child that I’ve potty trained has been progressively easier to train due to the example set by older siblings. When I got to number 3, the example and encouragement from the older kids made the potty seem incredibly grown up and cool. There was never a fight to get her on the potty because she wanted to do everything her big brother and sister did.
4. Many hands make light work.
In small families, it is easy for Mom to be the one who folds all the clothes, clears all the dishes, and cleans up all the toys. She is used it doing it, and after all it is doable.
As you add more kids to the picture, by necessity the kids have to start pulling their weight. Mom is simply unable to pick up every toy and article of clothing. Teaching kids to pick up after themselves becomes a priority (especially true if you’re a slacker mom!)
A group of kids can take on tasks that most parents would never ask a single child to do alone. In our house the big job is organizing the basement play room. Over time it turns into a toy dumping ground and it would be completely overwhelming to ask one child to perform such a large task.
With many siblings and little teamwork, it is achievable.
One of our family mottos is “everybody helps”. My oldest child has acquired the skill of delegating and is able to assign smaller jobs to her younger siblings and break up the task in a way that everyone can contribute. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Older siblings develop leadership qualities.
By being around younger kids all the time, my older two have developed leadership and negotiation skills naturally.
In fact, sometimes they manage my little ones better than I do.
Once when my 4 year old was refusing to pick up her toys, I was uselessly pleading with her like a fool and making increasingly horrible threats while she sat there, arms crossed, not caring.
My 8 year old walked over, quickly sized up the situation, and said “Elle! Clean up your toys and I’ll give you a virtual cookie!”
Elle said “yay!” and jumped to her feet to start cleaning.
Experience had taught my oldest child that a creative, silly reward could change the mood and motivate the irrational young child.
They aren’t old enough yet, but I love the idea that in a few years I can hire my oldest to babysit. My little kids will have the benefit of a babysitter who knows and loves them, and my big kids can learn responsibility and earn some money.
Sure, it’s chaos around here most of the time. But having a bigger family is also a lot of fun and in some ways, easier than a small family.