“You look about ready to pop! When are you due?” a stranger asked me one day in the checkout aisle of the supermarket near our home in Fortville.
“Oh, last Saturday,” I said, smiling.
Her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say. I could tell she was afraid that my water would break any second and the baby would drop out, right in front of her.
“Don’t worry,” I replied. “My last three were over a week late.”
“This will be number six.”
“So . . . and then are you done?” she asked.
I smiled. “On no, we are just getting started!” I joked.
She laughed, but a concerned look remained on her face.
“How many do you want?” she asked, as if I were collecting snakes. It’s funny the things complete strangers want to know right there in the grocery store.
“We’d like to have as many as we can get,” I replied, as if I were collecting treasures.
“Goodness! I have two, and they drive me crazy!” she said. “Two is enough for me!”
“The first two were a challenge for me, too,” I agreed. “With the first couple, you are getting all your practice. You are learning to be a parent, and every phase is new. But just like anything else, the more experience you have the easier it gets. I think it’s sad that so many people stop at one or two. I’ve been able to enjoy my last three so much. I have all the joy of parenting, and not as much of the stress. And now that my oldest children are big, I’ve got some wonderful helpers. I think that many people imagine that having six kids is like having six two-year-olds all at once.”
“You look too young to have so many,” she said.
“Well they keep me in shape. I don’t have time to sit around eating Twinkies and watching soaps,” I said.
“So how old are they?” she asked.
“My oldest, Isaac, is seven. Anna is six. Estera is five. Rachel is three, and Naomi is one and a half,” I told her, as if rehearsing a poem.
“I bet you are hoping for a boy this time!” she said, keeping a tally of girls versus boys.
“Isaac would love to have a little brother, but I don’t mind having a house full of little girls! So I’ll be happy no matter what I get.”
“Just wait until they are teenagers!” she said.
“I’m really looking forward to that!” I told her. And once again, her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say.
“I had wonderful teenage years!” I continued. “I think my kids will too. Those were the most fun years of my childhood—camping with my family, learning to sew, starting a business, making Thanksgiving dinner, falling in love with my husband . . .”
“Teens are so troubled and sassy these days!” she said. “I guess there’s not much you can do about that.”
“I know quite a few families with delightful teens, but you do have to make sure they are respectful and well-disciplined from the time they are toddlers. And remember that you reap what you sow,” I told her.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, what happens when you plant weeds in your garden?”
“What happens when you plant flowers?”
“I think it’s the same with our children. They are like gardens,” I explained. “The parent is the gardener. From the time the children are small, we need to make sure they have plenty of light, pure water, and good nutrition for the heart, body, and spirit. But that’s not enough. It’s up to us to protect our little gardens from harm. We need to keep out the weeds, the bugs, the dogs, the rocks, the rabbits, and the stomping feet of folks who just want to take short cuts through the garden or steal the fruit.”
“I think I know what you mean, but just thinking about the video games my son plays and the buddies he hangs out with . . . you just can’t control kids these days. And then with all the junk they pick up at school, I just don’t have the time to deal with all of it. You must be a stay at home mom,” she concluded.
“Yeah, I am. I’ve been really blessed to be able to make that choice and have a supportive husband,” I told her.
“And I must ask: do you homeschool, too?” She had a knowing look now.
“Yeah, and it’s been fun. We’ve also been able to keep a lot of bugs and weeds out of their gardens this way—plus they get a great education with all that one-on-one attention. And classroom walls and textbooks don’t limit us. The whole world is our classroom”
“I just wouldn’t have the patience!” she said, smiling.
“Oh, the kids have taught me patience! No one comes by patience without having to learn it the hard way,” I confessed.
“What about socialization?” she asked. It’s what everyone asked.
“I just don’t see the good in having my kids socialize with a large group of kids their own age everyday under the care of just one adult. I think they would pick up a lot of bad habits. But when we are at home, and together in the ‘real world,’ they get to know people of many ages and from many walks of life. They are best friends with each other, and it helps when your child’s best friend is being taught that same morals. That makes everything easier.”
“I guess you’re right. I never thought about it that way. This gives me a lot to think about,” she said. “Well, my ice cream is melting, and ice cream doesn’t wait. I need to get going. It was nice meeting you!”
“Nice meeting you, too. I need to get home to all my babies,” I said.
“Where are they all by the way?”
“At home playing with Daddy.”
“I couldn’t imagine my husband taking care of five kids! Well, good luck with the new baby!”