Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Is It Possible to Love That Many Children?
In college a girlfriend and I were discussing large families. She asked me, “How could you possibly love that many children?” Over the years I have had others ask the same question. This quite astounds me. What a great misunderstanding about love. To borrow the lines from a country love song, “Loved Too Much” sung by Ty Herndon: “Too much sun will burn you, too much rain, you’d drown, too much cold will freeze you, too much wind would blow you down. But love is something different, it disregards the rules.”
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar rightly titled one of their books “A Love That Multiplies.” The thing is, when I have 2 or 4 or 6 children, my love is not divided between them until I have no more love to give. Love comes from the Source of All Good—God. When I feel or experience God’s love for me, I automatically am filled with love back for Him. In turn, that love between God and I causes me to want to love others around me. That’s called charity.
This same principle applies to my children. Loving my first child does not make it impossible to love my second or third child. In fact, it increases my ability to love my other children. Tonight as my third daughter woke me in the middle of the night so I could get her a drink of water, I snugged with her until she fell back asleep. As I did, it reminded me of when my oldest daughter was the same age, and it filled my heart with love and a softening for this daughter as I held her.
Think of your friends, your sisters, your parents, your grandparents, all the people you love. You don’t think in your heart, I can’t love my friends because there is no room in my heart to love them—my love is already taken up by love for my mother. That would be silly! Instead, it is the love from and for your mother that taught you to be able to love your friend. Each child is so unique and individual that love for one child never negates loving the other.
It makes me think of Heavenly Father. He has trillions of children—an eternal increase. Yet He knows each one of us individually and loves us uniquely. I testify that God’s love for us can teach us to love all the children He chooses to send to our family.
In all fairness, I don’t believe my friend really meant she thought she couldn’t love that many children. I think she was asking how could I possible take care of the physical needs of that many children. The principle of hand-me-down clothes applies here. When you think of a family of 10, do you think that you need to buy a whole wardrobe of brand new clothes for every single child? Of course not! If you have a perfectly good outfit that one child has outgrown, and it will fit the next child, why would you not use it again? Older children will help you with your younger children. Michelle Duggar was once asked what the difference between her and Kate Gosselin was. Michelle made mention of how many older children she had around to be helping hands.
When my oldest was a toddler, she wanted my constant attention. She was lonely and bored! Now that she has two younger siblings to play with, I no longer have to entertain her 24/7. She is best friends with her siblings, loves them, and will play for hours with them. She is learning valuable things from them like sharing, cooperation, compassion, etc. Oliver Demille in his book, “Freedom Shift” explains that in the past, parents didn’t expect to be everything to every child. Grandparents, uncles, siblings—they all had a part to play in the education of the child. Today we think we as parents must teach it all. I don’t! There are things that my children’s siblings can teach them that I simply cannot.
My sister explains it in another way. Whether you have ten children or one, as a mother, you will always give 100% of yourself. That’s just how mothering works. You give your all—no more, because you have nothing more to give, and no less, because you love your children too much to give less. What we lack, God can make up the difference. I've heard many people say that emotional experiences a mother has in the womb affect the baby for years after they are born, etc. I am not saying that this theory is false. I don’t really know. But I think that when people focus on this, they are forgetting the Atonement. We don’t have to be perfect parents! God knows that we are not perfect. I believe our imperfection is the very reason He gives us children. My children are not only teaching each other principles like patience, kindness, selflessness, etc. They are also teaching me. God understands that we will make mistakes as parents. That is why He sent His Son to provide the great Atonement whereby we may all find healing for the unfair imperfect things we go through—even imperfect parents who makes mistakes!
Just like the Grinch learned, I believe it is not the number of children we have, but the size of our heart that matters. If we feel our hearts are not big enough, we can turn to the Lord and He can change our hearts, and increase our ability to love. Which is why we are here on earth--to learn to love as the Savior and the Father do.