My parents were in over their head. They couldn't maintain any illusion of order or control as they welcomed 8 kids via C-section in 13 years. The last few deliveries became increasingly fraught, such that when they announced my mom was pregnant at Christmas, my curmudgeon teen comment was a sigh. "There goes the summer."
After that baby, to their sadness and relief, their run of fertility ended. And then they jumped immediately into having several teenagers at a time for another 15 years. They made good and bad parenting calls, navigating the whole process sleep-deprived, short on money, and still processing their own childhoods. None of us wanted to be quite like them when we grew up.
And yet, we are. Not just with near-inevitability of nature and nurture. We have chosen what they chose - faith, loyalty, kids, hard work - even if we cook better food and have a lot more fun. In fact, we all appreciate the pleasures of food, friends, and travel more than our friends who had more comfortable, calm childhoods. Even with homeschooling 5 kids and working part time, most of my days are more fun and relaxed than most of my moms' were.
My siblings have surprised me again and again with their generosity, and brightened my life with humor and kindness. They've arranged for things I needed, splurged on Christmas gifts for my kids, helped with house projects, inspired, listened, advised, commiserated. All of us check up on each other, visit each other in our time off, help each other with our work. I see my father's gentleness in the way my brothers talk to kids, and his conscientiousness in their tidiness and vigilance for the kids' safety.
That baby who was going to wreck the summer is now the beloved 6'2" "big brother" uncle to my posse of girls. He knows the words to every song, talks to everyone he meets, and makes everyone laugh. It was his dish system that finally stuck.
A few weeks ago it was my parents' anniversary and I started texting everyone. We decided on a gift card and an amount, but soon everyone was one-upping each other on Venmo and I called the restaurant back a little embarrassed to say we needed another gift card in the envelope. They all wanted my parents to go out more than once.
There's a saying that God will not be outdone in generosity, even the "foolish" kind, as it seemed my parents practiced. My siblings, and the feeling that someone will always have my back, have been one of the enormous blessings of my adult life. My parents' welcoming of many children has brought fun and security to my children as well. They know that an aunt and many uncles will always have their backs, too.
Parenting is long, and it can be demoralizing when kids are just as overwhelmed as you are at the thought of a new addition. But the long game is better than any tired parent could imagine.
My youngest brother admires my first baby.