So Blogger.com ate my May 12 post the same day I published it. (I won't take it personally, since writers everywhere experienced the same fate.) I've been out of town at the FABULOUS Midwest Writers Workshop Retreat and couldn't deal with it before now.
It has miraculously reappeared in my draft folder, but the handful of reader comments made before it disappeared are gone for good...
Shall we try this again? New--and old--comments are welcome!
Superheroes in the Waiting Room
As they spill through the doctor's office door, every head in the waiting room turns. We crane our necks from the TV and peek over our outdated issues of Good Housekeeping. Those here for our weekly or biweekly allergy injections have learned to expect this procession. Yet we still can't keep our eyes off them: the five blond little girls, all under the age of eight.
We divide our attention for the next half-hour or so between each of them and the mother who every week single-handedly accompanies, corrals and cares for them. We're mesmerized.
Large families weren't once such an aberration. Two of my dad's uncles each had ten children. And even in the sixties and seventies, most of my Catholic school classmates hailed from families of six or seven siblings. My family fell in the minority: I was the last of just three (much to the relief of many of our teachers and our principal, Sister Mary Sadistic).
Whether due to the expense or the physical and mental exhaustion of raising a large litter, even Good Catholic parents gradually caved to the accessibility of reliable birth control. That's not to say big families are fully extinct. The omnipresent media reminds us of the extreme examples, such as Octomom and the Duggar family (population currently 21). The public seems to view those as freakshows. And perhaps some parents do procreate in great quantities for questionable reasons.
Yet isn't it possible some people want a large family simply because they love children? Because they welcome the joys and feel fairly equipped (no parent possesses total confidence) to accept the challenges? I recall a family from my two sons' grade school: eight stair-step children, all who seemed to thrive and excel, whose parents somehow found the time and energy to be engaged in their schooling, their sports and their scout troops--and still keep their sanity.
What does it take to successfully raise a big brood like this? Time management skills? Fortitude? Damn good luck?
The doctor's office buzzes with the sound and activity of the five little girls. Their mother simultaneously assists one with a hand-held DVD player, oversees the oldest's homework, reads a picture book to another and breaks up a squabble between the other two.
The waiting room crowd watches, all eyes riveted. We steal a smile at each other as one two-year-old twin climbs over the back of a chair and the other twin drops her drawers in the middle of the room.
A few of us seem to be awaiting the train wreck: the final crash and explosion. But while the train occasionally coughs and sputters, rocks and shakes, and maneuvers its way over a stretch of rough tracks, no train wreck is in sight. Because this appears to be one well-oiled machine.
We're not witness, of course, to the daily challenges that may erupt from the time their parents get them all dressed each morning until they finally fall asleep each night. But having to haul five young children to a doctor's office each and every week? This must surely rate among the greatest potential nightmares any parent can imagine.
One of the twins wanders across the room to admire a newborn in his carseat. Her mother drops the other toddler from her lap and rushes over, to intercept any unacceptable interaction.
"Sorry," she says in apology to the newborn's mother.
"No problem," the other mother replies. "She's just curious. All of your girls are so well-behaved. They seem so happy. And you're great with them."
The rest of the women in the room nod our heads and murmur, "Yes, they are. Yes, you are. Yes, we're amazed."
She thanks us and sighs. "It's not always easy. But sometimes it's really great. Five is enough though. These youngest two will definitely be our last."
At those words, every smile in our group fades.
When someone appears so successful at something--whether it's making music, running a business or raising children--we tend to hope they'll never stop. One mere mortal becomes our personal superhero. We don't ever want to see them give up their gig, especially when we know few people would be willing or able to put on the cape and take the job.
Superhero capes, especially in the world of parenting, aren't one-size-fits-all.
Not every mother or father is equipped to oversee Metropolis. Most of us peer down at our tiny kingdom of one or two, occasionally don a mask and just hope for the best.
Yet whether we're the parent of one or of ten, we devote a lifetime of love and attention and energy to that responsibility. No matter the size of our own kingdom, surely our own role is equally important--and something to be admired.
And that makes every one of us a superhero.
Any of your own large family experiences to share, as either child or parent? What superhero powers does parenting require? Do you ever get a whiff of baby powder, sigh and wonder 'what if'?