Ah, the uninhibited joy of the playground. The warmth of the sun on our faces and the release of so much energy shared by all of my kids. I love watching them introduce themselves to a new friend—so uncomplicated, so full of innocent confidence. I love hearing them exchange names and ages, followed by the heartwarming suggestion, “Wanna go on the swings?”
In an instant, they act as if they have been buddies for years. Soon they exchange stories of where they live, what school they go to, if they have any pets, and of course who their siblings are. But when they reveal the number of people in our family, I cringe a little when the new friend blurts out in shock, “That’s a lot of work for your mom!”
I will be the first to admit that raising a whole bunch of kids is a lot of work.
It’s loud and chaotic, and there is usually at least one child who is crying at any given moment. But it’s also full of deep belly laughter and merciful moments of patience, all magnified by the number of hearts that grow more and more intertwined each day. These are the moments I love the most, that I choose to remember with all my capacity, that make all that work for this tired mom fade in the background.
The morning scurry to get ready for school is busy, mostly chaotic, sometimes even draining. There always seems to be something that goes wrong during the last two minutes—when we should be clicking our seatbelts in the car, the baby needs a change, someone is missing a shoe, a coat zipper breaks, I’ve misplaced my keys. But you know what moment I love? Listening to all their questions and stories, hearing about what they are going to learn today, and who they want to play with at recess.
It’s that inquisitive curiosity reminding me of the innate joy of learning we all possess. That’s what I love about getting ready for school together.
When we’re hanging out at home on the weekend, I know I get grumpy about the mess in their bedrooms, lamenting about the explosion of toys and clothes in every corner. But then I catch a glimpse of an older sibling reading to a little one, and I witness the other children clambering on the couch, jostling for position within the giant bouquet of reading enthusiasts. That’s what I love about weekends at home.
And then there are the birthdays, so many birthdays! The parties may not be as elaborate or at big venues, but I love the unhindered joy they all express, no matter whose birthday it is. The shared excitement to blow out the candles, the anticipation for cake. The celebration may be simple, but the joy is so pure and genuine. I love that we get to celebrate birthdays so frequently.
On long road trips, I know I complain that we need to add at least two hours to the GPS trip length because there are bathroom breaks and necessary food stops, and at least one child inevitably gets carsick.
But I love hearing the awe in their voices, announcing everything their big eyes take in.
I love the reactions when we approach a tunnel or a bridge, and everyone cranes their neck to take in the view. And when the trip goes late into the night, I love looking back and seeing them all piled on each other in perfect collective slumber, eventually rubbing the sleep from their eyes when the hum of the motor shuts off, and they sleepily cry out, “We’re here!” That’s what I love about long road trips.
Here’s the thing—we all know that raising children is a lot of work. A lifetime of work. But it saddens me when someone sees this labor of love as simply labor. And even though I don’t always enjoy every minute of it, I don’t ever want my children to think I see them as mere nuisances that I have to deal with.
Because there’s far more to raising a family than just the work.
Work is temporary—as they grow, the work changes. And as they become adults, one by one, there will be less work altogether. But my love for them, and the love they have for each other, nourished by all these vivid memories, will never change. And that’s what I love about our big family.