I’m blessed to have 10 children between the ages of 6 and 27.
I didn’t start out wanting to have a large family. I came from a family of four, my wife came from a family of eight, and when we talked about how many kids we wanted to have I remember saying I wanted a “big family like mine.” My wife Maria? She was smartly silent. She wanted to be open to far more children, and she knew that, with time, I’d come around.
So what was it like being open to even the first child? I was scared to death. How was I going to be able to provide for another person, an immortal soul? I didn’t even have a job!
But then my father-in-law pulled me aside and said that his father-in-law had told him that every child comes with a loaf of bread under their arm. What does that mean?
“When God gives you a child, he gives you the means to provide for that child.”
I remember thinking that I had just graduated from college, completed a year of volunteer work, had $20,000 worth of loans, and that my father-in-law was a successful physician. How were our situations even remotely similar? But then he reminded me that he was still in medical school acquiring debt when he started his family, and they went on to have 8 children. God provided for them, and He would provide for me.
So, while I was scared to death, with each child there did, in fact, come a loaf of bread. You could basically plot my income going up with each child, though it usually went up after we found out we were pregnant. I would get a promotion, something else would come through, or sometimes it was just family members who would help us out. We were taken care of over and over again.
To be honest, though, it wasn’t until about my fifth child that I started to realize what was going on, and that maybe I could trust the Lord. And then I could almost hear Him saying “have you finally figured that out, Michael? Yes, I will take care of you.”
Another interesting thing about large families: my parents only had four kids – myself and three brothers – but they used to get our names wrong all the time. And there were only four of us! I promised myself that I was never going to do that.
So, people ask me now if I remember the names of all my kids, and the answer is “of course!” Do you have 10 friends? Do you remember all their names? Of course you do!
However, when I’m angry or upset about something and I want to call one of my kids, that’s the moment when the wrong child’s name comes out. It’s almost like my brain is in overdrive and I can’t get out the right name…so I actually do exactly what my parents did.
But the most surprising thing about a big family is how there are almost two halves of the family – the older kids and the younger kids. The older kids were basically our guinea pigs; we were learning to parent and we did a lot of things wrong with them. At times I’ve had discussions with our Lord about why He let me, as a new incompetent parent, even be a parent in the first place. My older kids have had to pay that price. There were things that we freaked out about that we now realize weren’t a big deal, and there were also things that we missed that were important. Thankfully, for the younger part of the family, we parent better. We’re better at picking up on the important things, and letting the less important stuff go.
I was sharing this with my wife’s aunt recently, how with the younger half of the family we’re able to avoid some of our past mistakes, and she looked at me and laughed.
“Great!” She said, “so with the younger children you can do new things wrong!”
And she’s right. We’re going to do new things wrong. Actually, it was pride that I thought I was going to get everything right the second time around. But even though I’m going to get new things wrong, there are also some old things that I’m going to do right – and that’s a real blessing.
It’s an adventure to have a large family. God speaks through my children. I’ve had to be humble and learn from them, learn from my mistakes and then get back up again. I hope for my older children that they can see some of the ways that we’re doing things better now, even though they didn’t get that better treatment, and that they can implement those things in their own families.