I mentioned last week that I didn’t always want to be a father. And yet, ironically, here I am, a father, and loving it. To put it mildly, I had a big paradigm shift about fatherhood. But all that I said previously was in reference to the transition I experienced with our first child. There is another chapter to this story, and it is about the paradigm shifts that came after the birth of our first.
At that point, I was only allowing myself to think about my life and our family in terms of what we could do with one child. Perhaps I could still live out all my dreams of academic study and traveling and so forth. We would just do it with one child in tow. She could be an accessory to our pursuits, like that nice handbag that matches your dress.
But all those ideas of recalibrating our life plan for one child came crashing down when we discovered that we were pregnant a second time. Then we had twins. Now we have our fifth. Just as I stumbled into the unexpected joy of fatherhood eight years ago, so too am I now stumbling into the unexpected joy of “big family.”
Of course, the term “big” is somewhat relative. Even so, I think it’s fair to say that our flock of five children is big by American standards. Just as I never aspired to be a father in the first place, I certainly never aspired to be the father of a large family.
The truth is that I had never seen good examples of large families. The few families I knew of who had three or more children were all chaotic, loud and obnoxious. I had no reason to believe that a large family could be enjoyable.
Then I met a very unique family with five kids. Their family was calm, peaceful, respectful and a delight to be around. That experience blew apart my stereotype of big families. For the first time, I saw that it was possible to have a delightful time around a bunch of kids. The key ingredient in their family was that the parents were very intentional about the training of their children and making significant investments of time, energy and attention into each child. That made all the difference.
Not long after that, we met several other families who were friends of that first family. I noticed a theme emerging. They all had four or five kids, and all their kids were a joy to be around. All of these families were making that strategic investment in their children, and it was bearing very good fruit across their whole community.
Five years later, we have now moved across the country to live in that community of families. We have learned much from these families. We are still on the steep part of the learning curve for being a “big family,” but it’s turned out to be an incredible joy that I never thought I would have.
My wife and I both grew up in “small families” of two kids each. I always assumed that being part of a “big family” would mean sleepless nights and endless moments of chaos and noise. It turns out my assumptions were wrong. Sure, there times of chaos and noise. But on the whole, we are finding it to be a delightful mix of adventure, trial and error, saying sorry, teamwork, togetherness, finding our rhythm and learning to respect one another. I’m not saying everyone should have a “big family,” but I am offering my experience as a cautionary tale not to reject the possibility on account of faulty assumptions and unfair stereotypes.