The other day we were invited to a birthday party for one of my 7 year old daughter's friends. Truly, it was comical getting all of us out the door and into the van. I mean, I *only* have four kids, but two of them are babies, and I almost think that if 50% of your children are babies, you should get twice as much credit for going anywhere because babies just seem to complicate things exponentially. Anyway, on this particular day, we needed to get the following into the van: 1 laundry basket filled (yes, I take a laundry basket with me now to cart all our junk around) with a diaper bag, a watermelon, a box of crackers, a blanket, two pairs of baby shoes, and a birthday present. 1 play pen, and jackets for everyone, two big kids, and three babies (because we had an extra foster baby around for the weekend).
With the foster baby, we maxed out the seating in the van. That meant: 2 boosters, 1 forward facing car seat, one rear facing car seat, and an infant seat. All of that meant that everyone had to get into the van in a particular order so that we could wedge the infant seat in just right and make it all fit. To tell you the truth, we were an hour late to that party, and not because we weren't ready on time, but because we take so long to simply buckle ourselves into the car!
All that being said, I think a lot about the pros and cons of having a large family. There are so many pros to having a lot of kids, even a lot of young kids at one time as we have. But one thing I've struggled with (and maybe was even too busy to realize it) is giving all my kids enough attention. Today I want to share my heart with you regarding the importance of making time to pay attention to our kids as individuals.
Even in a small family, there are so many things vying for our attention. Whether that's work, the internet, friends, TV, sports activities, homeschool co-op, or something else, in every family with children, it can be a struggle to invest enough time in your children on an individual level. Being a large family, especially one with lots of little ones, makes that even harder.
My oldest daughter is 7, and she has always needed more from me than any of my other children. She just does; that's just who she is. She loves to talk, she loves to be with people, and she loves to be with me and her dad. She has also always been hot-tempered, and recently, it's gotten to a level that just made me feel so defeated. We try so hard to instill godly character in our kids, and when the fruit isn't coming forth, it can really wear you down.
I was at that point yesterday. Finally, during our family devotions, I asked my daughter if there was anything that she wanted to say to me. It came out that she just feels like she isn't getting enough attention.
Couple the large family issue with my nature as an introvert who needs time alone, and I can see where she is coming from. Maybe I've unintentionally caused some of her behavioral issues by not giving her enough positive attention. Maybe I've given her attention in ways that I enjoy (such as homeschooling her) and assumed that I'd filled my quota, and need not give her even more attention. Maybe I've responded to her negative behavior by pouring myself even further into the little children because that was easier. Maybe I've said "I forgive you", but haven't really deep down forgiven her for the hurtful things she's said and done. Maybe I've felt that I have nothing more to give.
But the truth is, there always more to give. In Mark 14, Jesus takes his disciples with him up the mountain to pray. The Bible says that Jesus felt "overwhelmed to the point of death". He needed to connect with his Father. He had nothing more to give. But after spending an hour with his Heavenly Father, Jesus came back to the disciples recharged, saying, "Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!". We don't know every word that he prayed on that mountain, but we do know he went up feeling as if he had no more to give, and he came down, ready to give his very life.
Being a parent in a large family isn't easy. Parenting my oldest daughter isn't easy. Sometimes I feel that I'm just at the end of my rope, and I have nothing left to give. My glass is empty. Or maybe it's overfilled. I don't know. But either way, when we ask for help from our Heavenly Father, there is always more to give. Always.