There is a category of question I and my friends who also have above the national average number of children get asked, or told about having “so many” kids. I’m not talking about from the snide but from the sincerely curious. Some are just amazed at something they’ve rarely seen before, others are contemplating adding to their own brood but are nervous. This category I’ll call the “love” question. Variations might include, “Don’t you feel like they don’t get enough attention?” or “I love my child so much I just can’t imagine loving another as much.” or “I feel like I’d be robbing him of me.” When I found out, a mere nine months after JD was born that I was pregnant again, I was a) thrilled b) overwhelmed and c) sorry for JD. I snuggled him extra thinking about how soon he wouldn’t be my one and only. So I think these are fairly natural reactions and fears. But in the years since then I’ve learned a lot about the nature of love, and that’s what I’d like to share today. Now, I am not an artist. Let’s just get that clear right out of the gate. But they always say visuals help so I’ve sketched up a few here.
Here are a few analogies for what we might fear about expanding a family.
As you can see, here love is a finite thing. You have only so much and you have to ration it carefully. Just one more:
But that’s not how love works! My first attempt to explain this was my Bucket Family:
Here we see Mr. and Mrs. Bucket in their leaky roofed house. Joy and love and blessings are continuously pouring down on them. Eventually they are full to overflowing, better get another bucket! I liked this analogy because it does feel in our house like we become so full to bursting with happiness that we all want to share it with another little Bucket. But it’s not quite right. For one thing, it would seem to say that some families get enough joy and love and blessing to grow and others don’t. Not a fan of that. Also, it seems to ignore the fact that it’s very good and also easy to share your love and joy and blessings with Buckets who don’t even live with you. Finally, the Buckets each have a limit. But love has no limit, either in how much you give or in how much you receive. Time for a new model. This time with no measurable things.
It starts like this:
Pretty straight forward right? Cait loves Mike, Mike loves Cait. I use arrows for two reasons. One, to show that there are two separate actions going on, one in which I am the giver, one in which I am the receiver. Arrows also go on forever. So I can always give more love, I can always love better. I can also always receive more love. Alright, got that? Now watch what happens next:
Ok so now there are six separate love relationships. JD has a relationship with me and with his father. Also, I didn’t split the previous arrows. These new relationships are completely original, completely unique. Now’s probably a good time to point out one of the great things about this model. Each of those arrows is infinite remember? So if this is as big as your family ever gets, well there’s still a limitless amount of love to be had by everyone! But another cool thing happens when you add a sibling:
Now we’re at 12 love relationships! The number of relationships (each in itself infinite) grows exponentially. Wow. John Paul II once said that the best gift you could give a child was a sibling. Now we see why. Because they’re not losing out on love here! They get extra places for love to flourish! They give and receive love from Mum, give and receive from Dad, AND give and receive with their siblings. And it only gets better.
Now this is how I picture my family. A big chaotic mess of love jumbled together and wonderful. I can’t lie. You DO run out of energy. You DO run out of patience, money, time. But that’s by no means the same as running out of love. If it were then anybody who worked a job, or who suffered with debilitating illness, or who was in poverty couldn’t love their child as much as a healthy, wealthy stay at home Mom. Breadwinners would automatically love less. Well clearly that’s silly. And there are more than enough hands and hearts to pick up the slack when somebody is running low on any of those things. My husband comes from a family with 11 children. Can you imagine that chart? Well you’ll have to. Because I’m not going to attempt to draw it.