There is a myth that if you have more than two or three children, you cannot properly care for or love all of your children enough. Al Gore has said in an interview that he believes that the Chinese have it right in this area. Now, I’m not sure which of Al’s children he wishes he had not had and which he would like to keep, out of his 4 children. But I disagree. With all of it.
The heart is a living thing. It can grow and remain soft and pliable, or shrivel and harden like an old peanut shell. I have seen it happen. Have lived both ways. And let me tell you, growth, life, is better.
I never intended to have five children. I find myself challenged and surprised everyday by how my life is turning out. If I could have predicted, I would have sworn that I would be living in a much too small apartment in New York City, striving for someone, anyone, to notice me. That, or traveling across Africa with the Peace Corps, searching for meaning in the eyes of strangers that I tried to help.
But this, this I never saw coming. And I am so glad. Because, I probably would have changed something. Or a lot of things. And, I, I would be missing out.
When you have five children, strangers and acquaintances feel some odd sort of freedom to tell you how glad they are that they do not have five children. They also like to project their greatest fears onto you. And they often assume the worst. Or they act as if your abundance of children somehow directly affects their own harvest. It doesn’t.
My husband works very hard at a respectable job. He earns an honest wage, doing honest deeds. This earns him both my respect and enough money to pay all our bills every month. We don’t use credit to purchase day to day items. We receive no assistance from the United States government, or Canadian government, or any other country. We pay for our livelihood with cash, right then. Which means that my smart phone does not have a piece of bitten fruit on it, but is waterproof- which suits my life better.
Our children are happy. They are healthy. They know love. They have nice things. They are surrounded with nice people. They have a wealth of happy memories. They experience more love on a daily basis than many people experience in their lifetime.
With each of my children’s births, I have felt my heart swell like an old wooden door in the deepest winter. Until it is too big to fit inside of its housing. Until it cannot close, but must remain open. Come what may. The human heart is not as fragile a thing as they would have you believe. It can adapt to almost any changes. It can overcome loss, and shame, pain, and the deepest of sorrows. It can heal stronger than it was before it was broken. And it can love.
The world is not a better or worse place because of the amount of children that a family contains. The world, the earth, is alive. It changes, and lives or dies, much like a heart, because of what it encounters. Look around you. It is autumn. The leaves are burning orange and red, and getting ready for their first and final flight to the ground. The wind is losing its warmth, turning colder by the day, like a woman scorned. Everything is changing, because it is alive. The earth lives. But all of its beauty and majestic pageantry would be in vain, if it were not for the people who live here.
Just like my arms and my heart. Anything that is good in me, or strong, or brave, would not be better if I had less children to give myself for. I am not who I want to be. But I am a far cry from where I was, where I could be. Having my children forces me to be better, act braver, love harder, and focus less on my own selfish desires. It takes me out of myself, and fills me with hope. I have to rise to this challenge of properly raising five whole people, because no one else will. No one can ever love them like I do. All of them.
In my long list of the things I would change about myself, the number of children I have is not on there. I cannot imagine a life less than I am living. The mere thought brings a rock to my throat and a fist to my stomach. I am lucky, more than most. I see it. I hear it. I feel it. I tuck them in and read Treasure Island until the air turns thick with their warm, sweet, even breathing. And I know it, all the way to my core. I fall asleep knowing that I. Am. Blessed.
And in the morning I wake up, and do everything I can to challenge the naysayers. To prove them wrong. The heart is stronger than the arms. Women know this. Mother’s know this. Mommy’s know this. Which is why, it wasn’t Tipper that said that. And why it’s going to be me that proves this narrow minded belief to be wrong.