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It does happen.

family reunion of a couple of years ago, when there were only 33 cousins

I posted this on Facebook this morning, and it got 218 likes in 38 minutes.  So I figured it was something people need to hear!  From our trip to the beach yesterday:

Lady at the beach:  “Are these ALLLLL your children?”
Me:  “No, actually, I have two more at home.”
Her:  “Two more!  So how many in all?”
Me: “I have nine children.”
Her:  “OH, GOD HAS BLESSED YOU!  MOTHER MARY IS WITH YOU! YOU’RE DOING A BEAUTIFUL JOB!”
Did not see that coming!
Several FB friends mentioned that they make a special effort to say friendly, encouraging things to parents with lots of kids.  I guess because we live in small town New England, it’s pretty rare that I get nasty, sneering comments (although it’s fun to have snappy comebacks at the ready); but lots of big (and even “big”) families get nothing but scowls and horrified gasps when they set foot outside the door.  So if you have something nice or encouraging to say, say it!  Or at least give a big smile.  Some moms really need to know there’s someone on their side.
Also, the nice lady at the beach told me that she “only has two kids,” and I was quick to tell her that there is no such thing as “only” two kids!  People with smaller families often seem to feel like they need to apologize or explain their family size.  No need, no need.  My children are not a statement, and I remember all to well how difficult it was to have two children.  We’re all fighting our own battles, and the last thing Catholics need is to get into fertility contests with each other.

  • DeirdreMundy

    True about the small families. Especially since I know lots of Catholic Moms who desperately wanted large families, but God told them, “No. I’m giving you two.” Their small family is as much as testament to their faithfulness as my large one is to mine. I’ve opted not to contracept. They’ve opted not to use IVF. Theirs is probably the GREATER sacrifice, because….babies are really amazing and it would hurt to want one and not be able to HAVE one.

    • kiwords

      This comment brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully said.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      God told us, no, we’re giving you one. And he’s going to have cerebral palsy and spina bifida, and you’re going to change diapers for 7 years.

      I think I still would have said yes though.

      • NB_Liberallies

        You are a true hero! We need more people like you.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying. Oh yeah, that means I need to arrange a date for this weekend. :-) Been using NFP in reverse for 15 years, and we’re so borderline fertile that we only have our Christopher. Maybe this time God will let us have a sibling for this sweet young man who would gladly change diapers just to have a sibling (he loves babies- we were on a tourist train on Sunday afternoon on the coast, and he just had to say Hi to the three infants that were also on the train). And it isn’t as if he isn’t an expert- still wears pullups at night himself at 10 because the spinal surgery didn’t do THAT well.

  • Olivier Coutant

    I agree that we should largely stop using “only” and “just” to describe how many kids (or siblings) we have and in my case, the kind of studies we’re in. I always have to pause and catch myself when I tell people I’ve “just” or “only” done two years of arts. I can’t speak for having children, but I do feel a small connection. Great post, as usual.

  • Ann Walsh Featsent

    I was one of those FB likes. I am the youngest of seven, but we have “only” two boys. I wanted many more. I always say nice things to big families, and, yes, I do feel like I need to explain myself. The real story is kind of long and personal, so I end up saying “Two is all God blessed us with.” I love reading about your big family.

  • CSmith

    I come from a large family and I’m always happy to see another one. My husband and I both wanted a large family, but the good Lord had other plans. I’m very thankful God gave us the blessing of being parents through adoption.

  • Renee

    And when I see that picture, I think about this article from last month in Vermont.
    http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20130622/NEWS02/306220009/Sustainable-population-celebration-Burlington

    Oops… sorry for the large text…

    “To celebrate Vermont’s declining population, about 20 people threw a party Saturday at Burlington’s Oakledge Park.”

    “And although Vermont’s population fell by 581 people from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state’s “sustainable” population is likely nearer to 450,000 than the current 626,000, said to George Plumb, the group’s secretary and treasurer.”

    • TheodoreSeeber

      They’re WAY off. Yes, the world’s population is still growing, but that is about to reverse, as the largest generation in human history is about to start dying off. In 10 years, we’ll be talking about demographic decline in the United States, as the only people having replacement rate children are Catholics and Immigrants, and huge percentages of Americans are over 60.

  • Jeni

    What should I say to the comment, “You finally got your boy!” that I get almost every day I go out in public? We have 2 girls and a boy (4 and under), and I hope we add several more boys and / or girls to the family.

    I feel like they’re saying my 2nd oldest wasn’t a boy, therefore I had to try again… that irks me to no end. I want something snappy and amusing… Ideas???

    • CSmith

      Yes, we needed to get the boys started since we’re hoping our family football team will be half boys, half girls.

    • CSmith

      I know! Finally, right? I only need five more of each to fill up the van.

      • Jeni

        You’re wonderful! Lol going to get a kick our of trying all of these :)

    • CSmith

      (with a big grin) Oh, there’s nothing final about it.

    • MightyMighty11

      It sure was terrible to put up with a 2nd daughter–what a waste! At least now we can move on with our lives…we just don’t know what to do with this extraneous female. It’s too bad you can’t trade them in for something valuable.

      Nah, that’s too mean. I say this as the 2nd daughter of six girls. If I had a nickel for everyone who said, “SIX GIRLS?!! YOUR POOR FATHER!!!” I would be wealthy. I finally started replying, “He will be, after the weddings.”

      I like CSmith’s “Oh, there’s nothing final about it.”

  • http://www.callherhappy.com/ Jenna @ Call Her Happy

    This is great. Big families make my heart swell. I have two right now, and we are hoping God blesses us with as many as we can handle!

  • Teresa B.

    I very nearly always apologize to parents who have large families when I first meet them. Then I do the song and dance of why we “only” have two and that yes, my husband and I actually gave the NFP/Humanae Vitae talks at the Marriage Prep retreats…
    We go every other year to a Catholic Family retreat/vacation in Ontario and watching the large families sometimes is hard on me to see as we has always hoped for a large family.
    Though I do make a very conscience effort to congratulate and encourage those with large families when out in public especially out of the sphere of practicing Catholic/Christian circles.

    People assume that I am “one of them” if I only have two children and some have gone off on tangents about overpopulation and “can’t they find another recreational sport” etc… and I just talk about the blessings they have and isn’t it wonderful that they put no barriers between their love etc…
    Hardest people to talk about this to are contracepting catholics.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I agree. We’ve been using NFP in reverse for 13 years, as we are borderline fertile. Out of that we have one. ONE. It hurts in some ways. I’m sure people think we’re contracepting, but we haven’t ever used NFP for contraception.

      The one thing we did do that had an accidental contraceptive was failed to get our son into his own bed by 3 months. With his special needs, he was six before he stopped sleeping with us, seven before we had the spinal surgery that allowed us to stop changing diapers.

      And since I’ve been working long hours this month, he’s been in our bed to start with every night for the past two weeks (luckily just to start- an hour of watching old Red Green reruns on my smart phone and he’s off to his own bed).

  • Kristin

    It’s nice for ANY mom to get encouragement. I “only” have one thus far, and another on the way, and the other day I was at the park with my daughter and an older gentleman made a point to stop by and chat. Before he left he said, “I just wanted to thank you for choosing the most important profession in the world – raising the next generation. God bless!” It was amazing, and something I think we all need to hear more! I do, anyways…
    I feel like I’m struggling with the thought of possible “only” having two children, as I had PPD after my daughter was born and am struggling a LOT with depression through this pregnancy. The past two years have made me start to question whether I’m supposed to have the big family I always wanted (I’m one of five, my husband one of four – I definitely wanted more than two!)… I feel almost like if we don’t have more kids, people are going to assume we use contraception and like I need to defend our just reasons for considering not having additional kids…

  • Sheila Connolly

    Just today someone asked me, “Do you just have the two?” I answered, “For now.” Sometimes I add, “I’d like more someday. We’ll just have to see.” It’s vague, because I don’t need to get into it, but I don’t want people to think that I am one of the many people who adamantly tell you that they are “done” and how glad they are not to have any more.


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