One of the things I was at least mildly concerned about at first, in regard to having a big family, was the common observation that in a large family, the younger children often grow up in a quite different way from how the older children were raised.
Accusations sometimes go along these lines:
- You were so strict with us! Now he gets away with everything!
- We never got our (phone/car/insurance) paid for! You guys have softened up!
- We weren’t allowed to watch that movie! You are so lax now!!
And here are my observations:
Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes, on moral issues, I’ve seen large families relax against rules that used to be ultra-firm. There could be many reasons for that:
- Mom & Dad may realize their rules were too strict, and so they’ve found, or are finding, a place of balance.
- It may be a practical issue. It’s easier to keep your 4-year-old from ever seeing anything besides VeggieTales, Bob the Builder, and Little House on the Prairie, when he’s your oldest, than it is when he’s you’re youngest and you’re also in a home with preteens, teens, and young adults who want to watch, well, more than these limited options.
- It could be sin/laziness. Perhaps the parents really have let out the reins too loosely, and aren’t being as purposeful with this child as they were with their older children.
Sometimes, though, things are different because they’re just different.
- Parents change over time. Sometimes we forget it (especially about our own parents), but parents are people too. They grow, they change, their priorities adjust.
- Families change over time. As a family goes through different seasons, the dynamics change. The relationships change.
- Environment changes over time. Maybe the church you’re a part of grows, or grows smaller. Family members move closer, or move away. Or you move into a new community.
Sometimes it’s the opposite from this:
I’ve seen SOME large families who were not believers when their older children were younger, become believers, and the situation is completely the opposite of this– they’re trying to shore up and combat weaknesses in how they raised their older children, while raising their younger children with greater intentionality and protection.
But, honestly? CHANGE IS INEVITABLE.
The main thing I want to communicate about this tendency to want things to be the same for both older and younger children is this:
In a large family, where children are being raised over the course of 3 or even 4 decades, I think it is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to make it so that everything is the same for younger children as it was for older children. We simply can’t do it.
- Financially, things change over time.
- Spiritually, parents should be growing more mature and discerning over time.
- Physically, we grow more tired over time.
- Emotionally, we should grow wiser over time.
It is impossible for a large family to look the same for younger children as it did for older children because it is not the same family. It doesn’t have the same children. And it doesn’t have the same parents. The family has grown in number and in age; the parents have grown in their own ways.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION, 12+ YEARS IN:
12 years ago, I spent every day, all day, with my sweet, 8-month-old, chubby, curious, crawling, nearly-walking, homemade-baby-food eating, sign-language using, Ethan. He had blanket time twice a day, and learned to self-entertain while I did things (like painting rooms for fun, and making his baby food) around the house.
We happily spent our days, just the two of us, together.
I recently had our 7th baby, Luke. And guess what his first year won’t look like? (^^^^^THAT description up there!) Oh, I’ll still make his baby food (it’s cheaper & I like it), and he’ll eventually learn some useful words in sign-language.
But his life will not look like all day, every day, alone with me.
WONDERFUL IN A DIFFERENT WAY
You know what, though?
While he has an older, more tired, more busy mama, little Luke also has:
- Eight adoring people in his life (seven of whom are with him all day, day in, day out) who notice all his changes and specialness.
- Siblings at the ready, eager to hold him, eager to bring diapers, eager for him to start crawling so they can set out toys for him to crawl toward.
- More people in his daily life, to watch and learn from, in a way that Ethan, 12 years ago, did not have.
Ethan’s time with me, and my time with him, was something special and unique. And Luke’s time with me, and my time with him, is special and unique in a different way.
Both are good. Neither is “better”… and thankfully, because I know and trust our sovereign Lord, and His goodness, I am confident that GOD will incredibly use my strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths and weaknesses of the season of our family that they were each raised in, for their good and for God’s glory!
So, in short, my answer is this: there is ZERO chance that a younger child growing up in a large family will have the exact same experience as an older child.
It’s just impossible.
And God can use those differences in wonderful ways in the lives of our children.
WHAT IS MY FOCUS, AS MOM?
Sometimes I notice that I’ve become lazy in a particular thing with my younger children.
One recent example is that I used to be so PURPOSEFUL in playing scripture songs and Bible stories aloud during the day while my little ones played in the late morning/afternoon. As I pondered that, I realized that I’m now schooling older children and noise can be a true distraction for them. Our routines are different now than they were when I only had little ones and was home educating no one.
Nonetheless, I’ve started (as I’m able) playing the audioBible & BIble stories more intentionally. It’s not as often as it was with my older children, but it’s still better than a complete lack of it like was the case a few months ago.
Again, there’s no way for me to make it the SAME as it was for them, but I can still be purposeful.
The main thing I want to do as a mom of a large family is make sure that the things that change about our family are purposeful, and not due to sin, laziness, or neglect.
- Do you see this tendency in your life/family?
- How do you combat the slide into laziness, sin, or neglect?