I'll never forget it. I was married for maybe about two years with one little baby. I was talking to a person who had four siblings and she talked about how she couldn't do things in high school because she was one of five.
One sentence. That was it. It burned right in to my brain. We had already decided on four kids. I didn't want just two. And the hubster didn't want just three. So we already planned on four, and now I was listening to one of five lament her larger sibling count because of what she missed out on.
We wanted four so that they would always have each other. That is why four. I didn't want just two. I was one of two. Then he left. My brother, my buddy, took off after high school and didn't have time for his sister anymore. I didn't want two. The hubster was the middle child in his family. He didn't want three. He didn't want someone to be stuck in the middle like he was. So four it was! And I wanted them close in age. I wanted them to have each other. I wanted them to always be there for each other and to enjoy each other and trust each other.
I hadn't thought about sports costs or trip fees or senior pictures or varsity jackets or any of that. The things we thought about had no price.
So I started planning at that point in time. I didn't want my kids to grow up and feel like that. I didn't want them to ever see their "one of four" status as being something that inhibited them or made their life less of anything.
Hindsight is 20/20 here folks, I should have thought about other larger families. My mom is one of five. They never had a lot of money. But they had a lot of love. And I have never heard her talk about her childhood with remorse about not being able to afford anything. She learned to appreciate what they did have. And she learned to value the things that come without price, like the gift of family.
I do know that a majority of the time my kids do see how blessed they are to have each other. I point it out when they forget. And they get along very well . . a good part of the time. We have spent a lot of time working on how to get along with each other.
But I've still had that sentence in the back of my head from that conversation years ago. And it's time now that I address it. I have let my kids try just about everything that they've been interested in. Now some things I've made them wait. Music lessons and dance had a two year wait to see if they would change their minds before such an investment. They didn't change their minds, and they love it.
It's the other stuff. The other stuff that they do because they think they "should". It costs time. It costs money. And it costs them an opportunity to learn to make good decisions. I am not teaching the children here to say no to things that don't mean the most to them. I've been teaching them to give everything a shot and a commitment and see what sticks. That is not the correct approach. I've had to have talks so far with all the children that it is ok to like a sport and not play it on a team! We can play it in the backyard. We can cheer on the pros. A person isn't meant to play every sport that catches their eye.
This is the same with other activities. We spent too much time this past school year on things that the kids weren't passionate about. Now I know that they are kids and their interests will change. I am ok with that, it's a part of growing up.
And just in case I thought about waivering on my recent decisions to say "no" to a lot more things - we just spent time, (the first week of summer break mind you!) doing a camp that my participants had to be bribed with ice cream by today to finish. Six hours, $70, and us walking out going "whew, that is finally over". I will keep this memory. I am changing my stance here. No longer am I concerned that the kids get to try everything out there. I will not be plagued by the fear that they will get told no about an activity and regret our family size - honestly, that is just silly anyway. Nope, from now on we are going to look at the time commitment, the ambition towards the activity before us, and yes, the cost too. My budget for kiddo activities is too large for what they really need as children anyways. Instead of teaching the kids that they can do as many activities as a child with no siblings; I will teach them to make good decisions about how they spend their time and the time of others (like me, the driver).
Tonight I'm thankful that my kids won't grow up to resent our family size. I am thankful that they also won't grow to be burnt out on activities. I am thankful that we (very purposefully) will teach them to value their time, their interests, their peace, their ambitions, their rest, and our family, that is always there for them.