Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family

A friend recently mentioned a book she had read called A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family. I thought I could probably stand to get some wisdom from a book with that title (although our family isn't very large by Duggar standards it is moving beyond the somewhat 2 kid norm in our country). I'm not done with the book yet but I've liked it so far. The author is a mom to 10 kids (4 bio and 6 adopted) whom she homeschools. It basically reads like a long chat over coffee where some one is just telling you the story of their family and how she makes it work. I've enjoyed reading about her family and getting some pearls of wisdom here and there.

She spends a lot of time discussing large families and in a way defending them (or maybe explaining is a better word to describe it). Either way she makes a case for large families in a culture where more than two kids is considered unusual. I will say that I experienced this a little when we had a our girl and boy and decided we'd like to have another child. People just assumed we were "done" since we had one of each. I was, frankly, a little surprised by this attitude but it seemed to come from the generation before us and not people our age. As I heard recently "3 is the new 2" and most of my friends' families reflect this. We know tons of people with 3 kids, several with 4 and even one with 8! All that to say I don't think that having 3 kids is really that large of a family but we hope to expand our brood eventually so maybe I'll qualify as big one day.

In one section of the book she talks about toys. She makes a huge case against stuffed animals which made me laugh because it takes about 15 minutes to drown in stuffed animals after you have a child. Sure they are cute and cuddly but really quite boring and end up collecting dust somewhere. They are tough to get rid of too. I mean who can throw away that cute little brown puppy (that no one has ever played with except for the 45 seconds after it was received as a gift)? Some charities won't take them, consignment sales say no and no one will buy them in yard sales. Stuffed animals are forever. Maybe an animal shelter would appreicate them - hmmm. Anyway, she says she has realized that there are only a few good toys and I like her list:

Play dishes and food
dress up clothes
"outdoor toys"
books,books, books
art supplies

I think I would only add toy cars/trucks, dolls and assume that Little People were included in the dollhouse heading (they are my kids' favorite toys - hands down). We don't have any legos and Claire is just getting to the age where independent dress up is an option but other than those things I think she is on to something. Anyone else have a bunch of loud plastic junk laying around your house?

We are still in the infant toy mode too but especially in that genre there are a few clear choices: a good shape sorter or two, a few wooden puzzles (although the pieces are high maintenance as far as clean up and keeping track of them) and a few (like 3) sensory toys to chew on and explore. I really like the fridge letters too (I would say skip the animal noise ones) although I had to put them on hiatus when Ford discovered that they were a lot more fun to just throw down the length of our kitchen.

The good news for me is that most of these essential toys will fit in our suitcases and therefore make the trip to Kenya with us! I think I have about 100 lbs of books already packed (not exaggerating). I love my kids' books. It is amazing how you can not have a single toy in your house and before you know it you are BURIED in toys. I remember looking around and thinking where did all this stuff come from?? It is smothering and it takes a lot of time to keep up with lots of toys and even more time to clean them all up. I think good toys are ones that grow with your kids that multiage kids and play with and ones that kids will just play differently with as they grow.

All in all I've enjoyed this quick read. I lean more toward her views of attachment parenting and I am more accepting of the whole idea of homeschooling which some people aren't so that may detract some people. Some things didn't go over for me either - she seems WAY laid back about housekeeping (aside from laundry) only telling her kids make their beds or clean their rooms when they have company and seems more able to tolerate a messy house than me. It also seems like with 10 kids (several teenagers) who are able to help out around the house there is no reason it shouldn't be really clean and tidy. She talks about their yearly trip to the beach as though it were the end all be all vacation. I personally would rather do family vacations that were a little more interesting than a trip to the same beach year after year. But then again I don't have ten kids and most likely won't! But like I said, if I was listening to a friend tell me about her family and the philosophy and choices they had made for raising their children I wouldn't agree with everything either. But the toy advice I will take!


Shanan said...

Love it - we too have way too much plastic around here. However, it is consignment season and as Daddy says, "Hold on to your kids or Momma's gonna sell them!" Very true. Oh, and are we supposed to clean puzzle pieces? Yikes! We have the opposite # of children phenomena in our household...people seem to think we are going to have children until we end up with a little girl. I cannot imagine raising a little girl at this point and would be happy with 8 sons. Okay, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration....what's wrong with a household full of boys? It's okay that the color pink and purple don't exist in our household!

Shanan said...

okay, oops...perhaps a freudian slip? Not hold on to your KIDS...hold on to your toys, Kids! Oh my.

The Bowers Family said...

Even though God has only blessed us with one I agree with the toy comments. How do you say no more stuffed animal to the family. I am also in the process of purging are multitude of toys. Shanan, your comments crack me up. Man I miss all you guys so much.