Though my life has become a bit scattered between packing, finding a new home, and working two jobs, I had the chance to attend the annual Homeschooling Mass in Manchester, NH last week. New Hampshire has the highest percentage of homeschoolers in the country; however, most choose homeschooling for libertarian reasons rather than spiritual (i.e. Live Free or Die mentality). Though I do not use a Catholic curriculum, I love to surround myself with people who have a similar belief system as I do.
When I mention to people that Ems is expecting her *gasp* 8th child, many people balk at the idea and some even have the audacity to say, "Well, as long as the oldest ones aren't raising the younger ones." I often start sputtering excuses such as, "Of course not! Ems takes care of all of them."
But, sitting at the Mass, I had the opportunity to observe a family of six children interact: 1 fifteen year-old boy, twin 13 year-old boys, 1 five year-old boy, 1 three year-old boy, and one 2 week-old baby girl. I didn't even notice the tiny infant in the eldest boy's arms until after the readings, as he snuggled her so gently. The mother helped keep the younger two boys quiet and seated (like wrestling wild monkeys) while the eldest boys kept watch over their new baby sister. When the baby fussed, the mother took her for a moment, soothed her, and then her son asked to hold her for the remainder of Mass. Even the twin 13 year-olds were able to regulate the toddlers and keep them focused during the sermon.
My grandmother lost her mother when she was very young, and her father pretty much left the chores, raising the children, and cooking up to her-- she was even forced to throw out her books as she no longer had 'time' for them.... Am I advocating enslaving the older siblings? Of course not. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater-- look for the positive aspects of having older children involved in caregiving of the younger kids.
Grace has become incredibly empathetic, kind, and trustworthy since I began entrusting her with "keep an eye on the little ones outside!" She reports any wrongdoings, runs to tell me emergencies, and tries to dissuade bad decisions (i.e. a 4 year-old climbing 40' in a tree...) I don't have Grace change diapers, but she does run upstairs to get wipes or clothing for me. I only can hope that Lissie and James will be as helpful someday....
Easy Rule #2498- Don't always assume that responsibility is a bad thing, it can create the very virtues you want to instill in your children.
Easy Rule #434- Mind what you say to people about their families-- you can't always assume you know what's best for someone else.