Saturday, February 8, 2014

Raising the Bar

There is a family in our little town with five kids, the youngest of which is now 4th or 5th grade. A few years back, when we just had three, I commented how that mom just seems to really know what she is doing, commending the behavior of her kids and how happy they seem. The comment I heard back: "Oh, are you kdiding?! Those kids are just out of control! They can't manage five children!"

I was really shocked by this commentary, considering that these five little ones are hard-working, sweet, respectful, happy, smart, well-adjusted kids and young people. But, maybe the commentator knew something I didn't?

Then, more recently, I was part of a conversation celebrating the fifth addition to another family in our little town. The comment I heard that time was "I don't know why they thought they could have a fifth kid. That fourth one is just out of control. He can't even sit still during church or story hour. They need to stop having more until they learn how to parent." Now, that "fourth one" was a two-year-old boy at the time. What two-year-old boy do you know can sit still during an hour church service or a half-hour story hour?

So, comments like these get me to wondering, do people expect more from parents of big families? Are we supposed to keep our kids walking the straight-and-narrow at all times? Are we expected to keep a one-on-one level of supervision 24-7, more than say a mom of two or three kids?

Some days it seems that way. The looks I get in the stores are disheartening, when I'm crazy enough to just run in with five kids in tow. My children do not run rampant. If they do get a little stirred up, I try reeeeallly hard to set limits to their behavior and enforce those limits. But I still get the looks and the comments, as if I am the one who "can't manage five children" or need to "stop having more until they learn how to parent."

I get The Look if my four-year-old starts to fight with my seven-year-old. I get The Look if the four-year-old attempts to throw a fit to get what she wants. I get The Look if I tell my pre-teen starts to pout because I said no to a purchase. And, worst to me, I get The Look if I quietly, sternly verbally discipline my child or ignore the behavior to not reward it with attention or if I take them to the car and give up the excursion because I know my kid is about to melt. down.

In other words, I get The Look (and sometimes the comments) if I do anything. Or nothing.

I don't think my child is behaving any worse (or better) than any other kid her age. Her behavior is age-appropriate and shows that she is stretching her wings, testing her limits, developing her independence, and learning right from wrong. Kids are going to do this. And parents need to respond appropriately.

Should my kids be expected to behave better, should their bar be set higher, because there are five of them? Should I (and Jay and other parents of large families) be expected to CONTROL more than a parent with one or two kids to guide and supervise? I don't think that is fair. To them. Or to us.

But, I tell you this. I will put up with The Looks and comments and whatever derogatory poo slung our way regarding our brood of five. We may have the struggles of a larger family, but we also have the love, the friendship, the tight bonds, the sibling connects of a large family. Five times the giggles. Five times the hugs. Five times the love. And that's worth putting up with whatever ugly you-stranger-lady wants to dish out.

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