I'm finding that as I get older, the fact that prior to college I was homeschooled is becoming more and more insignificant. People just don't care that much. However, as interest in past education has dropped, interest in my family has risen. Being the oldest of eight brings speculating stares and many a raised eyebrow. I hear, "Wow, that's a lot of kids." Often. Wow, that is a lot of kids, I guess. On an abnormal day, I often just laugh and concur with their wonder at our vastness. On the normal days, I lead them to believe that my parents operate and underground baby trade distribution ring.
I've never really reflected much on what life might have held had I been born to a small family, like five or six. Whenever the question arises of why do we have so many I always answer that with another question: Which one of us would you've gotten rid of? Actually that's an easy answer - Patrick without hesitation. Truthfully, people do have questions and concerns about our horde. Some call it irresponsible, others impossible, most believe it insane. Irresponsible is driving with your knees on the highway and impossible was Tom Cruise's mission in that movie. So I guess we're insane.
It certainly isn't an easy way of living. But how many people are there that walk around complaining about how their lives are too easy. My life isn't exceptionally hard either, though it does reach great levels of difficulty when a diaper needs changing or Christian is driving...in reverse. But they serve a purpose. To exist in this family, I've needed to be capable of certain things. Grocery shopping pops instantly to mind. I like to brag to the ladies that I can fill I grocery cart at Costco with a balanced diet for the entire seven-day week in eighteen minutes. Chicks dig grocery shoppers. This skill comes in handy when my roommate and I walk into a Giant for the first time of semester and wonder what we need.
The practical benefits are obviously more recognizable to other eyes. But the spiritual and virtuous lessons I've learned, especially from the youngest youngers dwell just below my surface. There are certain intangible qualities you acquire driving carpools through rush hour traffic. Spending a Saturday morning with a sick baby asleep on my chest is another simple, but poignant experience. Fighting with an nine-year old over whether we watch Hannah Montana or CSI is another less poetic moment, but formative all the same.
I don't dare claim that because I've had these experiences I'm somehow better or holier than a guy who was an only child. But I will claim that the benefits and blessings I've gained from my family are indelible. As I sit here, at this very moment, trying to be eloquent and thoughtful, Nicky and Patrick are screeching at nails-on-a-chalkboard pitch not ten feet away over whether Patrick was goaltending on Nicky's last possession in basketball. And yet, the screeching, while maybe the most horrendous sound since ABBA, I know is teaching me something. Thank God for the screeching, the dirty diapers, and the driving in reverse. Above all, thank God for giving me the humility to learn from these things, and to accept a five-year old and a toddler as teachers.
Excuse me, I need to go play Guitar Hero with Stephen.