The end of August feels like change, but of course, everything changes, all the time.
What did you do last summer? I went to the beach, made some art, did a lot of birth work, edited part of what is proving to be an enormous book, and nursed my beautiful baby, Ignatius, who is delightful, sweet, smart, serious, funny, cuddly, and lovely, and astonishingly, two months old already.
We also spent the last week hosting two houseguests—the beloved young children of one of my very best friends, who is on a healing journey and needed a break from full-on mothering.
They have been a delight to have as part of our family. This was interesting, especially as I recently received a private message, asking me how I manage to give my kids one-on-one time, seeing as we have so many.
It’s a fine question, and a reasonable one, especially as we live in a culture in which parenting is so often represented as a pass/fail proposition—an accomplishment judged by the “success” of our kids, according to criteria established by the tone (if not the content) of late capitalist technocratic industrialism—even while the Amazon burns. The short answer is, I often don’t. Sometimes one-on-one time occurs by circumstance, but mostly it’s one-on-two-or-three time, as Lee and I tag-team.
I hear variations of this query a lot though. How is it possible to give my children what they require to thrive, when there is only one of me (or two of us, including my dear husband), and so many of them? I have had several friends and acquaintances tell me, not without obvious longing, that they would like to have a second (or third) baby, but that they struggle as it is, to offer their one child the necessary quantity of attention.
Implied, is the assumption that it’s a given that children need the frequent, focused, concentrated watchfulness of one adult; that such a thing is most favourable; that our time and energy is finite, and that more kids must necessarily dilute, and thus weaken, our potency; that multiple children automatically means that they will suffer as individuals, that we will suffer, that all our resources will degrade as a result (and of course, the resources of this broken planet—mothers with many children are the favourite scapegoat for environmental destruction, which of course, is terribly, terrifyingly real).
Rather than the fullness of our family being a detriment to our kids’ development, I see it as an enormous advantage. Kids from large families will embark on adulthood well-versed in compromise, negotiation, conflict, and yes, having experienced certain deprivations in some areas (material, some might argue), but endowments in others.
I do try to meet my children’s needs. And sometimes I fail. But I don’t think that’s because I’m outnumbered, or maybe more exhausted than other parents out there. I think it’s simply because I’m human. And I also tend to think this kind of failure might be a gift.
Love does not attenuate, the more people there are to partake in it. Families are not corporations. There is no quota. Love can’t be rationed out, or set aside for later, depleted, or used up. Familial love is its own economy, with untold abundance available, now.