Thursday, August 28, 2014

For the Mothers of Multiples: Giving Our Kids the {Best} Gift of Each Other

It's not uncommon for George to disappear for great lengths of time.  Being the most adventurous son in the family, he's always chasing some great idea, a goal or an interest - fishing in the creek, building something useful in the garage with scraps of this and that, gathering the neighbor kids together for the greatest game of kickball ever.

He's also very good about letting me know exactly where he's going when there's a conquest to be made, but last week there was a moment when I realized that quite some time had passed since I had seen him, and I had no idea where he was.
After calling for him outside and doing a quick run through the house, I was completely surprised to see my energetic son standing quietly alone in the guest bedroom, his nose pressed against the large window, his gaze fixed upon the street that leads to up to the end of our cul-de-sac.

George, are you okay? What are you doing in here??

Oh, not much Mom, I'm just waiting for Ben to come home.

And, that's when I knew that I wasn't the only one in the family who was missing the biggest brother.

This summer has passed all too quickly for us, for me especially.  The lazy days of summer, weren't lazy at all.  Having a newborn during the height of farm season sent me into a bit of a tail-spin. This summer was more about survival than sitting by the pool or sipping lemonade. (But, wine? Oh, yes, there was wine.)

Little pangs of guilt creep into my heart when I think about the early summer weeks I spent in quite a state of self-pity, feeling tired of being pregnant, tired of keeping things in order around the house, tired of being tired. All of my my energy was focused on preparing for the littlest one, that I hadn't much left over for the big ones.

Yet, somehow, in my physical presence but mental and emotional absences during the past couple of months, the boys were softened and stretched, right along with their parents, into fulfilling their roles and purposes within the family. 
They learned to hold a fussy baby, to master more chores around the home with greater efficiency, to play quietly when every fiber in their being was longing to burst, to dress, bathe and brush a toddler's teeth, to beat boredom by making up games or double-dog-daring one another to do crazy stunts in the yard beyond mom's line of sight.
Despite all of the changes that welcoming a newborn into our family has brought, the boys have taught me that embracing change doesn't have to mean just figuring out how to survive, but that within the sacrifices and challenges, you really can thrive.

Last week, standing in the warmth of the morning sunrise, I waved good-bye to Benedict, walking away, tall and strong, looking back over his shoulder to give me one last glance before heading off to a new year of school. Saying good-bye to him, good-bye to summer broke my heart wide open and all the tears came rising.
I know, I know.
He's 13. I should have this down, right?

Millions of moms across America said their first-day-of-school good-bye's last week, too.  If they can do it, I can do it.  But, truth be told, I can't do it without my chest being gripped with a tremendous longing for just one more day, one more week to have Ben home. Because having him home means we're together. And, being together is something I've truly learned to treasure.

I remember the day after Joseph was born, Steve had to be in the field, so I spent most of the day in the hospital resting, reading and watching television. During an episode of some show on HGTV, a couple was arguing about the upgrades they wanted for their new home.  The mom emphatically insisted that her twin sons (who couldn't have been more than 4 years old) needed to have their own rooms.

I just don't think that they should have to share. They need their own space, their own toys, their own place to play and...

And what? I thought.
And be alone??

They need time alone?
With their things? 
In their own space???


They need you. They need their father. They need each other.

At the heart of that mother's concern for her children was love, and that is a good thing.  I have no doubt that she longs for her children to be nurtured, fulfilled and to thrive.  Those are such honest and earnest desires.  But, a big part of me wanted to reach through the television, put my arms around her and remind her that the best gift that she could ever give her sons is the gift of each other, and she's already done that!
It is difficult to describe the relational dynamics and atmosphere of fellowship in a home with many children.  You would think that, in a home that is pressed to the edges with the energy and stuff of six boys, that there would be a great battle for individual ownership and possession, but that's far from true.

Of course they have moments of selfishness and compulsive pride of ownership, we all do.  But, one of the most remarkable revelations of having multiple children is that their independence and unique individuality is not compromised with having to share, but rather it is ignited in such a way that each child's personality, their gifts and strengths, become even more pronounced than if they were to be channeled into separate spaces, separate lives, for the sake of having more material good.
I have observed with great satisfaction, in our children, that in the challenges of their brotherhood, as well as the warmth and richness of it, that they learn how to live and experience their personal ideas and goals within a framework of mutual respect, consideration and admiration for those around them. The value of the opportunity that they have to exercise the intellect and the will toward virtue within this framework, within the ordinariness of daily life at home under our parental guidance, is truly immeasurable.
The gift of of brotherhood, for our sons, far surpasses the smaller and less significant gifts that they are admittedly and naturally drawn to, especially toys, games, getting to watch their favorite shows, etc. And, for Steve and I, witnessing on a daily basis the richness and beauty of our sons living, loving and working together has a way of taming our own anxious desires to provide for them a level of material good that, in the end, is not necessary for their happiness nor for their sanctification.
Once upon a time I thought, like that HGTV mom, that it would be nice for our kids to have their own rooms. Thank goodness the providence of circumstance has always meant that the boys have had to share a room.  When we moved into our current home a year ago, they were all terribly disappointed that there was just no way for them to all fit into one room.  Imagine the chaos of five boys packed into one small room??  Even though two boys share a room, it isn't uncommon for a couple of the younger boys to sneak into Ben and Andrew's room, even if it means sleeping on the floor, or squeezing into a narrow space in a small twin bed.
They want to be together.  They choose to be together.  Because somehow, despite fighting over who made which mess and who must clean it up, and other such disputes, at the end of the day, they still choose each other.

The week before school was to begin, a group of neighborhood boys came over and asked Benedict to play.  Andrew answered the door and welcomed them in, and then they proceeded to tell him that they only wanted Ben to come over.  Andrew was polite and gracious, trying his best to hide any disappointment over not being invited.  It wasn't thirty minutes later that Ben came bursting through the door, looking for Andrew.  Brotherhood brought him home.

It's in those very moments, when I see the way that they love each other (without being prompted), just real, honest, relational love that I think to myself, I'm done.

I'm done caring about what other people think about our family size, and I regret every moment that I fretted over their opinions.

I'm done wasting time trying to come up with clever come-backs to insensitive remarks from random strangers, friends and family who feel compelled to speak their minds about the size of our family.

I'm done lying awake at night, my head and my heart wrestling, charity and tact vs. passion and frustration, as I practice over and over again how to respond to condescending passes regarding overpopulation or worse yet, the "waste" of an education on motherhood.

I'm done with all of it. And, truth be told, I should have been done with it a long time ago. Because, really, why should a mother of six incredible boys have to explain or defend her life as a mother to anyone at all? If the opinionated kind can't see how damn good I've got it, then they are the ones who need to explain themselves.

Do you feel it too? Let's give our tired minds and weary hearts a rest, shall we?

At 3:30 today.  I will know exactly where to find George. And there's a good chance that Andrew and Henry and Charlie will be right there with him.  Waiting at the window, watching intently for their brother to come home.

Each other.


Add those three little words together and suddenly you've given you're kids more treasure than any material gifts could ever possibly amount to.


  1. I enjoy so very much when all five of my kids are playing a game together and laughing and having fun.

    1. How wonderful the time that see the gift of those simple moments!

  2. This made me cry when I read it today. I'm sure I've asked before but do you homeschool up until high school?

    We have a bedroom that you have to walk through another bedroom to get to (so it's not legal) and we are thinking about tearing down the walls and putting in two sets of bunk beds. Because the girls just want to be together. The three oldest are together now and sleeping better than ever (with the toddler bed on the floor).

    1. We take the "one child at a time, one year at a time" approach. Even though we prayed hard about sending Ben to school and really feel that this is what God is asking of us and of him, it's not easy - I miss him! Who knows what the future holds for his brothers....that is yet to be discerned.

  3. Susan, you've done it again! This is absolutely beautiful! I'm praying I can stop caring about the opinions of the nay-sayers as well. Thanks for letting us see the incredibly special closeness your family shares :)

  4. I'm so happy that you are done caring about the insensitive remarks that people feel entitled to make (I can't figure out that sense of entitlement!!!).
    Love that Ben came home to be with his brothers instead of hanging out with his friends. Even though I only have 2 boys, I always want them to be friends with each other as much as with other people because a brother is always going to "be there."

  5. Well, goodness. You've got me in TEARS, woman! First of all, bless George and all his sweetness, and Ben, who loves his brothers so.

    But thank you for saying "I'm done..." It's all such a waste of energy, isn't it? Worrying what other people think. And even when I'm ready to pull my hair out over sibling squabbles, I know that being together is hard, yes, but in those trials is sanctification. For them and for me.

  6. Before we had a large family, I wondered if having a lot of kids meant the parents had a "herd" mentality with them. Did they see the kids individually? Or just as a group. Silly me. Sharing rooms definitely doesn't quash their uniqueness at all! Nor does sharing everything! I wish I could loan some friends my house for the day so they could see what it's really like.

    1. Such great points!! More children don't divide our love, they multiply it! :)

  7. I love your big, beautiful family. You mommas that have these great families are my heroes! Keep up the amazing work. Truly, lovely!!

  8. Great post! I am a soon-to-be mother of 5 boys. I have 3 now, ages 8, 6 and 4 and am expecting twin boys to arrive within the next 4-5 weeks. I have struggled with having a family of 5 kids - especially 5 boys and you have helped me over the past months realize what a blessing and a gift it will be to me and to them. God has a greater purpose than I can even imagine!

    1. Oh, my goodness! 5 BOYS!!! Yay! Well, I can tell you that you will have moments when you will truly long to have another female in the house...that is normal. But, God knows all and has a great plan for you and your family, and those boys are truly something special!

  9. There you go again, hitting the nail on the head. Who was it that said, "the greatest gift we can give a child is a sibling"? You elaborated perfectly. :)


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