Thursday, January 03, 2013

Enlarging your family

I'm on an email group for adoptive parents who also homeschool. One mother posted a query asking for people's experiences of going from 3 to 4 children... Could she manage it? Is four that much more work than three? Would she have time for another child? The questions parents ask when contemplating adding another child regardless of the number. Someone else on the group suggested I post my response here as well. And that's what I'm going to do since I'm elbow deep in cleaning out my desk and discovering all sorts of unexpected items that I have let slide over the holidays. It's not been a happy morning for me, but once I get everything sorted out (by dinner, I hope) I know I will feel significantly better.

So, here's my reply:

I've been meaning to reply to this, but life kept getting in the way. In some ways, once you reach a certain point, adding another child just means that you throw in an extra load of laundry and start tripling everything instead of just doubling it. There are some things which once you reach a certain number, it just doesn't matter... a big enough vehicle, learning how to manage when you're out-numbered, large amount cooking, not fitting at a four-person table at a restaurant, etc.

Three of my 10 are adopted and all of those three require more doctor's appointments than my bio. children. (Usually. Of the three surgeries we've lived through so far, they were all for bios. ) I have one son who sees a therapist weekly which requires a 1 1/2 hour drive, one-way, to get to; one son is cleft-affected so we will have surgeries in the future, and a daughter has multiple medical issues which require pretty on-going medical appointments with a whole host of doctors. Some seasons it seems like a lot and others it feels more manageable.

Given that, though, my most difficult transition was between numbers one and two. I had an easy first baby and mistakenly thought it had something to do with me. My second came along and did his very best to disabuse me of that notion. And therein lies the crux of whether parenting seems easy or doable... whether I think I have any at all to do with it. I have learned over and over throughout the years that if left to my own devices, I'm actually a pretty rotten parent. It's only when I give up my expectation of how life 'should' be and the illusion that I have control over it that God can come alongside and help. I can parent with God's help, and blow it nearly every time without it. My most difficult child continues to be our first adopted son (the one seeing the therapist), but while his transition was difficult it had nothing to do with number of children. He would have been difficult whether I had one child or 12.

I do sometime worry about what all this does to the children who were around before... am I cheating them somehow; would their lives have been better with fewer children? In listening to their conversations with others and observing them, I really don't think that's the case. I have watched my oldests be noted for their ability to work with anyone, including very difficult people. I have seen a level in compassion in them that I'm not sure would have been there otherwise. Academically, I often felt as though they were getting short shrift. There were the years I was pregnant or taking care of a newborn or the years I was dealing with the raging child or just the time we were gone due to adoption travel. But they are doing well at the college level and are interesting and interested people. No one in my family is a math genius, but I'm pretty sure that would be the case whether they were only children or went to public school or had expensive tutors for years and years.

It can be challenging homeschooling children who come with educational deficits such as are created in orphanages and substandard care. Once again, I find we do best if I let go of what I think should happen and work with what is. Pretty much, I have a bunch of preschoolers, whether for developmental or emotional delays... and that's where we work. This is particularly true of my newest daughter who came home 9 months ago at age 9. There was so much she missed, so many experiences which help develop the brain and prepare it to learn, that I use my three year old twins as a benchmark. If they like to do something, I encourage my new daughter to do it as well. And pretty much, since she is eager to please and is very curious about her world, she is happy to comply. We would both end up in tears if I expected her to be able to do fourth grade work; her brain just isn't ready for it yet. And, if it takes five years for her to get to a point where she can easily do academic work, that's great. We missed out on so much of her early life that I'm not overly anxious to send her off at the traditional 18 years old. Heck, with my youngest being three, I'll be homeschooling for at least another 15 years.

So much with raising children has to do with expectations, both of what the parent has and what the parents think they should have. Managing (and loving and raising and teaching) lots of children becomes much more doable if you are able to jettison those supposed societal expectations and focus on what the child needs at any given time instead. And the more children you have, I have discovered, the easier this is. I am so far outside the norm, that no one has any idea what they should expect of me anyway. I think just the fact that I am dressed and coherent everyday is above the expectations of some.

As you can imagine, I would say go for another.


Jennifer P said...

I would have to say that you completely and utterly "pegged" that!

Amen and then some.

Julie said...

What a wonderful post! Love it!

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