Why would anyone have ten kids in today's world? Prices are skyrocketing, cities are crowded and raising kids is fraught with peril. People are astonished when I tell them I have ten kids. I often hear, "You must be crazy," or, "You must be rich," or, "You must be a saint." I thoroughly acknowledge my lack of sanity. I sometimes feel rich, (in love, that is). I rarely, if ever, feel like a saint.
You have to be a bit crazy to have a family numbering in the double digits, requiring a minimum of two hotel rooms when traveling, and always needing additional pages when filling out forms that list household members.
When maneuvering my 15-passenger van through the McDonald's drive-through one day, the woman handing me my happy meals commented, "That's a big van."
I replied, "Mini-vans are for wimps."
I didn't intend to offend. It was supposed to be funny, but she retorted, "I drive a mini-van."
As for feeling rich, every time I pay the mortgage bill, I tell my husband, "We get to live in the house for another month!" He doesn't appreciate hearing that, but I feel a sense of accomplishment each month when I mail the check.
When I was a little girl, I used to love visiting Grandmother in Paducah, Kentucky. She was rich. She had silver candlestick holders. She would laugh at me when I told my friends she was rich. When I grew up and saw with adult eyes the tiny house she and Grandfather lived in their entire married life, I understood why she laughed. But she was still rich in my mind.
Christmas morning at our house means Mass, followed by breakfast and opening presents. The younger kids get tremendous joy from wrapping their old toys and recycling them as gifts to other family members. The older kids get somewhat annoyed at this, ("Hey, I gave you that last year!"), but, they're pretty good sports for the most part.
Birthdays at our house mean twelve voices singing, "Happy Birthday to You," at fever-pitch until the dishes in the china cabinet rattle. If we were smarter, we'd have spread out the birthdays so we had one a month, but our anniversary is in March, and we now have five birthdays in December. December is one big party at our house.
After our eighth child was born, we took a job in England. There is nothing like being an American in another country to make you feel rich. We began to think seriously about adding to our family through adoption. I felt like the richest woman in town when my husband said he was willing to adopt one, then two more children.
When people tell me, "You must be rich," I smile and nod, with a wink at the kids. I feel rich.
As for being a saint-certainly not. I know more than anyone (except, perhaps my kids), how little patience I have, how many mistakes I make, and how often I fail at being a good parent. The great thing about having ten kids is they're teaching me patience and they're teaching me how to be a good parent because they give me so many opportunities to practice.
And one of the best perks of having so many kids is that if one, two, or even three of them are mad at me at any given moment, I still have at least a 70% approval rating. Maybe I am a saint after all.