Large Families Are People Too!3:34 AM
Long shopping trips in the Big City hours away from home (and lunch) drive me crazy. They usually involve shoe, clothes or home improvement shopping, three of the dullest and most frustrating experiences known to humanity. And unless it's a lucky Mom/Daughter/Sister Date, all younger kids are in tow.
I love my little siblings. Really, I do. But without fail, someone picks their nose or picks a fight -- right when the sweet old lady pushes her shopping cart by. Equally without fail, she gasps, wide-eyed, "Are they all yours? They're so well-behaved!"
Always. No joke. Even on grocery days, which interest me far more, someone always stops my mother, her two carts and her nine children with some passing word of praise. I've yet to see a flat-out birth control argument happen in aisle 20. I am still mystified at how the Bergmanns pass themselves off as docile, well-behaved children.
Now with my daddy, it's another story entirely. He shops alone and works with people who've never seen all nine of us in action (desk photos don't count). He gets the grouchy lady in the check-out line who makes a snide comment about the wastefulness of two carts-full. He deals with those who fall into walls when he mentions he has nine children. He takes the "Snip-snip!" jokes and the "Don't you know what causes that?" whispers. If he's had a positive reaction, I don't recall it. The night he came home with another joke about "fixing" the problem, I near hit the ceiling.
I'm tired of individuals being assigned numerical value.
That family with ten kids? Each and every child in it is an individual -- a person -- a being who is capable of giving and receiving. She's not the Ninth Child. He's not an extension of the familial glob. They're not a "large family." We're people -- and there's nothing weird about being a person.
The Walmart shoppers and JoAnn's haunters and Goodwill patrons -- when they see a mother and nine children, they see people, souls, dreams, hopes, talents. They see little noses and freckles, gangly arms, big blue eyes and bigger smiles. They shake hands and exchange pleasantries with a Large Family of nine separate individuals. The people who know my dad as "the father of nine" think of us as numbers -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Some can't count that high. It bowls them over. Nine children. Not one Bailey, one Bethany, one Daniel Franklyn, but nine -- count 'em -- kids.
I remember the few frowns at the announcement of Caroline's birth. It'd be unthinkable -- another baby, the disapproval said. Another one. Number nine. What's really unthinkable? Not waking up to that baby pounding on my door, yelling, "Wake up, Bailey! Wake up! Do pweschool!" Not scooping her big girl little body all warm and yummy into my arms. Not waiting at the top of the stairs for her to catch up so she can sit with me during math. Even for the naysayers, Baby Number Nine ended up their biggest joy, their (secret) favorite.
The world would have a hole if she were not here.
When people talk about large families being morally repugnant, I bristle. I'm acceptable, being the second. I'm normal -- I was born first. But somehow the younger ones aren't as human. They're not as special as the first child. They're leading a downward spiral of decency decay.
We need to retrain how we view children -- as people, not assigned numbers; as individuals, not "large families." No more do I say, "I want a large family." I say, "I want every single one of them." One or twelve -- each is a person with just as much right to be here as anybody else.
"You have such a large family!" someone told me once.
I smiled. "Not really," I said. "I keep thinking how we're so very small."
Love knows hearts -- not quantity.