Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Those Duggars!

I just read an article criticizing the Duggar family.  Imagine that.  It's no surprise in this green-obsessed and material-minded world that a family with nineteen children would be picked to pieces. Such a strain on the environment!  Such deprivation!  Such neglect! 

Pish posh! I could write a book about how large families are no more strain on the environment than any other group of ten or twelve people; we are in fact less strain on the planet because we share space and resources as a unit and are forced by monetary constraints to be frugal.  I could also talk your ear off about how the only environment that really requires our attention is the moral environment and that all other responsibilites flow from its health and well-being.  Then I could go on and on about how my ten children are not deprived but enriched because they're not spoiled by material possessions; they learn to share with their many brothers and sisters for the happiness of all.  And, I could recite all of this to you fairly dispassionately.  But the one accusation that gets my hackles up is that the child of a large family must necessarily be neglected -- as their parents could not possibly "do it all."  POPPYCOCK!

Anyone who thinks this knows not of what they speak.  They are sadly ignorant.

The writer of the MSN article I read, Allison McDowell Enstrom, in her ignorance, said this:  The reality of having so many kids, though, is that one mom and dad just couldn't possibly do it all. At some point, the older kids have to be stand-in or part-time parents to the younger ones. Maybe Jim Bob and Michelle, themselves, inadvertently admitted that when they said on their Web site that one of their goals in parenting a large family is making sure they have individual conversations with each child at least -- wait for it -- once a week!

As if the older children nurturing the younger ones is a bad thing?  As if it were a failing that the Duggar parents make a conscious point of connecting with each of their children once a week?  Give me a break!  Talk about being purposely dense!  Ms. Enstrom seems to want to believe, first of all, that Jim Bob and Michelle don't exchange words with their children all week long, then make an appointment to chat occasionally. Puh-lease.   It doesn't requre a whole lot of thought to divine that the Duggars -- Mom, Dad and Children -- talk all day long every day.  They're homeschoolers, for heaven's sake!  All we homeschoolers do all day long is talk, talk, talk:  parent to parent; parent to children as a group; parent to individual children; child to child to child to child: to parent to child to parent.  We swim in communication.  It's what we do best.

BUT, like the Duggars, Dan and I also make a conscious point to take time as often as possible to connect one-to-one, without distraction with each individual child.  When I go shopping, I take one child with me, a different one in his or her turn each time.  In good weather, we schedule time to go on hikes together, just parent and child -- to talk or just to be -- alone together. How many small, conventional families, who spend less time with their children than homeschoolers like the Duggars (typically only on vacation and after school and sports practice and homework, etc, etc, etc) plan one-on-one time with their children?  I venture to guess that many don't give the notion a second thought.  As a matter of course, their life schedules and priorities are very different from "super families" like the Duggars.  And with only a small handful of children, the focus might easily be distracted toward worldly goals. But let's face it, in a large family, there is no forgetting it: the children are what the family is about.

And, now, onto the notion that really gets my goat -- how neglected and put-upon those poor little Duggar children are because their big brothers and sisters step in to help Mom and Dad.  Poor things! How sad that Ms. Enstrom doesn't know different.   I suppose many small families (which I define as less than five members altogether) wouldn't know the blessings they are missing by having the support, love, and interaction of  big brothers and sisters alongside their parents.  Truly, it's sometimes God's Will that families don't know this great advantage, but it saddens me that in the absence of experience anyone could condemn such a great blessing.  There's an awful lot of exercise out there,with all the jumping to conclusions.

Here are the facts from someone who knows:  Contrary to what many in the world may think, the practice of having the older children in large families work and help with the household and in the raising of their little siblings, isn't a bad thing.  On the contrary, it's a wonderful thing!

I admit freely and joyfully that we have many little mothers and dads in our family. Dan and I do not do all the teaching or nurturing or even all the scolding around here.  Not by a long shot!  And I thank God for it.  Because they participate in the running of our home, our grown up children are loaded to the fingertips with life skills of all kinds before they graduate from high school. By the time our oldest were ten years old, they  were proficient at changing diapers, loading a baby into a car seat, and coralling a toddler.  They knew how to make a simple meal, how to clean up after themselves, and how to take care of animals on the farm. Their littler brothers and sisters looked up to them and depended on them as alternatives to Mom and Dad for support and help -- and play -- from their earliest years.  Now that they're growing up and moving away from home, our oldest sons are still  the help, support, counsel, and good friends of all their siblings.  None of them has ever taken the place of Mom and Dad in authority or parental love -- but each of their roles of leadership and guidance in the family is vital and irreplaceable.    And now here on the homefront, the "lower six" of our children are establishing their own order; child number five, Michelle and her next little sisters,Theresa, Cathy are the new "top dogs," learning to take care of business, keep house, and corral their little brothers. It's a beautiful thing  to see. Everyone brings his or her own unique contribution to the whole. It's what scientists call a symbiotic relationship; everyone benefits.

[As an aside: One of the chief benefits we've enjoyed in our big family is the peer pressure.  Our children have often said that there is no way any one of their siblings would or could go astray because they wouldn't let it happen.  And, none of them would dare go astray, because they couldn't get away with it.  They have too many guardians watching.  What parent would not want this kind of support in their duties? Nothing gets missed. Noone is left out.]

Take my word on it: no one in a family like the Duggars is neglected.  The love goes around and around and around and the parents are at the head and the middle of the swirl. For many, it is unimaginable the number of children there are to love in numerically blessed families.  But what they don't understand is that, with so many family members, there are also many dear ones to be loved by.  And a parent's love does not run out after child number two.  Love is not finite.  The more you give away, the more you have to give.  It's not measured in material goods or time, either.  This may be a hard concept for someone to understand who hasn't been blessed by growing up in a crowd of loved ones, but as the daughter of a family of seven children and the mother of a family of ten I can vouch for the truth of it.

Children from a properly-functioning big family take for granted the love and attention that nurtures them throughout their lives. In the same way an only child comes to expect worldly goodies and summer vacations, a Duggar or Davis child couldn't imagine life without the special advantages of a big family. They often don't realize how good they've got it. The biggest complaint we parents of abundance hear, for instance, (chiefly from our teenagers) is  that they're never alone.  But, it's only a matter of time before they realize that the greatest blessing of their lives is that they're never alone.  When they're little and squabbling, when they're teenagers finding their way, when they're young adults out in the world, when they become parents themselves, when they're old and grey -- children from large families will always have others in the world who love them:  people who understand the world in the same way because they grew up with the same ethic, culture, and experience; people who won't be bashful about criticizing, but who'll drop everything and come to their aid in a heartbeat.  And if one sib can't be there, some one or two or three or six others out of the rest of the gang will be there.  And out of those someone is bound to be equipped to help with whatever is needed.  I said it before: it's a beautiful thing to see, a beautiful way to live.

No, indeed: there is no neglect in my family of ten children and none  in the Duggar family.  Quite the opposite.  I wish the whole world could know the blessing we live.  I expect this is why the Duggars, in spite of the contempt and criticism of the world, have the courage to share their love-filled and faith-filled family life.

  God bless them.

* BTW:  Other big families might enjoy this site or this one and I love this one ; all full of clever t-shirts, mugs and the like for big families.  Fun stuff!

** Please excuse the really weird spacing and justification on here; I'm having Blogger problems and can't figure out how to fix it.  If anyone out there has had this problem, please, please, can you tell me how to fix it?

24 comments:

Sara said...

AMEN, Sister!!

Joannof10 said...

Hooray!! Hooray!! Well said!!

Gabriele said...

BEST post ever :) <3 Thank you!

Soutenus said...

Wonderful post!
I wonder of the author has ever written an article criticizing the 1 to 2 child family in which the parents put the kids into day care at 7am and pick them up at 6pm. I saw this too many times to count as a teacher . . . . and I am talking about parents that do this by choice not out of financial need. Now THAT is neglect although it is completely acceptable in our society.

Cheryle said...

Just last week some lady in the waiting room picked up a magazine with the Duggers on it and said, in a snotty tone, to her daughter, "You know those older kids are taking care of those littler kids."
I said, "Yeah, we only have 8 but it is wonderful to see all my children pitch in and do things with their siblings."
She then said something about how she stopped at two...it was all she could handle. In front of her daughter :( I said, "I can't imagine only having two. My kids are so wonderful. It'd be like having too many flowers or too much money." Oh, and said in front of two of my kids.
Loved this, Lisa!

MightyMom said...

will you adopt me....uh, and my kids??

Mary Bennett said...

Love what you wrote, love your whole blog actually. We have six kids, two are on their own, the third is getting ready to fly. Our house seems so empty now with only three kids most the time. I'm never sorry we had 6 kids but I'm often sorry we we didn't have more!

Wesley Anne said...

Great post, Lisa. God bless you and your beautiful family. We have six, but two were not meant to stay here. God's will be done. I'm hoping He will bless us with more.

Linda Higgins said...

Lisa, I am so glad you sounded off about large families. I have 5 brother and a sister. It was awesome growing up in a LARGE family and....ANYONE WHO SAYS DIFFERENTLY is just plain ole jealous!

Mum2eight said...

clap clap clap. Hooray hooray hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You have said it all Lisa.

Corinne said...

Thank you, that was very beautiful!

becomewhatyouare said...

beautifully said!

Michelle said...

Amen! Well said!

I think the Duggars are an inspiration!! I envy them! God only saw fit to bless us with 3.

Marilena said...

exceptional post! i come from a family of 10 myself! i wouldn't have it any other way!

Alexandra said...

I watch the Duggar's show every Tuesday and Thursday. They are such an inspiration. I think some of the criticism is jealousy and/or an insecurity in their own parenting abilities.

Mama Rachel said...

Thank you so much for defending the Duggars and other large families like mine so very succinctly! I'm so tired of selfish people with child-allergies that enjoy lecturing me about my "selfishness" in having another baby. (#11)*grrrrr!*

I really appreciate everything you said!!!

Handsfullmom said...

Jumped over from Rachel's blog and wanted to say thank you for your thoughtful words!

Jenni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mostly Diane said...

awesome post-- thanks!! We love our big family.

Christiane said...

Thank you for this great post !

A French mother of 6

Anonymous said...

Well stated.

Vickie said...

I 2nd all you have said. Great post and very well said. Thank you!!!!

Owner of Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website said...

Hello! I am Judy: Mom of 10, Grammy to 3, and really happy to have found your great post via Vickies "Tumbleweed News" blog:)
God bless you and thank you for enlightening those who might not understand "the big, beautiful picture of a big, beautiful family"!

Tania @ Larger Family Life said...

What a great post! Thank you.