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There’s certainly no shortage of “special moments” when you are raising a family with nine children. Those moments have brought laughter, tears, hugs, kisses, regrets, apologies, and my favorite: love. As parents, we just want the best for our children, just like parents of one or two children. However, when you have nine of them, those moments are expanded across nine little human beings, each with their own distinct personalities. If it wasn’t for some of the physical similarities, we’d even think that a couple of them were adopted… surely that one wasn’t from my side of the family!
Every morning, I expect to see nine little faces finishing up their morning breakfast shake waiting for me to sit down and just talk with them. We talk about the day’s plans, activities, expectations, favors, and wants. We never start until everyone is in the room.
Which means, there are times I roll my eyes and ask, “Where’s ‘The Boy’?”
The 18 year old who tends to like sleeping in (as do must of us, so I really don’t blame him) and sometimes claims, “The alarm didn’t work”. You’d think that by this age, he’d realize that it’s pretty much user error. Either way, it’s a moment I cherish. I see each and every face of my offspring. I see the vibrancy of a good night’s sleep or the begrudging looks of “I want to sleep more” in my children’s eyes. I love this moment.
I love seeing their non-verbal reactions to the highlights of the day which usually include schoolwork, chores, free time, errands, and what I need to accomplish that day. Each one has a distinctive movement or look that gives me an idea of how they will perceive their day will go. If it seems too stressful or I sense any anxiety, I’ll individually take that child aside and address any conflicts that have arisen for them.
I’m not sure how other large families do it, but we don’t set aside planned individual time with the kids. It pretty much happens when it needs to happen. If I have something going on, but I see my 16-year-old daughter distraught with something, I’ll drop what I’m doing and be with her. Whether it takes a quick five minutes or I happen to look at the clock again and over an hour has passed, it really doesn’t matter. We typically don’t schedule one on one time with a child unless there is a specific event. However, we do ensure that we individually address them, praise them, and acknowledge who they are and their value in our family (and the world really).
Literally, in those brief moments, you can quickly identify any issues they may be having.
We live in the 21st century like everyone else; we have our jobs, businesses, home life, and personal things we like to do. The children have their school, chores, free time, and Tae Kwon Do classes that they are responsible for. It’s an understanding that when you NEED Mom or Dad, it’s a 24/7 open door policy. So, what does that mean for individual attention? It means no one ever feels left out or that Mom and Dad don’t care. From a late night nightmare to cooking a meal with the six-year-old, Mom and Dad will take time for you. Period.
So, I don’t feel guilty for not intentionally setting aside a timed individual kid time, because it naturally just happens throughout the day.
We regret that we didn’t have what we have today with our younger children for the older ones back when they were babies. What we know today, we wish we would’ve done. Our bond with the younger children since starting the co-sleeping and feeding on demand, as well as just holding them versus the “cry it out” is one of our regrets.
We were so young when we started and took some advice without question or following our own instincts, I can see the definite difference in the children as they grow older. Will it have irreparable consequences on their adult life… um, no, I don’t believe it to be that devastating! It’s just that when you want to give 120% and you measure yourself and you come up short, it’s like… that sucks.
I love establishing their “place” in the family early on. Those moments when the younger children want to sass off to the older sibling – yeah. At the moment of the first sassy comment or act of defiance, we remind them where they stand in the family chain. Pointedly, they are the younger child who will respectfully respect and honor the older sibling just like they would a parent or adult.
The respect for age is something we taught them almost immediately once they respond with “no” to an adult when told to do something. Even though these are teaching and disciplining moments, they are moments I know they will carry on with them into adulthood; a valuable life skill we hope they teach to their children one day. It’s definitely something that is continually enforced and encouraged throughout their childhood. After all, they are discovering that it’s pretty darn cool (especially when you are the older sibling).
As parents, we love the moments we are simply together. Whether it’s trekking across the nation on a road trip to visit family (obviously, flying is out of the question) and stopping to pee… again, or sitting at home in our bedroom with every single one of us all in one room – we just enjoy being together.
Our favorite moments: They are in their own little world of Minecraft, writing an article (that’s me!), chatting in the clan with his boys (that’s Dad), knitting the next project for Etsy, or smiling at Dora The Explorer, we’re together. A moment we cherish the most. This is home.
I regret that I didn’t realize the blessing of children early on – from day one when our son was born. There were definitely moments; he was seen as a burden, like putting my life on hold for this squirmy, funny looking human that took over 18 hours to exit my body.
However, I see now that children are quite amazingly the opposite. Sure, they do stupid stuff and it makes you want to get in the car and drive far far away… and then drive some more. Or you stay home and lose your shit.
I can promise you, more often than not, you’ll have moments where they honestly say, “You’re the best, I love you.”
And you turn the car around (in your mind) and break every speeding limit to be with your children.
Photo credits: AndiL.