Monday, April 20, 2015

10 benefits of big bouquets: how having lots of siblings is actually a GOOD thing (contrary to popular opinion)

What if I were to say this about a large bouquet of a variety of sizes and colors of flowers on my table:
-There is no space for them in that spot
-They are squished together
-This isn't fair to the first couple flowers that were in the vase
-They are ugly because they look chaotic
-There shouldn't have been as many picked so they could have been spread out to other people
-It was irresponsible of the picker to put that many flowers in there.  What was she thinking?

Sound a little ridiculous?
This is similar to criticism I hear about having lots of

While getting a physical for our current home study, I was examined by a physician I never had met before.  She was from the Philippines and came from a family of 9 children.  When I started to tell her our family's story, she beamed with excitement that we are a growing family.  Since families of more than 2 or possibly 3 children are often criticized in our society, having the four we have has already brought on stereotypical responses reflective of a judgmental attitude toward families like ours.  Many people on the outside believe we have our brood of kids due to either irresponsibly choosing to or out of poor moral choices.  I'm not going to quote the negative comments of people we know, but here are just a few of the comments I've received in public:

"I would never have thought you have four kids.  You don't....."look" like you have four kids"
So what am I supposed to look like?  A woman in sloppy clothes or pajamas walking around in Walmart at 11:00 p.m. with a glazed over look on my face?

"They are all yours? Wow...."  (The expression is made with furrowed eye brows)

Then there's the all-time favorite that Kris was asked at Walmart by an old friend "Wow, four!  How much do you get each month for them?"

So I asked this doctor, who came from a very large family abroad, what she thought of having so many siblings growing up.
"Did you feel you were at a disadvantage?", I asked her.
"Absolutely not!  I loved having such a large family!"  was her reply.
 "Did you feel you weren't getting the attention from your parents that you needed since they had to split all their time between you?"
She laughed.  "Of course not.  I felt loved by my parents and never felt like I missed out of a good relationship with them".  She added "Having a large family helped my character a lot!"
 Our conversation ended with a clean bill of health for me and encouraged hearts.

With all the bad rap we receive from either people we know, strangers we meet, or society in general, I've come up with a list of 10 ways children of large families are benefited  by having multiple siblings.  I'm in no way coming down on small families.  Please don't think I'm trying to relay the message that if you have one or two kids that they can't be as much like Jesus as kids in larger families.  I just want to bring to light that having multiple children is a good thing when a Christian parent wants to see them grow in their character and as an end result, in the Lord.  Please understand I do not condone irresponsible parenting in our society. 

1. First of all, children in large families learn sacrifice.  There have been countless times my older kids have had to give up going to birthday parties, special church events, invites to others' homes, and trips to have fun altogether because of a younger siblings' needs.  They give up space for their things, and have to share time with their Mom and Dad.  And they certainly have missed out on being spoiled like many children in small families!  They can either choose to become bitter about having younger siblings, or they can recognize that they must yield their interests for the interests of others.  As they grow older, this trait will be evident in their walk with God in so many aspects, as well as in their marriage and parenting.  The more sacrifices due to multiple siblings, the more the building of this character.  Are they missing out on a great life of fun and adventure, socialization and building of friendships?  Maybe a little, but it is more than made up by their life lesson that life doesn't revolve around them.  They must lay down their opportunities and desires for the needs of others.

2. My kids learn about grace from each other.  A whole LOT of grace!  Imagine my five year old's reaction to his sister sneaking into his play space and knocking down his lincoln log castle by accident.   How about a sabotaged artwork of an 8 year old big brother made more "pretty" with magic marker scribbles by a toddler sibling?  Then there are interuptions in sleep, school work, loud behavior and grumpy attitudes while concentrating on something important, temper tantrums over dinner, potty training accidents on a brother's bed, I could go on and on!  Our kids learn what grace is: giving someone something they don't deserve.  They want to smack their siblings over the head sometimes (and they succeed often) but they are also learning what grace is all about.

3.  My kids learn about leadership.  If I let my kids outside to play and no one takes the lead in an activity, there is chaos.  Usually my oldest will come up with rules, structure, and instructions on what they will do in their creative world they enter in the backyard, but other times a younger sibling wants to initiate an activity and the others follow.  I love watching them develop this skill, as they will need it as they grow into adulthood.  Without followers, you can't be a leader, and what better followers to learn from than your siblings?  They are learning how to not be dictators, how to compromise for the greater interest of others, how to be structured in their play, and how to make peace when things get hairy.  This will take them a long way in life and in Christian leadership in their adult lives.

4.  My kids learn how to be mediators.  I have two middle kids right now, soon to be three.  Middle children are typically the mediators of the family, but that isn't always the case.  They want to advocate for each other when they are in trouble, or vouch for the other when we need "witnesses" to a punishable offense.  They stand up for the other when they need someone to defend them.  It is precious to see my older children already develop this trait they acquired from having siblings by using it outside our family.  They are already finding ways to help orphans, pray for the lost, and identify those who are in need.  It is a beautiful thing as a parent to watch.

5.  My kids learn compassion.  The greatest life lesson for my children in compassion has been learned through their little sister.  It is not uncommon for a brother to run to hold her hand when she's afraid, pick her up when she's tired, calm her down when she's crying, or fix her a cup of milk when she's hungry.  This compassion is now bleeding out into the world around them.  They hear about persecuted Christians and immediately are burdened to pray and take action.  They have huge hearts for orphans and will not hesitate to take any opportunity given to pray, give and go to help them.  Seeing needs in their own siblings and reaching out to them has fostered this compassion in a big way.

6.  My kids learn humility.  Pride is a problem for all people, but it is an especially difficult struggle for the strong willed child who never wants to yield their right to be right and have their way.  When a sibling has to lay down their rights and opinions so they can serve their brother or sister, it is breaking that spirit of entitlement in their hearts.  They learn that being second and their sibling being first is actually not so bad of a place to be.  Carrying a humble heart into a marriage relationship, into parenting, and into ministry as a Christian is immensely important.  God is using their siblings to help teach them these tough lessons on humility development early.

7.  My kids learn perseverance.  Imagine a big lego project continually being torn apart by a little sister.  How about a little brother having to try over and over to ride a bike like his big brothers, or swim, or climb a tree so he can be "big" like them?  My children don't want to miss out on opportunities to achieve, so they have learned to work at it until they do.  A lot of this is due to having siblings, and this character trait will carry them far in life.

8.  My kids learn how to encourage others.  For years my little boys would pick on each other, aggravate the snot out of their siblings, and laugh at their mistakes.  However, as they grow, they are learning to encourage.  I thoroughly enjoy overhearing an older brother lavish compliments on his younger brother or sister when they start to read a book, recite their math facts fluidly, or make a beautiful work of art.  The encouragement builds up that sibling twice as quickly than if it had come from me, because while they know Mommy will encourage frequently, when it comes from a big brother it must be REALLY a big accomplishment.  What greater training ground to learn encouragement than with your family at a young age?  This spirit of lifting up others will benefit them greatly as they use it in other relationships in their lives.

9. My kids learn to work as a team.  As they grow, I see my kids pick up on each other's strengths.  When they do chores, they know who accomplishes what task the best and most efficiently and work together to get it done.  They each know how to compliment each other and get along when needed.
"Team Dixon" works as a unit, and that bond grows stronger as we grow in numbers.  When they go places where there are other children, they typically like to stick together.  This isn't from not wanting to be social, but they consider their siblings their best friends and comrades.  That spirit of teamwork will be a tool they can use in the adult world to accomplish much.

10.  My kids learn self-reliance.  As we've added more children to our family, it has become a huge task for me to care for my kids like a typical mom would.  At a young age my kids have learned to fix their own breakfast and lunch, feed their younger siblings, help with potty training, and help with multiple jobs in the home that a typical child their age from a small family wouldn't normally do.  At the age of seven, my oldest was thrown into changing his sister's diaper once.  He actually thought it was great!  Having lots of siblings doesn't increase the burden on my kids, it teaches them self-reliance so they can feel needed and valuable to our family.  Without each one of them, certain things would not get done during the day.  This gives them a sense of belonging in our family and teaches them to be depended on.

Many families have little bouquets.  They are pretty, neat, and tidy.  However, placing flowers in a big bouquet doesn't detriment them.  They still blossom, they still can be individually appreciated, and they actually are able to lean on and support each other.  They should be seen as a beautiful thing.  The bigger my bouquet gets, the more I notice that beauty is constantly growing in each flower God places in it.  I hope that by reading this post, others can understand just a little glimpse of what a blessing and advantage multiple flowers have when they are placed together!

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