What My Parents Taught Me About Love

Chris and Wendy in 1991

This article was originally written as a guest post for the UK site

John Wooden wrote, “The greatest thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.” I know from experience in a large family that having parents who love each other is crucial to a child. Among my earliest memories is waiting for dad to come home from work. At the time, I was one of only five children, and my dad was an English teacher at a high school in Fargo, North Dakota. When we heard his car pull up the driveway, everyone would whisper to each other, “Daddy’s home!” After this, we’d scramble to gather around the front door to receive hugs and then mom would give dad a kiss.

That was in the mid-nineties, and I’m now one of sixteen children, but I can honestly say that the most consistent thing I’ve ever known in my family is love. Mom has made a point of seeing that we are all gathered together for all three meals a day—it’s rare to eat separately from the family. Every morning when I was a child, dad would make breakfast for the young children and read aloud classics about friendship like Charlotte’s Web and the Chronicles of Narnia. Mom, too, loved storytelling and would read the Bible and more dramatized history books than I can remember while we practiced our drawing during homeschool.

My parents carefully taught each of us to love and respect each other. When there are fifteen other kids in the house, you automatically learn that sharing is unavoidable. If ever a fight arose between siblings, we were taught an important lesson: that speaking reconciling words, even if I didn’t mean them, taught me to using them meaningfully later on. For instance, many times when I was angry with my younger sister, mom would tell us to apologize to and forgive each other. We would force the phrases “imsorry” and “iforgiveyou” out grudgingly at the time, but today those phrases come to our aid now when we really mean what we’re saying.

Not only did our parents tell us not to fight, they also never fought. I grew up in a peaceful home, where my parents love each other deeply and never argue. Because we saw what it looked like to choose not to blow small matters out of proportion, my siblings and I also rarely fight.

In 2006, my family was featured on the US Learning Channel show Kids by the Dozen. Our Producer, Tracy, was curious about what kept our family together so well. After many interviews in front of the camera, my parents were able to solidify the forerunning message of our family: love. See, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He gave love as the answer. We are to love God and to love our neighbor, and the family unit is where the habit of loving others begins. Even if siblings have clashing personalities, they can learn to love. When troubles hit, love gives a family the ability to help each other through. If one of us is having a bad day, we are surrounded by friends and small children to cheer us up. Growing up in a large family that treasures love is a gift I wish more people had the chance to experience.

  • Lia

    What about showing love to the wife by not getting her pregnant again so that she does not have to spend 3 months or more throwing up, a few more months with pains all over her body, have to be cut open in some cases, have to spend a few more months without sleep, have to drain all her energy to make milk? “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.” Ephesians 5:28. If men got pregnant, families would have only one child, I am sure of that!

    • jet747

      I am sorry to read your comments. I have experience much love from my husband through out our 8 pregnancies in 9 years. ( 7 children, one with Christ) Often we experience love and devotion by going  through the difficult times
      You are “sure” of what men are like or would be like if giving our opportunities but a father who truly embraces life,  truly understands his children’s value and finds joy in his honoured role of father is already sacrificing and gives much for his family. In fact he  would lay down his very life for them.
      I am sad if Ephesians 5:28 has not been your experience, the love and care of a godly husband is a blessing beyond measure. 
      We don’t do this because it is easy, but because it is worth it.

      • Lia

        I am lucky to have a wonderful husband that shows daily his love for me and for our kids, and I am sure he would also be ready to sacrifice his life for us. However, most women that I know that have many kids, and I know lots of them, look completely bitten up, usually they look 10 years older than their husbands, while the husband is still all handsome and with a smile on his face. The women force a smile, but I can see their pain, their never ending exhaustion. So, I think that if a husband really loves his wife he should give a deep look inside her eyes and feel her pain. 

        I know that for religious reasons a lot of these women think that it is what they are supposed to do, so they try not to complain and pretend to enjoy as their bodies start to feel the results of having that many kids.

        I also believe that some women are just addicted to having babies, like the thrill of the new one, to fill an emptiness, the cuteness and all that, that exist in all women in some part as we are all wired to feel this way towards kids so we can raise them. 

        I am a christian too, but I believe that Jesus brought grace to the world, not more commandments. Not a list of laws like have lots of kids. No. In fact nowhere in the new testament it says, oh, Peter, he had 10 kids, oh John, he had 12. What about Aquila and Priscilla? Not one word about how many kids they had. Because for one, the amount of kids one have should not be used to boast one self above others. And second, God does not measure people by the amount of kids they have. 

        Having said that, I really admire people that have the desire to raise many kids, but I don’t agree that the Bible backs that as some kind of commandment. 

        The verse in Psalms 127 used by many about quiverfull concludes “when they contend with their enemies”. King David wanted to have many arrows because he had many enemies. Jesus said, Love your enemies. Second, King David had many wives, so he could have many arrows, and I don’t think that Christians are supposed to have many wives. So kids are a blessing, but they are not our arrows against our enemies, so it does not make sense to use that verse for Christians. 

        Besides that, the man God considered the most faithful man on earth in his time was Noah and he had 3 kids by the age of 500 years. Abraham had only one, as his wife was barren. Isaac had only 2, the twins. Jacob had 12 but with 4 different women. I think Leah had a maximum of 7 kids. And I heard somewhere that according to Jewish tradition the man would only approach his wife again after her labor when the baby had been weaned. So, I find it interesting that in a modern age there is this movement of being natural by having lots of kids and yet only being able to achieve these many kids because of modern medicine. In the past, most babies did not survive the first years and the rate of maternal death was really high. I don’t think that there is nothing wrong with having many kids, but there is something wrong in thinking that it is a commandment to Christians to have many kids. There is no such thing in the New Testament and we are all saved by grace, no more commandments to achieve a holier state. 
        The only times in the Bible where it says be fruitful and multiply was when the Earth was empty! And that is surely not the case today.

        I love my two sons and would give my life for them, but I don’t think God is looking down at me because I chose not to have more, because he was there with me when I had a very terrible natural birth with my first (and I am only alive because of modern medicine), and he was also there when I had a cesarean with my second. And because I am completely accepted in Him because of what He did, I can enjoy my kids without the burden of thinking he wants me to suffer some more. 

        I am sure your kids are happy to have you as their mom, and for the gift of life you gave them. I just hope that everyone that is doing this, having many kids, is doing for the right reasons, and not for any kind of pressure, spiritual, social or emotional. 

        • Jet747

          I totally agree with many of your points,
          christ came to give us life and give it abundantly.
          Children and their lives are not to be a burden but a joy.
          Christ urges us to live relationally, not by a law that is unbending,cold and impersonal.
          We have our children because Jesus has filled us with an understanding about life, and has planted the desire in our hearts for them. We take each life one at a time and are continually seeking His will in all areas of our life.
          It does not matter how many children people have now, or in the past, biblical or other wise. What matters is are we letting Christ’s life live in us. Each life and situation is unique, Christ did not live by the law, but by grace.
          I find your second response so different from the fist, you clearly have an understanding about grace and Christ’s life, we do not have our children because we live by the law, the law has been fulfilled by christ, if I could fulfil the law  then Christ died in vain.
          Just as we have the freedom to embrace the children God gives us others have the choice to refuse, for whatever reasons they are, christ knows your heart. Jesus is a gentleman and does not force himself on use, we are given the freedom of many choices as you have expressed you already know.
          Not every mothers story is the same as yours in response to how you felt about your pregnancies, and not everyone would agree fathers would find the sacrifice to great to go through the process for a second child.
          You do not need to defence your choices . ( no children or 20) When you are being lead by the spirit you can rest in the assurance you are doing the right thing and do not need to take offence when others are doing the same, abiding in Christ to lead  there life, even when the end choices are different then yours regarding children or anything else.

          Your right, you are completely accepted, Jesus love is unconditional and not based on what we do for him but what He had done for us, pretty amazing!

          thanks for the chat
          Jet747 :)

          • Lia

            Yes, when I wrote my first post I had some anger inside my heart, I guess like the one Jesus had on the Pharisees. I think that of all sins, the worst is religious hypocrisy, as even the younger son in the prodigal son parable found grace while the older thought that he was too good to need any. So, I had just the day before met a young friend of mine that already had 2 babies in two years after getting married, and all cesareans, and she is duo again in June.
            She looked anemic, and they were on their way back from a skii trip where her husband had a great time while she took care of the kids. The car trip to such skii resort took them probably 8 hours and she said her baby cried for 3 hours in the car.
            Her husband has told my husband that they will have at least 5 kids not withstanding the fact that she will probably keep having caesarean to achieve that and she works part time from home to help him pay the bills. And I know all this is happening because to get a spiritual status among their church friends you gotta have many kids.
            It breaks my heart to see her and then when for some reason I found out this website I felt that it was wrong to motivate husbands to have lots of kids not taking in consideration the condition of their wives. Jesus commandment is to love Him first, wife second, kids after. So if a man cannot show proper love to his wife he should not seek bringing more kids to this world so he can have more people to love! What a hypocrisy! And that is the reason for my first post.

            • jet747

              right on ! :)

  • Kate

    Wonderful article Cynthia! I enjoyed reading it!