Most of the time I don't think our family is all that big. Yes, there are a lot of us, but it's what we're used to. We see the individuals, not the group as a whole. Does that make sense? When some are missing, many times at least one person will look around and say, "Is that all? Do we have everyone?" Even though the group consists of at least 6 or more people, it seems small because of our normal numbers.
There are times though, when I have moments of seeing our family with someone else's eyes. Those times when I catch a glimpse of my family, yet don't immediately recognize it as such. I do have moments of, "Wow! That's a lot of children!" I then realize it's my own family, laugh, and the size doesn't seem so enormous anymore. Or, I'll look at photos of other families with the same number of children and be momentarily overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. That is until I realize that this family I'm looking at has one less child than I do and I laugh at myself again.
And then there are those times when the full reality of our family size hits me full in the face. This often happens at restaurants when we walk in and the wait staff visibly breaks out in hives and they take many minutes to get enough seating for us. It's logistical things like this that knock me back into every else's reality. Most places are just not set-up to handle this many people. And when we are travelling with friends, who also have a larger than normal number of children, things get really tricky. We have it down to a science.
Step 1: Announce how many seats we need.
Step 2: Calm hostess by assuring her this all works, really.
Step 3: Instruct waitress or waiter that they need only deal with the adults. That we would really rather they deal only with the adults. Please don't ask our children what they want because who knows what they will order!
Step 4: Take orders for each of our children, write them down on the paper I carry with me, and order by family for the whole group.
Step 5: Help wait staff figure out which meal goes to which child. "That goes to the blond in the red shirt. No the other blond. D. raise your hand!"
Step 6: Enjoy meal.
Step 7: Leave with restaurant still intact and with the wait staff thanking us for making it so easy.
This is the present, but last night I had a vision of the future. HG (who we just assume is our 11th child these days) and M. had boyfriends over for dinner along with our smaller number because three (B., A., and D.) are off at church camp this week. It was fun having them there and the littles loved having more audience to play to. But then I did the math. Eleven children = eleven spouses (yes, I'm making assumptions). That makes 22 people, plus me and J. and that's not even counting possible grandchildren. Someone will always have to have a huge house for us to meet in. Logistically it's a little mind-blowing. And if I think meals are loud now...
But you know what? The logistics are worth it. Having this many people around is just fun. Loud, yes. A little crazy, yes. But the amount of love when everyone is together becomes a tangible presence and I wouldn't have it any other way. I need a bigger dining room table, though...