I’ve grown both tired of and used to the common reaction I get from most people when they hear how many children Mike and I would like to have. Yes, I know it doesn’t make sense to most people why we would want a large family, in this “day and age”, but also I’ve been fielding that question since I was about eight years old. In fact, I can still remember one of my first adlib Afrikaans orals I did in high school had me batting off that question. Mostly it’s been my dream, and thankfully I have a man who was and still is on board with it- so now it’s our dream. God-willingly, of course.
Maybe if you knew that I come from a large family, you’d maybe better understand why wanting a big family is less suprising than it is obvious. And when trying to explain it to people, over the years I’ve found that my reasoning always tends to gravitate towards my sibkings.
We are five (and were actually six) siblings. We have quite a few huge gaps between some of us, and yet, we are still so close. And all my memories of growing up are saturated with memories of my siblings. Everything.
I remember how going out anywhere as a family was a major and well-co-ordinated event that actually wasn’t coordinated at all. Banging on the bathroom door to hurry the next one up. Cutting in the showerline so that you’re not the one that deals with an empty geyser. The chaos of the home, and blur of everyone bustling past each: Get done in the bathroom! How long are you going to still iron? Where is your brother?! Where’s my other shoe!? Who took my brush? Seriously, where is your brother?! …and let’s not talk about all squishing into one car for our trek to anywhere.
From exciting Christmas mornings, to first days at school. From being taught how to savour bubblegum milkshake to how to throw a punch. From being convinced to eat my own boogers, to step into dog poop, and being taught every trick in the “boy book”. From being taught how to shoot a catapult to the different levels of “dont be a sissy,suck it up”; “Don’t cry, its not bleeding”. “Don’t cry, its bleeding, not broken”. “Don’t cry, its broken but you’re still alive” – gotta love brothers, eh!” (By the way, I swallowed everyone of those tears for any chance at being allowed to play with my brothers.)
To being taught about the conditions of wearing twirly dresses: scrub your knees! To sharing rooms, where you giggle in the dark until your mom storms in with yet another threat of, “If I have to come in here one more time…”. And as the years passed, those late night giggles then developed into, “Do you think I should date him?” and “what did I ever see in him?” And also to sharing rooms where being taught the fine art & precision of pillow poofing and laying are lessons, that anyone who has ever shared a room with my sister, will never soon forget!
I remember annoying my sister to her wits ends, and then sheepishly cuddling up to her at night when the prospects of the bogey man became greater. And more clearly, I remember her not hesitating to provide that crook in her arm or waist for me to find some refuge.
I remember the dance sessions that my sister and brothers sometimes had, as they flipped the vinyls on my dad’s old record player and grooved in the dining room. And I certainly won’t forget how we all huddled around my eldest brother when he brought home the latest tech in music – a cd player!
And forever engrained in all our minds, Im sure, are early morning birthday brekkies in bed and Saturday morning brekkies in the mountains where we catch and release tadpoles in the natural pools before we trek back home.
How about the care-free days of rollerskating in our neighbourhood, and of course, camping every year by the beach, spending our days with sand in toes and sunkissed & salty skin. Aaah, magic!
So many fine and amusing memories we have together – memories that almost always come up when we get together around my mom’s dinner table. We rehash them, crash into laughter and leave late that evening with our bellies worn out from laughter and our souls topped up with the good stuff.
And yes, the good times do provide a lasting glue that makes life all mushy and sparkly, but there’s also another kind of glue that’s cultivated only in the rough times. And it’s just as important. It didn’t matter what was going down in that home, we could always turn to each other. Or at the very least, one out of the group. Even in those times when it may have seemed just to heavy or too scary to take to our parents first, we could band together and provide that supportive net for the one that needed it. There was safety and trust in that net. A net that says, “Ive got you.” It says “you are loved, always”. Its says “you belong”. “You are enough.” And often acted like a homing signal. Still does.
Yes, we could fight and tease like no other (that’s like part of the definition and duties of siblinghood). And, yes, there were moments of some really tough love and tears. Wow, some really rough times. But we also supported each other, protected each other…and always love each other.
There are these invisible threads that have been woven through us…that no matter what, we remain bound.
But here’s the thing, these bonds don’t just foster themselves. It’s not just a matter of have a bunch of kids and “let’s see what happens”. Nope. Parents actually play an active role in the creation of these bonds. And just like any of our jobs as parents, it’s vital for us to lay those foundations down early for them to continue building on it.
It’s only as a young adult that I realised just how active my folks were in the weaving of those threads. How hard it may have been for them at times, how important it was for them and to them, and how rewarding it must have been for them when those threads start taking hold. Growing, until it took on it’s own momentum.
It’s a beautiful thing. The gathering of us. Or, in fact, any other large family I’m honoured enough to witness in gathering. Those rare times that my siblings and I gather around my mom’s table are always special for me. The way time slips by without our realisation- we’re happily trapped in the moment.
I see it on my mom’s face too, I see that satisfaction. I see the delight. She doesn’t even need to stay in the room at the dining table with us to be able to enjoy the fruits of their weaving. She would often excuse herself from the table to retreat to her bedroom, when it became really late, or when the hilarious confessions come out thick and fast. But she could still hear us, and I often think that’s enough for her – the mere sound of our laughter and chatter in her home- in our home. I think so.I definitely think so, because there’s a look on her face. It’s a similar look I get on my own face.
I watch how our children enjoy each other. How they can’t wait to be in each other’s company again after nap time, and reunite like they’ve just spent a lifetime. (If Morgy wakes before Parker, she will literally sneak past us and into Parker’s room to go wake her up to play. While Parker again has expressed her huge disappointment when running into her sissie’s room only to find her still asleep. She disheartendly retreats with shoulders slumped, lips hanging on the floor and heaving out a heavy, “aww, mannnn” in disappointment.)
I watch how Morgy races past me to go console Parker if she has a boo-boo.She has the most tender manner with her, along with that familiar syrupy momma-voice that makes it all better. I love how Parker curls up to her big sis in bed for story time, and that big sis is all too eager to “read” for her. I love how they can complement each other – “Oh, Parker you are so beautiful. Look at your hair” … “Morgah-Hee! Wow! You’re so brave!” Or “you’re so funny do it again!”
I love how they stand up for each other: Parker has already delivered some heavy punches and finger wagging to Mike and myself for putting Morgy in the naughty corner – “You don’t make my sissy kai(cry)!”…“why you make her kai?!”…(Oh, boy! Beware the soul of the boy who tries to break Morgy’s heart! He has little sister over here to deal with.)
I also have to endure their fights (Lord, give me patience and wisdom!). No one here has the upper hand though: Morgy seems to know how to press just the right buttons (the classic passive aggressive teaser ), whereas Parker doesn’t hesitate to physically sort out a dispute with her fists (or head) if you fail to quit teasing her.
But I also like how they balance each other out too. How they teach each other. And just generally, I love how they can’t get enough of each other. And I hope they never lose that, and that it only grows.
And I know, all too very well, that it all starts with Mike and myself. Yes, there’s a lot of personality involved here too. But left unchecked, it could derail or back fire. It is, therefore, up to us as parents to model the kind of relationships we hope and dream for them to have as they grow, and find ways of reinforcing it. Where they understand what healthy relationships consist of. Where they learn to navigate the social minefields of life (siblings provide fertile grounds for such life lessons, by the way). And mostly, where we can gladly rest in peace, knowing that long after we are gone, they will care for each other like only siblings can.
And with all the weaving we’re doing, those two little beasties of ours have inadvertently spun a different kind of magic around us. The kind that only exists between parent and child. And despite what any rough tides it brings with it, it remains enchanting and all consuming, with laughter that echoes through our home. Whistling non-stop bustle in our house, one of perpetual and beautiful chaos – a wonderfully familiar scene to me, and a new and charming scene for Mike.
It seems to be a measure of bliss that has only doubled with each child. It feeds my being in a way that nothing else in this world ever could. Yes, it rips and strips too, but there’s no room for the unnecessary in this world of abundant love.
Now… picture that dynamic with two or three more siblings thrown in the mix! (I’ll give you a moment to get past the craziness of that statement)
Based on all of the above, do you now see why I get excited about the prospect of a bigger family? The madness, the love, the bustle, the life, the adventure, the beauty…and again, the love. So, so, so much love.
I look forward to days where Mike and I, old and grey, can also retire to our bedroom from our dining room table, as our own children gather together, and get lost in the world of each other. Where we as parents, fall asleep to the sound of their chatter, with our hearts brimming over with love and satisfaction of well-spun ties that bind. They’ll always have each other, and if we’ve done anything right, they shall love each other as we love them all.