Friday, May 20, 2016

Ordinary Days

Just some notes and things I want to remember and rambles:
Patrick had a great field trip at a farm with his class-his nicest teacher took pics and sent them on. I told him to bring me home a baby bunny, but thankfully he did not. (I believe that's a chick he is holding but the bunnies were to die for.)

He had track and field day the other day and came home with a bunch of first, second and third places. He had one purple participation ribbon and he said to me, "Mom I am going to throw this in the garbage because everyone got one so it means nothing,"    My heart leapt with joy! :)  He gets it! This generation might be saved!  Now we just have to eliminate the snacks after games/practices (which seem more rare nowadays?) and we might have just added a teeny tiny bit of common sense back into parenting.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the benefits of a large family-just how incredibly beneficial it is to the kids naturally. 

(That DOES NOT mean there are a not a whole lot of benefits to other sized families, it's just that I see it now more than ever especially in the culture of parenting today. And also big families are rare today, the drawbacks being the things that are pointed out-financial commitment, work and more work for the parents...) 

One day I want to make a list just for the fun of it.

I have a million examples, and yes maybe a lot of them are generalizations, but still they stand. I don't have the time, energy or brain space to over-parent, to coddle, to micro-manage, to baby (you are ok, get up, unless your arm bone is sticking out or you are losing massive amounts of blood you are ok-I tell this to my kids about sports-we don't stop games ever for God's sake, in this family, you know your brother has run into you harder than that and you got up with raised fists, plus we don't waste other people's time), "You get what you get and you like it", you are in charge of your own school work, uniforms, and entertainment, and eventually your entire life (and as quickly as possible because someone needs/wants your bed or room), work if you want money, work even if you don't because you need to be busy, save your money, you'll need to buy your own car/shoes/house one day, don't ask me to remind you about anything, my brain won't remember, it's too full.  If you want something bad enough (a team, travels, a school, a job) you will have to be self-motivated, because I don't have the time and energy to magically pull it all in place for you. And gosh, picky eaters?  Who notices picky eaters in a big family? They must be pretty hungry.

Natural consequences are big, BIG and I think SO important and something that just comes without effort or thought in a big family.  Gosh, there is no correction to normalcy like that of sibling correction.  For example, if you are making annoying sounds with your mouth, or talking too much too loud too early in the morning, or using all the towels, or eating all the cookies, or God forbid chewing with your mouth open, someone will let you know, and if you don't stop they WILL stop you somehow.  It might be a hard punch in the arm, but you know what? Maybe you deserved it. Dare I say that?  Yes I do.  I see some kids today that just might need a hard punch somewhere. I bet a lot of teachers would agree with me. This is how kids used to solve things before so much parental interference, before they needed to be taught to behave certain ways-siblings helped us parents tremendously.

I am reminded of a cousin, one of ten, who stood in front of his class as a high school teacher and said, 'I grew up with nine siblings, I've been called every name in the book already, so don't even bother."  Ha! Resilience, and perspective.

Image result for ralphie and the bully
I also remember the scene from The Christmas Story-that bully finally getting his due, and bawling after poor Ralphie just had had enough. What a lesson for both Ralphie and the bully! Nothing any adult could do would replace that lesson.

Earlier this year one son came home about some complaints about what was happening on the playground-an older kid picking on kids two grades younger during football games-hitting a little too hard being a little too rough.  I told my son, "Well you have some choices, don't play with him, avoid him, or show him that you guys can hit just as hard, or run faster."  (I might have also said something about The Christmas Story, to which my son smartly replied, "I am pretty sure I'd be expelled if I did something like that.")  I'm not getting involved with playground drama. (Eventually because of other parents the principal did and I LOVED the way he worked it out-making the kids work it out themselves while he monitored the meeting.)  

Natural consequences. And some kids need them, nothing else will work. And other kids need to know that there won't always be a rescue, to make their world perfect and easy, because the world is NOT perfect and easy.  Nothing ever really falls into place perfectly. They won't always get the cupcake they want, the nice teacher, the seat up front, the A, the trophy, the place on the team, the invite to the party. Kids are mean to each other sometimes, adults are also.  Life isn't fair.  I've said that statement so many times as a parent.  Some kids learn that little by little, some have really tough intense learning years, it's not always easy to watch, but our support, not our constant interference, is what is necessary. Our ears are necessary, hardly ever our fix-it skills.

Helicopter parenting? Smother-mothering?  It doesn't exist in big families. It just can't, we moms and dads of many kids just don't have enough time.  And what a gift, thank the Lord, one less thing I have to worry about screwing up :).

Do you know what I think? That this might be the one single factor in how things have changed over time. The Greatest Generation?  Maybe had a little to do with war and poverty but more to do with how big families shaped some incredible characteristics in people.  As families became smaller and smaller, things became a little crazier and crazier.  The problems that exist in schools today, maybe that has more to do with the decline of big families. Teachers having to jump through hoops to please every child and parent, constantly catering.  Kids being given everything they want, without having to work for it. (Entitlement!)  Every program imaginable for disorders that used to be personality characteristics.  Elimination of all struggle. (Which also eliminates drive, determination, strength and resilience, duh, the VERY things that make a person flourish!)  The quest for fairness, equality in all aspects of life, "I am special, I deserve....".  No you are not and your siblings would have told you and showed you in so many ways from the moment you were born.

And the stories-gosh that alone is worth it. We have some great neighbors who have been raised in huge families, and I can't get enough of the stories.  I swear you can't make these things up and they would make most parents today gasp in alarm and dismay at the utter neglect and danger of just about all of it.  I've heard so many hilarious stories from my aunts and uncles.  It gives me hope as a parent, it gives me a little reward for the hard work of raising a big family-all the incredible memories that sometimes even involve the hardest of times.  I bet there isn't a mother of a big family who doesn't pray, and pray often. 

So much more to say on that subject, but I have to get some laundry finished.

Andrew, once last in every cross country meet as a small child (he was so cute, he just could not understand why everyone was always ahead of him! we laugh so hard about it now) has progressed to doing pretty darn well in a class 2 mile run.  He has an incredibly nice class of kids, they have two more years together but everyone agrees this is one special group.

Dress like your favorite book character day. (Don't ask I don't even remember now.)

My parents back deck this last weekend. I would have cried.)

I have officially burned myself out of sweet potato chips. This was my last batch for a long long time.

Eating lunch with this sweet girl. 

I've been awful about taking photographs this last month, forgetting my camera everywhere, or not wanting to break myself away from the real moment by taking a picture. 

Isaac graduates this weekend from college, so excited for him. Praying that we all (well Janey especially) make it through the 2 1/2 hour ceremony-the fact that it's outside will help a great deal.

We are NOT ready for summer around here (heart-ready but not mind-ready) but next week I will only have the two boys in school for a few last days so I need to get on the ball and get my head into gear.

44 comments :

  1. I am the youngest of seven. The life skills and lessons being raised in that environment are invaluable. I have three kids, and would have loved to have more, but I am not able to. I think about how I was raised a lot, and implement a lot of it.

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  2. I have three children, 9, 6, and 3. My oldest daughter is best friends with an only child who in over indulged. My daughter tells me constantly how much "better" her friend has it...no younger siblings to bug her, gets new things all the time, her Mom takes her fun places, etc. I know someday it will all be put into perspective, but at this age when they only thing about what is in it for themselves....it is hard to take! Any tips about kids who think the grass is greener in other families? Thanks! Jen from R.I.

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    1. If you defend, than the children will think it is something that needs defending. If you justify, it makes you sound mean. ("Well that sounds pretty spoiled!") I've done both before in my early days and now I would just say, "That sounds nice, but I bet just like you think that would be nice, she thinks some of the things you do and have would be so nice too." Just let it sit awhile...and sometimes it takes a long while. But one day the light bulb will surely go off and you will have your day in the sun. :) I think jealousy and envy and the grass is always greener concept just needs to be worked out over time, and learning gratitude for what we have is usually the means to the end.
      I remember thinking the same things as a child (don't know if I told my mom but sure did think it in my head!) And then eventually I'd have friends come over and say I was lucky to have baby brothers (to be an only child, so doted on!), or a huge woods to play in (all I wanted was sidewalks and an ice cream truck!), etc., and eventually it all clicked.

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    2. Thanks Sarah! I'm sure I had many similar thoughts in my head as a child too but I would have held them in. My daughter has no problem telling me "I'm mean" and many other travesties of her life.....I guess I should be glad she is so secure in our relationship she can unleash it all......ha!

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  3. preach on! you are a breath of fresh air. i love it when you share your wisdom with the rest of us.

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  4. I have 4 and I totally agree. I can't possibly helicopter parent-who has the time for that nonsense? I think having a big spread of ages also helps in my case. I can see what's important and what's just a crazy phase. My youngest is my most independent and resilient-and I know that will serve him well.

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  5. I have five kids, ages 11-3 (6 months pregnant with #6), so I'll admit that I haven't hit the teenage years yet...but while I agree with some of the sentiments in this post, I've also seen the downsides, which is why I definitely DO helicopter-parent to some extent. My husband comes from a family of 7 kids--his parents never checked in with the kids about homework, finances, dating, etc., and most of his siblings really struggle now as adults--they are NOT functional adults nor do they have a tight-knit bond as siblings, mostly because their parents didn't work hard to create a family culture supporting the values one would want in adults. I think it is SUPER important to still give your kids as much energy as you can. Granted, it's going to be spread out over a bunch of kids, but I really think it's vital that you still give it everything you've got rather than allowing them to figure it out the hard way/teach each other. I'm a stay-at-home mom by choice, and I'm giving it just as much attention, dedication, and energy as I would give any other career. My children are my life's work. Yes, I realize it's imperative to raise independent kids who can function on their own (believe me, as a college professor I saw the end results of excessive helicopter-parenting/micro-managing), but I really believe that you HAVE to do some of that in order to teach them the life skills they need--they're not going to magically assimilate it on their own, and I darn well will continue to nag about piano practice/homework/checking over each test that comes home and working out every incorrect answer.

    And Sarah, I don't mean to imply that you were advocating just basically abandoning your kids to their own devices--but I think there's a really important balance between working to oversee everyone and just letting them fend for themselves. And I totally understand the time issue--I stay home full-time but also teach early-morning/online classes at a Big 10 school and run 50-60 miles a week, and sometimes it is DANG hard to carve out time for all of my kids' individual needs, but...I think it's pretty darn important to do so.

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    1. Thank you!! Large families are not always a good thing. Some of the most non-functioning people I know come from big families.



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    2. Hi Kim, I replied below! (But I hate that you think that-I would hate that to be true, eek! I know awesome people who are only children, and those that are ones of 11, 12, 13 siblings. So many factors in there it would be hard to tell? But I find myself so interested in trying to exam what those factors could be, it is so interesting to me.)

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  6. Also wanted to add that I really love your blog, so I hope I don't come across as just being argumentative--this is just something I feel very passionately about...obviously. :-) I've just seen some pretty crummy stuff as a result of the way my husband's siblings were raised and I definitely don't want to replicate that same sort of absentee-figure-it-out-yourself dynamic in my own family...sorry if I'm projecting those feelings onto your post! :-)

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    1. Rachael, I LOVE your points and agree with you wholeheartedly (although the thought of going over wrong test answers makes me want to cry for myself, but I totally get the thought process behind it :). I actually hate the term "helicopter parenting" and so why I used it in this post I do not know. I think it is an overused term that sweeps too broad-it can be used as an excuse for negligent lazy hands-off parenting, and also as an excuse for just "caring". (It is really about hovering constantly and swooping in to change the outcome for the child.)
      I think at the core, there needs to be strong family values in place-values that are in check often, always being learned. Although it is easy (as I did) to compare generations, raising kids today like I was raised-no way-there is TOO much at stake. My parents had like-minded parents right next to them whether at school, church, neighborhood, and also didn't have the internet, social media, etc, breathing down their (and our) necks. So we must be more vigilant. There are some things that will actually be fatal for kids to figure out the hard way or on their own. Advice and guidance are absolutely needed.
      I know we both agree (because of your college professor experience) that there ARE things that are important for kids to learn on their own without us fixing it to perfection. Things like not getting that part in the play, not getting invited to that party, not making the team, not getting it all the way they want it, when they want it.
      Like you said so well-there absolutely IS an important balance to it all-and it IS hard to find that as parents and we all deserve grace as we figure that out. (This is where the hatred of that helicopter parenting term comes in-if it is used to criticize parents who are just really learning to navigate this all, it's unfair. Funny enough, one time I and other parents in my son's freshman college orientation class were warned of being helicopter parents at a mandatory OVERNIGHT college orientation FOR THE PARENTS? I was 8 months pregnant-no way was I going to sleep in a dorm overnight, to be told how HIS cafeteria plan works!
      Kids need attention, guidance, love, advice, and our help processing what life throws them. I agree!

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    2. Sarah, loved your response! I think we would be good pals IRL. :-) And I agree on hating the helicopter-parenting term...there's got to be a better one! I love your point about the issue being swooping in to change the outcome--I definitely do a lot of sitting on my hands but I try SO hard to be supportive without fixing things myself. And I will readily 'fess up that going over the test answers is my LEAST favorite part of the week...I hate it SO much but for some things (like math) I feel like I've got to make sure they know where they went wrong and how to avoid that mistake the next time. But definitely not something I do for fun. ;-)

      And totally agree--it's values that are at the core of it.

      Again, love your blog and the community you've created here! :-)

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  7. I know the you deserved it feeling! The other day I asked my four year old what he thought was going to happen when he kept calling his brother names!
    The other day i was given some dirty looks for telling my son not to be a tattle tale. Is that a thing of the past?

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    1. My kids and I just read "The Great Brain" together and kids back then (in the early 1900's?) would rather DIE than rat on each other! And they definitely took matters into their own hands on the playground and among friends. Being respected was very much about making sure you could back up your words with your fists. Haha! Too funny.

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  8. I enjoyed this post--especially since I began re-reading a favorite old classic, Cheaper By the Dozen, last night. Those parents hit it on the nail and I want to be just like them! (Although I could never handle the self-imposed pressure of always maximizing every possible minute and second of the day--but efficiency was Frank Gilbreth's personality, life, and career.) Parenting is so hard to figure out no matter how many children one has, since every child is so different. If I had one wish for today's children, though, it would be that they could grow up in a culture of strong morals and values--but those are becoming a thing of the past as people are now creating their own truth instead of looking to God as the author of truth. (Sorry for getting up on my soapbox for a bit. I've got public bathrooms and locker rooms on my mind at the moment...) Thanks, again, for a refreshing blog post! I have 5 children ages 11 to 2 and am expecting my sixth and love, love, love gleaning insights from wonderful mothers like you. :)

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  9. There is a lot of truth in this post. I'm one of ten and when we would take our bickering to our mother she would just tell us to fight it out and whoever was alive at the end was the winner. I've used that one a few times myself.

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  10. I'm due with baby #4 in two days. Thank you for your wise words. I always love your perspective on motherhood and family life.

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  11. I love this post Sarah! There is just no common sense left in parenting, or the world for that matter. I only have 2 (girl 7, boy 3) but we don't coddle them, or try to make everything perfect for them. My daughter attends a small private, Christian school and I recently found out that while she has a100 average on her Bible verses, she won't receive a certificate this year. I asked about it b/c she made it her goal in kindergarten to get one every year. The reason she won't get one is b/c a lot of other kids earned them this year that haven't previously gotten one. As her mama I don't really think it's fair b/c she set herself a goal (at 5 yrs old!) and has stuck to it. The other part of mama says: this is life, she knows she did it and can be proud of herself without a certificate:)

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  12. Such wonderful advice, Sarah!! I just had a situation this week with both of my daughters. They were both dealing with "mean girls" and I was just there to listen. I even took one of my daughters to my favorite place to pray at a local Catholic college. She absolutely loved the experience. So, while her "friends" were busy leaving her out, she and I were enjoying a beautiful afternoon together. We both got so much out of it! It's not easy AT ALL to witness your children feeling hurt, but I truly believe it will make them stronger!!

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  13. For the hundredth time, Sarah, I wish we lived in the same town! I love your perspective and common sense approach to parenting. Thanks for the reminders. :)--Joy

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  14. So many good points, Sarah! I want to add some perspective, though, about the bullying. My son was bullied for years - years. We always encouraged him to work it out himself, telling him that we and his terrific guidance counselor were his "wingmen" he could rely on for support, advice, etc. So, he did handle it himself, repeatedly.
    Somehow, however, what we thought was our supportive-but-independence-encouraging attitude backfired.
    My son in 8th grade developed ongoing, severe headaches, stomach pain and nausea. He missed a lot of school during 8th grade. (It wasn't a matter of coddling him - he couldn't get out of bed.) We spent lots of time at the Cleveland Clinic, where a pediatric gastroenterologist discovered his problems were initiated by a bad stomach flu, which did not heal correctly because of ongoing stress. So,he got medicine, more help and continued support and things finally got better in high school. He's a pretty tough kid now, a star high school debater and excellent student. But looking back, I have regrets about how we handled things. I think he could have benefited from some "helicopter parenting." It's important to note that even extremely wise parenting perspectives can't be applied to every kid in every situation.

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    1. Katie, I'm so sorry to hear about that-it is SO hard as a parent to know when to step in and help (because sometimes they DO genuinely need it for sure and that is NOT helicopter parenting, it's just parenting period) and when to back away. Trust me, I've made the same mistake both ways several times in my life as a parent and probably will continue to. (I've even experienced a similar situation as your son growing up and never told a soul and I regret it as I was too young and afraid to know how to handle it on my own.) These are big complicated situations (not "I didn't get the cupcake I wanted"), and you are absolutely right-sometimes we have to step in.

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  15. Thank you so much. I'm so grateful for your wisdom and common sense. As a mother of 5, I ALWAYS feel better and more confident after reading your blog posts. God bless you and your family.

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  16. My husband and I were just talking about this! Hoping that the small everyday mortifications of living in a larger family will instill those lessons that parents of fewer (by choice or fate) have to work harder to teach. Hopefully we can add some more to our brood because my children surely need those lessons!! And I the character development to handle it all! I agree with everything you say and I'm on the thirty year plan for getting kids into adulthood and hopefully our family expanding beyond that. But yes, it's WORK!

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  17. I'm the oldest of a family of 6 and I totally agree that coming from such a big family has shaped me in so many good ways. My husband and I always dreamed of having a large family, but for about 3 years now, we have been struggling with unexplained infertility. We hope we'll be fortunate enough to successfully conceive through in vitro fertilization, but through our struggle so far with infertility, we've painfully learned that we don't have control over how many children we have or when we have them. It's very unlikely that we'll ever be able to conceive without IVF, and the expense of that procedure ($12,000+ which insurances won't cover) will probably always dictate when we are able to add children to our family. (And before anyone jumps in to say "just adopt!" let me clarify that adoption is wonderful and we'll take that route if we're led to it, but it happens to also be a cost-prohibitive route to the tune of $30,000+). I always envisioned having lots of kids for all the reasons you wrote about, but that probably won't be my reality, and the loss of that dream of a big family is something I grieve. I know this post is not intended to criticize anyone's choice of family size, but I just wanted to point out that having a smaller family does not always happen by choice. I love reading your blog and I really look up to you in the way that you mother and I totally have some of your posts filed away for when I finally have a baby. I just wish I knew how to intentionally create the same kind of family culture and sibling relationships that seem to happen naturally in large families in my future family which I have to accept may consist of just one or two children depending on what God has in store for us.

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    1. Hannah, I absolutely think that you can create the family culture you want no matter what size your family is! I have good friends who have had one child and she is an incredible kid and they have done an incredible job because they are conscious of that culture and the values they want to instill in her. I have had my own struggles with secondary infertility (repeat unexplained miscarriages) and I know the heart ache and frustration that that can cause-and you are right, it is a loss of a dream that causes grief, (and sadness and anger and "why me" etc.) I hope you find peace with it all-it's a long journey to that peace I think, and acceptance of what God intends for us.

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  19. Sarah, I have been reading your blog for years!Your posts have been such an encouragement and blessing to me. I am a mom of two (10 y/o boy and 13 y/0 daughter)and also a pastor's wife in Charleston, SC. Thank you for sharing your life and the wisdom/insight God has given you on parenting! Many blessings, Marla Payne

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  20. I have five boys ages 8, 6, 4, 2, and 8 months. I LOVE my big family. I joke I would have had 10 had I started earlier. I also love that my boys want more siblings. They always have someone to play with/fight with, but it's all good. Exhausting but so wonderful. I love your blog and your wisdom.

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  21. Thank you! Common sense parenting is a thing of the past and so your blog posts are always a breath of fresh air. I was raised in a dairy farming family with a no-nonsense mom who we knew loved us but she didn't coddle us. I remember as a teenager one day grousing about something and saying, "But mom it's not fair!". She turned around from the stove shaking her rubber spatula and me and with fire in her eyes said, "And who ever told you life was supposed to be fair?!" That was the end of that. How many times in life I have needed the resilience that she modeled. Thank you for sticking your "neck out there" and speaking common sense truth - I thoroughly enjoyed your post!

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  22. I can't explain how encouraged I feel after reading every single one of your posts. You're like a friend that I've sat down with and gives me hope about the future, children, and family. Thank you!

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  23. I have 2 kids and love the joy they've brought to our family. Adding more can only bring more joyous feelings. The hardest part I'm facing right now is giving my all to both boys right now. My littlest needs to be nursed to sleep (8 months) and I have to keep the door shut to my 3 year old & just hate the feeling of doing that when I know the 3 year old needs me too. Do you have any suggestions on how you manage time like that with all your kiddos?

    Have a good one!

    Nicole

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    1. Hi Nicole! I have always done that also, and your 3 year old will be fine-it is hard to feel split so many ways and who knows if I do a great job of it. I've always been of the mindset that I work on the littlest and on up in that order, of course that is not always true and some times/stages require more for one than the other. As they get older and more independent they just have to step up to the plate. You are doing the best you can-when one adds more and more kids to the family, you realize that some of those things you stressed about (one not getting enough attention etc) just isn't even in your mindset anymore because it is just impossible to be all things to everyone.

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    2. Oh man thanks so much for your response. I try to talk with these things about my husband & friends (who has 0 kids) & they just weren't seeing why it was so upsetting to me. Feels good to know someone else has been there & handled it similarly.

      <3

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  24. My grandmother, a mom to twelve, would always say "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!"

    I've been blessed with three... not a large family by any means... but the saying still works!!

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  25. What a great post! So spot on! As a teacher and a parent, I say kudos to you for putting such truth out there! We all need more posts like these! Thank you! Thank you! Both my parents were raised in big families by the way! :)

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  26. Sarah- I love your deep thoughts on old fashioned values and parenting practices. I am only one of two and remember watching The Waltons with such sibling envy. Big families look like so much fun. My husband and I have just three despite our plan for 4+.

    I have noticed, too, that the greatest generation came from lots of big families. I wonder what made many of them have far less children. My husband's father is one of 11. But from that big family, all of them but one had two children or less. I wonder if it was an economic thing or they felt like they didn't get enough attention or what. In my generation (which I believe is the same as yours), I know very few people who came from large families and I'm the product of 12 years of Catholic education so I should have seen more!

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  27. Catching up on posts and this one was just wonderful. I appreciate your wisdom and your writing. Your blog is just lovely to read. I grew up in a large Catholic family and I think you are right about the character traits that larger family structures naturally build in children. Very insightful!

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  28. Love this Sarah and love you too. This whole post reminds me of a quote my brother shared that he heard this summer, "Big families are like waterbeds; they used to be everywhere and now they're just weird." Haha. I am with you every word you said, and so grateful for the big family I was raised in and what I learned from my siblings. Sometimes as I worry about particular things with my own kids I wonder if my mother ever worried about the same kinds of things with her kids. I"m sure she did to a certain extent, but I think she was also just so good at letting us figure things out and fend for ourselves in a lot of situations and I'm so grateful.

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  29. I loved this Sarah as well as the perspectives of the other commenters. My mother had 3 kids although my brother was much older than my sister and me but my mother was definitely not a helicopter parent. She laid a good foundation for us to be conscientious and hard workers so as we got older, by 8 years or so my mother did not check our homework or any of that kind of stuff. We made our own study timetables and did our own work. I am very grateful for what she did in that respect. I now have an 8-month old (hoping for 1 more) and hope that even though she will have access to more than I did when I was a child that I do not 'spoil' or coddle her.
    Love reading your blog!

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