Monday, July 28, 2008

No Regrets

I've been tagged by Tracy and Heather to list six words that describe me. The six words I'm choosing are taken from the post below:
"Constantly in awe of God's goodness."
I think a lot of people have been tagged already, so if you're reading this post and haven't been picked yet, consider yourself tagged. YOU'RE IT!!! Leave me a comment if you choose to play, so I can go read yours.

Now, on with today's post. This is going to be a long one, and probably rambly. Some of it is a repeat of things I've said in the past- but some things apparently need to be repeated. Grab a coke and prop up your feet.

We went out to eat the other day after church. Even though two of my sons weren't with us, we still occupied the largest table in the place. Other families were there with their one or two children, while we ate with only four of ours. As I looked around the restaurant and then around the table at each member of my family, I started thinking about the path we've chosen to take- how we got to where we are right now in our lives. I've been doing a lot of reflecting since then- considering both the things that have happened in our life by choice, as well as the things that were beyond our control. Ruminating in the past has made me realize there are a few things I should finally say out loud, once and for all.

I know there are several people with 4 or more kids who read this blog, but larger families are not "the norm" in this country. People just don't understand us. Everything in life is set up to cater to smaller families. Vacation packages are usually for families of four. Recipes are written for no more than six servings. Heck, even minivans only have seven seats. We don't fit in with anyone's idea of the common family. We are a novelty, an oddity, an anomaly.

People tend to judge, and even ridicule what they do not understand. We have been dealing with that now for our entire marriage.

I chose, at the age of 22, to marry a freshly divorced father of three young children who had no money and ruined credit. That's when the comments started. Mostly from family and close friends, but some were from co-workers, or people I hardly interacted with. Everyone had an opinion. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" "Gosh, I just hate to see you throw your life away." "You're so young. You should be out having fun." "Wouldn't you rather wait and have your own (kids)?" One horrible woman even had the nerve to tell me she had a good friend who was a family therapist, so "when it doesn't work out, let me know and I'll help get you an appointment." One of my closest friends at the time, refused to attend my wedding because she thought I was making a mistake. I rarely got the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one gets married.

It was true that married life wasn't easy. There is no manual for new 22-year-old stepmoms to teach them how to be a mother overnight. I was clueless. Each of us made mistakes as we struggled to find our way through it, of course. We struggled in every way- financially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. We probably would have wound up like most other second marriages with children involved and not made it, except for something that happened very early on in the marriage to cement us together...

Alex was born exactly 9 months and 2 weeks after we got married. Needless to say, he was a surprise. We weren't prepared to add another person into the mix yet. We were still trying to figure out this new family of ours. It wasn't easy. The comments got louder. Mostly along the lines of, "How are you going to afford another one?" And mostly from family. We rarely got the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

When Alex turned one year old, I found out I was pregnant with Mike. Another surprise. The comments not only got louder, but started getting just plain mean: "Can't you guys figure out what's causing that?" Each person who said it seemed to believe they were being funny, and that they were the very first one to think up such a witty remark. If you said it, trust me- you were not funny, and you were not the first.

I don't mind telling you- We were scared. Times were tough financially, and Darrell's job was looking shaky. While I was pregnant with Michael, Darrell took a job with his father in the town where we currently live. It was two and a half hours away from where we lived then. He was gone all week, and came home only on weekends. I was at home with his three kids, my toddler, and one on the way. I was working full-time, out of necessity. I was exhausted. I was stressed. Darrell's kids didn't like being there with me without their dad. Neither did his ex-wife. Neither did I. I was doing the best I could do. It was a very difficult time. We were struggling to have faith and believe everything would be okay. But instead of supportive comments, like "Don't worry, you'll see- everything will work out," "You can do this," etc., we got: "What are you guys thinking?" "How will you afford this?" "Have you considered giving this baby up for adoption?" We didn't get the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

Evan came along when Mike was two. I remember how excited I was to call people and tell them I was pregnant. I don't know what I was thinking. I just got more of the same old crap. One person started in on me with the "How are you going to afford this?" stuff. I was hurt, but responded by telling her that God has always taken care of our needs and I had no doubt He'd do it again. That wasn't good enough. This person said, "Well I don't see how He can possibly keep taking care of you when you keep having all these kids." Oh, really? God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, is not big enough to handle one more kid of mine? Sure- Floods, famine, disease, He can handle. But my childbearing renders Him helpless, apparently. I must have one powerful uterus.

Another kind and considerate family member went into graphic detail (I'll spare you her exact words) about the surgical procedures she was going to perform with her own hands on Darrell and I to prevent any more babies. Guess what? We most definitely did not get the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

When Evan was a baby, we went through rocky times with Darrell's kids and his ex, as most people in blended families would understand. Times were tough. People made mistakes on all sides and feelings were hurt. Again, every outsider on the planet had an opinion, either about my stepkids, Darrell, his ex, or me. Very few people knew the whole truth of our family situation, but that didn't stop them from sharing their opinions with us and making their judgments on our choices and our parenting. So many folks coming out of the woodwork to "help" us with their wisdom. Oy. I heard several "I told you so's," and "What did you think was going to happen when you married him?" or "I knew this is how it would turn out." There were a lot of "You should/shouldn't have's" or "You need to _____." I was also acutely aware of what wasn't being said to my face, but was being discussed behind my back.

After several years of heartache and very trying circumstances, we were ready for the joy of a new baby when Tucker came along. But our families weren't. We got the same old comments again when our pregnancy was announced. In fact, we put off telling a lot of people that time, just because we knew they'd try to snuff out our happiness. Surprise, surprise- We did not get the usual rounds of congratulatory remarks that one would hope for and expect when one is having a baby.

And so it went with each new addition to our family. Olivia and Bri were no different. Honestly, it wasn't until we adopted Bri that people finally realized we WANTED to have all these kids. "Oh my gosh, they're adopting? So then, they're not just idiots who don't understand how conception works? They're doing this on purpose????" Yes. Even though God blessed us with a couple surprise conceptions, we have this large family ON PURPOSE. But even that realization didn't mean people understood or agreed with us. The comments continued: "How are you going to be able to send any of these kids to college?" "You're not getting any younger. What if something happens to Darrell?" Blah, blah, blah. Same old crap.

So here is what I'd like to say to all of you who have shared your "concerns" with us over the years:

I have no regrets about having a large family. Not one. I really don't care how many people may believe we've had "enough" or too many kids. In fact, there's room in my heart and home for one more and my heart is crushed over the thought that it isn't going to happen. Crushed. I was looking forward to this next adoption with all my heart, and I'm completely heartbroken that it may not happen.

Yes, our life has been hard. So? Show me a person whose had an easy life, and I'll show you a spoiled, self-centered brat.

Yes, we have had times when we've struggled financially. And times when we haven't. So? In addition to our six kids, we also support six more kids through Compassion International. What you may not know (and this little tidbit will probably make some of your toes curl) is that we have had times when we've chosen to give away thousands of dollars at a time to families in need or to a worthwhile cause. Thousands that could have paid for some extravagant vacation, or been put away in a college fund. Instead, we wanted to be a blessing to someone else in a crisis, because we've been there and we know how hard it is. I don't say this to boast, honestly I don't. I say it to be absolutely clear that we could have had more money than we do if money was our goal.

And speaking of money, I'll tell you something else. I don't especially like wealthy people, and considering the way most of them behave, I have no desire to be one. I'm sure there are good ones out there, but a lot of people with money are just not my cup of tea. I don't understand them. They are often materialistic, self-involved, selfish and snooty. They look down on others, as if money somehow makes them better people. It's my opinion that money usually makes for crappier people, not better. The most generous people I've met are usually ones who barely have enough money for themselves. The stingiest people I've met are ones who have more than enough and then some. Still, they can't seem to part with any of it to help someone else. Their priorities are usually goofy. They are brats trapped in adult bodies. They spawn bratty kids. Their focus is on their money- making it, keeping it, hoarding it... I don't ever want to be like them, and I don't want any of my children to be like them. Money is not necessary for happiness, and is not conducive to happiness. Money is merely a tool God uses to take care of our needs. It is not, in and of itself, a need. God is our need. He supplies everything else. And He does it quite well.

Yes, my kids have done without some things- expensive tennis shoes, designer clothes, certain recreational activities, yearly vacations to expensive places... Yes, at times they have felt deprived and disappointed. So what? They have also gotten lots of things that many other big families do without, so I don't exactly feel sorry for them. I'm sorry if you do, but that's really not my problem. They have never, ever, ever gone without something they really needed. God has always made a way. Always. In fact, He has increased our income with each and every child He's given us.

Yes, they go to school at home. The poor things. Yes, we realize some of you believe we are overprotecting them, sheltering them, and depriving them of wonderful childhood experiences by keeping them at home. Again, it really isn't necessary to pity my kids. They are fine. In fact they are each turning out to be wonderful people, in spite of their crappy parents, and this cruel and unusual punishment of homeschooling them. They continue to flourish, and we continue to believe that homeschool is God's plan and choice for our family. And for the doubters, Evan just finished taking standardized tests since he's starting high school in August, and most of his scores were "PHS," which means Post High School. He's 14 and just finished 8th grade, and his scores are better than most high school graduates. I know I'm bragging, but it's not just to defend my choices- he deserves a pat on the back. He's a great kid! He's bright, sweet, helpful, generous, and the funniest person I know. I guess homeschool hasn't messed him up too badly. All six of them are really great kids and I'm proud to know them.

And, by the way, Alex IS starting college this fall, so your concerns over how we'll send them to college are not necessary. At least not yet. God will see to those needs just as surely as He sees to everything else.

Most importantly- my kids are LOVED. They are treasured. And they are TOLD so every day. So, again, they are getting what they need the most.

Yes, my home is never as clean as I'd like it to be. So? My kids are not sitting on the floor eating cockroaches, but if you come over unannounced my house will look as if eight people live here. There's a good reason for that: Eight people live here. There's a very good chance you'll see dirty dishes in the sink, fingerprints all over the TV screen, and a full laundry basket on the couch. There will probably be dust on the tables and shelves. There will definitely be dog hair all over everything, including you once you've spent 5 minutes inside. During the school year, books will be all over the place, and a pencil may poke you in the butt when you try to sit down. If you're very lucky, and come at just the right moment, the dog may even come lay at your feet with a pair of my underwear hanging from his mouth. SO WHAT? That's my problem, not yours. If it really bothers you, I guess maybe you should call first.

We are busy, scattered, disorganized, overwhelmed, stressed, and tired. We are also unbelievably blessed. I am constantly in awe of God's goodness to me, and to us as a family. How He decided I should get to have such a full, rich life just astounds me. I'm proud of my children, and not only do I love them, but I truly LIKE them. Each one is a blessing, and I'm glad they're here. I wouldn't wish away a single one, nor would I marry someone else if I could go back and do it all differently.

So... Yes, we could have listened to our critics and made different choices. We could have had less kids, and more money. More time. More opportunities. More vacations. More security. We could have been less tired, less worried, less stressed.

Of course, if we'd listened to some of you, we also would have been far less happy. Less fulfilled. Less blessed. Our choices are not the ones you would have made for us, but we are so thankful we made them. And we are so thankful we didn't listen to all of those "helpful" comments. We heard them. And they hurt us. But we didn't let them affect our decisions. Thank God for that. You were wrong. We love our life and are grateful for the choices and circumstances that have brought us to this point. We are good parents, with good kids. We made it in spite of you. We made it without your support, although your support sure would have been nice. We made it. And we will continue to make it.

Thank you for not believing we could make it. You helped make us dig in our heels and try harder. Thank you for not sharing and encouraging our faith in God's abilities to see us through difficult times. By making us defend our faith, you helped to increase it. You helped set the stage for God to prove Himself, which He did over and over again and, no doubt, will continue to do.


Christina said...

You GO girl! I bet that felt really good to get out there once and for all. As a mom to "only" 4 kids, I am just in awe of parents of larger families - God has blessed you with an extra measure of patience and wisdom and I think your kids are so lucky to be in your family! The messages the world gives us about what is important are so skewed from God's priorities - it's no easy task to distinguish between the two. I struggle with that every day. Thanks for sharing your perspective gained from years of experience, it's a great encouragement to me.

Lina said...

Wow, heavy stuff there. If I had a partner to grow my family with, I'd probably have a lot more kids too. I'm sorry that people have been that way to you. I think a lot of people don't see children as a blessing. Sure, they see their own child as a blessing, but not every child as a gift from God. All you can do is live your life the best way you know how, just like you are. Some people will never understand our choices, but God does. What else matters?

Is being single with 3 the same as being married with 6? If so, no wonder some people question me. LOL.

sassy chic said...

Well spoken my friend! If I had known you then I would have told you to go for it and supported you! But you know that because that is what I do now and you do the same for me! Love you sweetie!!

char said...

As always, I really enjoyed this post.
My husband and I have been questioned by our family for even THINKING of having a THIRD child. Everyone says, "aren't you busy enough?". But as the youngest of 5, I know the joys first hand of being part of a large family. I know how great holidays were for me. Heck, we have a ball at family cook outs now! I know when your kids are adults, they'll have nothing but fond memories of being in a big family. They will remember the joy of being surrounded by people who love each other.
By the way, if I come without calling, I won't care about the dog hair, but I hope I don't get the pencil in the butt!:)

Rebecca said...

AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!! I just had a sister tell me "You better not have ANY more kids"! Well you know what--if God tells us to we will! I will always have room for more!


Hubbards said...

WOW--Some people can be so cruel. We have experienced this our lives as well. With our first child we were told by my inlaws that we should wait to have our first child and then we were lectured when they found out we were expecting then with our second (he was our surprise blessing) it was "how could we do that to our first she hadn't had enough time to be the baby!" ( she was 2.5 yrs when he was born) Then with our third we had a hard time conceiving and had to take meds and we were told why go through that it will just take time away from the other two! You can only imagine the fear we had telling them we were going to adopt. To our major surprise they were actually thrilled and excited!! We were in awe as we had wished that was there response the other three times!! Oh well...I would love to adopt more so we will see once our first little guy is home!!

I look to you and others with a large family as my mentors for the someday!!

Tina, KCMO

Heidi said...

Thanks for sharing. Wouldn't it be nice if people would just accept other families without constantly judging them by their own yardsticks--big families, small ones, married, unmarried, heterosexual, gay and lesbian, adoptive, biological, blended, divorced, remarried, married young, married old... Obviously I could go on.

I do believe that the sticking to the strength of your convictions (after prayer and consideration) pays off. And it's great modeling for your kids.