I responded (see here) to an article in TIME about the Duggars’ decision to welcome another child into their home. The TIME journalist couldn’t fathom how the Duggars could desire a 20th child, and my response tried to explain why. Ultimately, the Duggars have Love in the House, and a house of love often desires another child. I got the following response from someone:
If [parents of large families] really loved their children, they might trying polling their whole brood to see how many of them would appreciate another rival for Mom and Dad attention, time and affection. Love can do a lot of things, but it can’t add more hours to the day, or overcome the maddening distractions of living in a round-the-clock nursery, when all you want is some quality alone time with your poor exhausted parents.
There are a lot of problems with this person’s idea of large families. It’s pretty much this: “Large families must be miserable, and the children don’t get as much attention from their exhausted parents as in small families.” Not surprising, really, that this perspective may be common. We live in a “family planning” world where 1 or 2 children (that’s it!) is considered the perfect family. Love has little to do with it. More children, the idea goes, would be a burden to everyone in the house.
But there is a magic about large families that this criticism fails to see. Large families, as opposed to small ones, find it more difficult to ignore LOVE. In a small family, love may go unnoticed, as the few people in the large home can hide their hard hearts away from the rest of the family in their own rooms. In a large family, there is little way to let those many unloving attributes (bitterness, selfishness, spite, etc.) go unnoticed. A house where everyone loves each other seems to be the unavoidable choice around our home. We cannot hide in seclusion, we need to learn to love everyday. We see this magic come alive in most large families we know.
There is another point in this person’s imagined idea of what it’s like to live in a large family: parental centrality. It is naive to think that the center of the home is the parents. Funny thing, though, is that we all (including Wendy and me!) start out thinking the center of the home is the parents. When we started our family 20 years ago, we imagined our sweet children gathering at our feet to honor and love us who gave them life, all the way through adulthood. Oh my, how naive we were. See, as children grow and move into lives of their own, we either cling to or release this fantasy. Those parents that cling become frustrated, and those that let God bless their children become love-filled, joyful, proud parents.
Our walk with Jesus has had a magical way of steering things back to the most most important commandment of LOVE. Our home of 16 is awesome, and Wendy and I want nothing more than to encourage you down a similar road. Our kids don’t exhaust Wendy and me, we don’t exhaust them, and they don’t exhaust each other. We love one another. And love is a compounding reality. The more lives involved, the more love grows, and the magic of a large family carries on.