I have too many kids to buy perky cylinders of just about anything. If our family goes on a jag of enjoying certain treats, it's time to consult kitchen-savvy friends, drag out the five-gallon buckets, and start hustling ingredients. Once in awhile I get rebellious, standing bleary-eyed in the grocery near midnight, and just toss that slim dose of French jam into my basket with optimism. "Maybe I'll hide it," I think to myself. This time will be different. More refined.
A week goes by and I'm shaking my head at my silly use of seven dollars. Not because the blueberry preserves were practically chugged straight from the jar by nude, bellowing toddlers --- but because of my own short-sightedness. My fixation on this image of a delicacy, and its prudent dispensation, having some power over my mood. Ain't nobody got time for that. As R.R. Reno observes, "we must be careful of living our theories rather than our lives", a line from this bright yellow volume that recently had me fist-pumping in the midnight sun.
I find myself conditioned to desire the fruits of shiny marketing in place of substance. And I just turned 35, so I'm supposed to know better. Be seasoned and practical in my decision-making, no? Plus I dread passing on such a superficial angst to my daughters. "Enjoy Your Toast. Don't Overthink The Jam." --- maybe put that on my grave.
This revelation goes for so many other jumbo-sized tub o' products, from the hair salon to the car dealers' lot itself. We who claim the quiver's arrow more than twice are banished from the line of polite cars with a simple front seat and back seat. Not for us! The motorcar's features turn from gleaming lifestyle imprimaturs like Bluetooth or sunroofs to purely utilitarian gain: "Washable floor mats? Pish posh. How about a 100% rubber floor in your fifteen-passenger van? Get a power washer and hose this bad boy down." Our cars are so big they have aisles. More to the point, I contend there's nothing quite as cool as barreling down the highway in a motorcade rivaling a presidential lineup, with m'bes'grlfrenz at the helm of every rig. We will mess you up.
I suddenly have too many kids to last very long in public playgrounds, where parents micro-organize every tot within striking distance. Let them play. Visit with your adult friends.
I have too many kids to hitch my calendar to most of the lovely organizations that I'm drawn to. Whether it's ballet for one or a concert for many of us, I'm still learning to consider the "rest of the family" and their limitations when discerning our schedule. For real.
I finally have too many kids to move around spontaneously or hang out at the bus station in Mexico City in lieu of pre-natal care. "...Bloom where you're planted" is the most wretched, promising and elusive of clichés for someone like me. We soldier on.
Perhaps a more astute soul can figure this stuff out with the prescribed 1.7 American children in their midst, but I've always been a late bloomer. As the story often goes, there was more to be revealed.
We have too many children to view our parenting impact as sacrosanct. God imbues each person with a dignity their own. By His grace, our children may live to see decades of opportunity. They could spend much of their adult lives around people we'll never meet. Our time with them is truly just a season, and they are not ours to contain.
We have too many children to believe we can craft them in our image. Should their character be revealed in ways that stir our tears, whether of pride or despair, we know it's their character being forged. Not ours. The journey is theirs. We can shepherd them, and their formation is our duty --- but having 4 or 5 different personalities blossoming together goes a long way to expose the futility of control over another's destiny.
We have too many children to spend time driving all over tarnation for things we can reasonably (re)produce at home. This applies to meals, much of modern entertainment, and certain forms of fellowship. Heroic exceptions are made for exposure to arts and letters, tacky parades, and church stuff.
We have too many children to revel much in professional goals, whether realized or still being pursued. Kids want to feed the ducks and ride bikes and chase pigs. They want to go swimming and pick up hitchhikers and count the stars. They want truth. My husband will never ask for his (numerous) (just bragging) service plaques and production awards at his deathbed. We hope only to join their struggles and achievements in a sane and sober way --- not eclipse their young lives with misplaced ambition and easy accolades. Kids know.
We have too many children to believe in fake activism. Seriously. Let's take a risk and love someone. May God pierce our crazy, selfish egos with His peace.
We have too many children to believe that "born healthy" is the ultimate gift. Life hurts. We cry out loud and drive in circles with death metal blaring, yelling at God. And He's there.
We have too many children to labor under the illusion that sex is meaningless. It makes new people, and those people deserve a family. The heaving, aching, fussing mound of issues and persnicketies that all families are, at times, but a family. With seven years of infertility at the front half of our marriage, Anthony and I are acutely aware of the life-giving power of sex, gone inexplicably dormant. Babies aren't merely a milestone, or a delay of real milestones, they're whole new people. Life is never diminished by the addition of a baby.
We have too many children to be scared (for long) by the notion of another pregnancy. They're our only lasting gift to each other and to their siblings.