But first I have to share a picture with you.
This is a picture of the combined 25 children of our family, the H-S family, and the P. family. (If you are actually counting children, you will see that there are only 24 actual bodies, but P21 on the right hand end is holding an iPad on which, via facetime, is the oldest H-S daughter who lives on the west coast.) They are all in age order, [click on the link... really... it has a similar past photo from 4 years ago] so the age range is 30 down to 3. (Well make that 3 and 11/12ths because those little girls have birthdays coming very, very soon.) Now that so many of these ever-growing-older children are off to college, being able to have them all together happens very infrequently these days. We had to take advantage of it. They like to humor us, so they all agreed to stand in a line for many pictures. Sorry it's so small, but you have to stand really far back to get this many people in one photograph. (Remember you can click on the picture to make it bigger. I am particularly fond of the interaction between K. and P5 who remain best-buddies.)
I love this picture for two reasons. The first is that these children (and their parents) are our very, very good friends. I've known the P. family for 17 years and I've known the H-S family for 15 years. I have known a very good portion of these children since the day they were born.
The second reason I love this picture is that it captures, for me, one of the single best, most joyful reasons for having a large family... and one I didn't mention yesterday. That would be in a large family, you many ages all at the same time. I can hold and cuddle and laugh with my little three year olds yet I can have grown-up discussions with my oldest. I can be a little sad that B. is about to head for college, but my arms are not empty. (We just won't go into how much I dread telling G. and L. about B.'s plans for the fall. They are not going to understand and will miss him terribly.) There is something about having little children around that helps the older ones not take themselves quite so seriously.
It is a joy to get to enjoy each age. And I know I've said it before, but as a parent, with later children you relax and enjoy them more. You just do. I have talked with enough parents to know this. Yes, you enjoy your firsts, but it is all so new. Each stage is new. With the first two or three you are still pretty much figuring things out as you go along all the way up to grown children. It's a little different with the later ones. You are more relaxed. You can just enjoy them for who they are. You know, really know, exactly how fast it goes. Sure, some of them will throw you a curve ball and you'll be back to the figuring out phase, but even then, your confidence is higher. You've seen how much a child grows and matures over the years and it is a little easier to hold out that little bit of hope you need to get you through. I have found that with each child, my joy in raising them has increased.
And yes that joy outweighs any inconveniences... laundry, cooking, driving large vans. things breaking. Because you know much of that is going to happen regardless of how many children you have. (Well, maybe not driving large vans.) Life happens. Many children just bring more laughter to add to its soundtrack.