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Saturday, November 2, 2013

(for) Now We Are Twelve

September found us in California. October took us to Texas. If it’s November, it must be time to head to North and South Carolina. This is the life of parents whose children live in four different states.

Our travel itinerary makes me realize the wisdom of my husband who voted against having the twelve children I hoped for when we married. Apparently he had never read Cheaper by the Dozen, the book by Frank B. Gilbreth that led me to this improbable desire for a large family.

It was only natural I would formulate my view of family through a book. I was a less than athletic child, born to a quiet, bookish man, living with just one sibling in a house a block from a branch of the public library. Books opened doors into exotic worlds and made me an intimate of people I would never meet. I borrowed the personalities of a hundred main characters, fell in and out of love countless times, survived grueling poverty and luxuriated in extravagant wealth all while hidden away in a closet. (The inclination of a mother not to disturb a reading child only goes so far when there are chores to be done.)

There are certain advantages to a life lived between the covers of a feel-good book like Cheaper by the Dozen. In this enviable, family, the problems are based on solvable misunderstandings and not real life issues like having too little money to feed so many mouths. The parenting conflicts don’t lead to separation and divorce. The children, victims of scant quality time, do not escape to drugs, gangs or teen pregnancy. The mother manages multiple pregnancies, a huge home and twelve energetic children without being haggard or alcoholic. Having two full time maids probably helps with this last observation.

Once my husband explained we would never have two full time maids, even if we had twelve children, I accepted his desire for a smaller family. We stopped after giving birth to four. (Many other children we call our own will have to be the focus of a different post.)

But patience won the day, dreams came true, and I won. With the addition of another son, two daughters and five grandchildren, our family has grown to the even dozen I always wanted. The way it worked out, we only have to feed them on holiday occasions. We have stayed married long enough to pass parenting issues to the next generation. There are few family squabbles, the adults are successful and the children are thriving. Now if we can just get those two full time maids…

In January our family grows to thirteen. Can anyone recommend a book that extols the virtues of family equal to a baker’s dozen?