Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The woman was (understandably) impressed. After all, she'd seen Jo for years in the context of church life. She'd seen her navigate through some sticky peer relationships, meander through the most gangly season, and come out on the other side. And now, she'd just watched Jo gracefully make a potty run with a squirming, hopping Mani so that I could keep Oli in his happy place on my hip, swaying and humming, with his head covered to keep out the overly bright lights of the grocery store. 

"I so need to hire you!" she announced, patting her bulging abdomen, "I'm getting too big to chase my 2 year-old around for a diaper change, and I can barely lean over him on the floor to do it anyhow. Maybe you can come and help out a couple of days a week."

"Ummm ..." blushed Jo, "I don't change diapers."

"You don't?"

"I mean, I have. A couple of times. Maybe ... four times?" Jo looked to me for confirmation. I shrugged.

"How do you have all these little brothers and sisters and not know how to change diapers?" asked the incredulous woman.

It was Jo's turn to shrug. "My mom changes them."

My name is Mary Grace. I have seven kids. I have a teenage daughter at home and no, she doesn't change diapers.

Large family myth #1: BUSTED.

Jo doesn't change diapers. The handful of times that she has, it's been when a babysitter was here for the day or evening and needed a hand. 

Did you catch that? "A babysitter was here ..."

Large family myth #2: The older kids are always left in charge of the younger ones. BUSTED.

Every class of family (large, small, medium, homeschooling, adoptive, public schooling, dual-income, single-parent, you name it) has a stereotype. And yes, a lot of those stereotypes have roots in reality. I've never seen a family with two children employ the buddy system, for instance. But for every myth, for every stereotype-- well, there are always people who just don't fit the mold.

Like teen girls with five younger siblings who don't change diapers.

Scan the internet, and you'll unearth countless assumptions that are made about "people like me." According to the stereotype, I am a habitual collector of children who is at the beck and call of a semi-abusive husband. I can't think for myself, don't value education, and spend my days making sure that my children are robots who toe the party line while I bark commands at my older kids to keep the younger ones under control. My teen daughter is responsible for meals, laundry, and childcare and has no hope of ever going to college.

Well, either that, or I'm a tireless saint who croons nothing but Scripture as gentle reproof over my near-perfect offspring--when I'm not teaching my newborns how to read, that is. My strong, manly husband leads our steadfast and highly academic crew in nightly sing-alongs. Unless we're opening our home to the disenfranchised and poor of society or sponsoring the biannual Latin Quiz Bowl in our living room, that is.

In truth, I'm neither slug nor saint. I'm not under my husband's thumb so much as standing firmly by, doing my best to show him how grateful I am for the boundless love he pours out on me. And I'm certainly not raising robots ... unless you count the fact that Oli loves to dance like a robot. In that case: yes, I am raising a robot.

I bake my own bread, but I also buy a reasonable bit from the store. (I have to admit that I only buy the stuff that's whole grain and without hfcs, though. That probably drops my street cred.)

I don't use textbooks.

I do have family stickers on the back of my white 12-passenger van.

I can't imagine living by the "Managers of Their Homes" schedule.

My kids do AWANA.

It's a rare day when one of my olders gets a younger dressed.

Stereotypes often have their toes dipped in truth (we actually do sing together for family worship), but often the waters of reality run far deeper than we see on the surface. Not all large families are like the Duggars, the Bateses, the Whoever You Think is Amazing/Terribles. We all have our own motivations, our own convictions, our own paths. 

Just like every other family.

Just like yours.

So hey, let's make a deal. I promise not to assume that you think Disney movies are the devil's handiwork if you promise not to assume that I've read anything by the Pearls. How's that? :-)


The Beaver Bunch said...

"Well, either that, or I'm a tireless saint who croons nothing but Scripture as gentle reproof over my near-perfect offspring--when I'm not teaching my newborns how to read, that is."

I literally laughed out loud. So funny.

And again, brilliant post.

Our older kids do dress our younger kids but only if they ask to help. Which happens about 50% of the time. I don't bake my own bread (only b/c I couldn't keep up with our sheer consumption) and I have read a book by the Pearls. But we don't follow their parenting strategies. At all. We're all guilty of some of them. And equally resistant to being defined. And, I LOATHE the term Super Mom. Loathe it.

Robin said...

This is great! I also laughed out true...

Jill said...

My older kids do babysit, but they are compensated for it. We don't give allowances, so they are happy to earn some $$.