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.

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15 impressions

  1. This is so great Bailey! We have ten kids, and this came up a little bit last night at a church singing we attended for the first time. Full of old ladies "pumping us for information". (Direct quote!) They weren't as bad as some people, the lady sitting across from me came from a family of 14 kids. I sometimes find myself thinking the same thing about other large families, so my remedy is remember everybody's name! Everyone having a name makes it easier for everyone to have an identity.

  2. ¡Bravísima!
    Did you know that before your family arrived, my family was considered a "large" family. My brothers and I used to hear people ask my mum, "Are they all yours?" As we grew older, we didn't go shopping together so we don't get the same question, but we were getting it because my parents had four children. As your siblings grow older and don't go shopping with you as much, you'll probably stop hearing that question so often.

    Again, ¡Bravísima!

  3. Yes, people just don't understand how wonderful big families are.

  4. I'm the oldest of seven very different personalities who would leave the world deprived if one of them didn't exist! My family is always open to welcoming more lives into our family. What a joy it is! It isn't uncommon for my mother, my youngest sister (age 2), and myself to be mistaken for three generations, rather than two! I love being from a big family and hope that God will bless me with children of my own someday; the number is up to Him, but I would welcome as many as He gives.

    I've asked my dad (who, when first married to my mom, intended to have the usual 2.5 children) if he thinks life would be easier if he had stayed with his original plan. He just smiles now and say, "Yep, but I would have missed out on so much!".

    If only people could see the blessing, not the burden; if only they could see the lives being formed, not the numbers stacking!

    God bless, Bailey! Good post!

  5. You are not the first born. I'm going to tell Chase. ;) "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." You were born second, miss. :D

  6. Abby -- I love older ladies. They always surprise me.

    Jake -- We're already getting to the point where we don't go shopping together...where the older ones are leaving for college and jobs and other friends and other lives...where there are enough babysitters that I can go alone with my parents to a banquet and have the lady across from us ask if I'm their only child.

    Your Spanish reminds me that I had my first lesson last week! Test me on Sunday. I'm woefully ignorant but I can say what I like and who I am and how I feel. :P Which is all a guy needs to know about a lady, anyway.....;o)

    Rachel -- Yay for big sisters! I love the confusion of being thought the two-year-old's mother. Well, maybe not that much.

    Bethany -- WHY YOU LITTLE....I only meant I came before you, my dear, which means that I'm infinitely more important.

  7. Well, if it makes you (or your Mom) feel any better, it only takes *two* to fight in the grocery aisle, and *one* to pick his nose in front of a well-groomed woman or (ahem) knock a glass pickle jar off the shelf.

    I'm sorry your Dad gets the brunt of rude comments. Those folks are just ignorant, in the meaning that they simply don't *know*. They don't *know* how delightful and interesting you all are as persons...souls. They don't *know* how lovely (and love-filled) your family is.

    They're missing out.

  8. Hello. I'm #2. What makes you think I have some sort of individuality?


    Haha. Weird.

    Anyway, I agree. Each kid is unique and special. When your dad gets snide comments, he should ask the person, "Which kid should I get rid of???" =) Seriously! What do those people think, that you should just get rid of a kid or something?? You have too many (supposedly), and what exactly do they think you should do about it now?

    Great post.

  9. As an only child, I say "Hurrah!!!" to this post. :-) I think big families are beautiful and exceptional and wonderful. Unfortunately, my parents weren't able to have more children, and I can certainly say that there has been a little hole in the world because there were so many wanted children that never made it here. Yet on the other hand, God is sovereign, and so I know that while I still feel the hole sometimes, it's somehow a perfect hole. Funny how that is.


  10. If someone ever said there were too many children in my family, I'd just say, "Which ones would you like to remove?"
    I can't imagine my life without my sweet baby sister, or my cute, funny littlest brother, or my adorable seven-year old brother or...
    If I go through the whole list this comment will be too long. ;) But my point is, I agree, Bailey! If one of my siblings got "removed", it wouldn't be "Oh, well, we have so many that losing one of them doesn't make much difference."
    Instead, it would leave a gaping hole in our family---and in the world.

  11. Ugh- I know whatcha mean about Caroline's birth reactions. We got a lot of the same about TJ from my dad's side of the family. -_-

    Our whole world today is designed and revolves around the "two kids, two parents" family...with maybe enough room to squeeze in an extra kid. If you have more than four kids, be prepared to spend the rest of your life buying two boxes of everything, unless you get a Costco membership. *eyeroll*

  12. Where we are there are 5 families with either 9 or 10 children. The funny part is when someone meets a person from one of the families, they say, "Oh do you know that other family that has all those kids?" We laugh over it (why would they think we all know each other?) but it's funny because we all do know each other.
    I have 9 younger siblings and they are great fun. We don't get too many comments because we very rarely all go shopping together and everyone in our church is used to it. We did have one person count us once (we had 8 kids and mom was pregnant). She was not well mannered and said "You have seven children?" Mom said, "No ma'am, I have eight."
    I love being part of a big family. :)

  13. Love this! I'm a young mother(age 26) with 8 kids(ages 7 to 15 months) and get all kinds of looks and comments when I take them shopping("they're not all yours" tell me they're not, and blah blah). I love my babies. I would love to have more! I'm homeschooling them too. Yeap I'm pretty wierd according to society.

    I've recently started blogging and would love if you'd check out my site


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