In church on Sunday, the pastor used a quote by C. S. Lewis to illustrate why it is important that the Church be comprised believers being corporately together. It was an interesting discussion, but I was struck by the quote.
"In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets." C. S. Lewis from The Four Loves
This is the closest I have ever come to being able to explain what having many children is like. It is not just that there are many individual people in a large family, but on top of the individuals, there are all the connections between them. Each child brings out something different in each of the other people in the family. Things about that person that might not have been brought out in any other way. Of course, sometimes it happens that these traits are not altogether positive, but mostly they are. We are all more ourselves because there are more of us.
The converse is also true. Lewis goes on to say that when one of his friends, Charles Williams died, not only did he lose that friend, but he also lost the part of J.R.R. Tolkein that Charles Williams brought out.
I've always noticed that when one of our children is missing, the hole seems far bigger than one out of twelve should be. But Lewis nailed it. Because that one person is missing, we are missing little (or big) chunks of each of the others. Ask any parent of a large family. Even one child not being there creates an enormous hole.
More children does not just mean more children. It brings a new level of depth to every member of the family. This is what many people miss when looking in from the outside. They just see numbers, and perhaps laundry and food. But the actual experience is different. In a functional family, the uniqueness of each member is reflected in every other family member. It's like a giant family version of a Fresnel lens. Each person is more who they are, because of the others. Notice I said functional. I know full well there are dysfunctional large families. Family size does not guarantee health. But the flip side is also true. Having a small family does not guarantee family functionality, either. There are plenty of dysfunctional small families, too. It turns out health is not really a size issue.
We need other people. Yes, even us introverts. Not only do we need other people for companionship and all those other good people things, but we need them to show us aspects of ourselves that we might not have known otherwise.