Monday, November 1, 2010

Larger Family Life- Part 1

Today as I have been preparing dinner with the children who are at thome I am thinking how our family is in a constant state of change. I have been thinking on this post for some months and it has become very obvious to me how this is so, as we have been making slight changes in our routine and the structure of our family with the older children away for just over a  week.

I have noticed a few things that are different in our family circle, just by the other children being away. One of the obvious things that goes  almost without saying is just how few people we seem to have in our family. When we are in a room together it seems so incomplete and EMPTY. We don't fill the room as we would normally do, and this is partly because with  the older children away there literally is more available space to fill.

Saxon said to me that " there are so many empty places in the house with the older kids is empty". I had never thought of this before and when our friend Erin was visiting she wondered why we hadn't made the rooms bigger when we were building. I really didn't understand what she meant at the time (our children were all littler physically then and we never considered them growing at all when building) as I thought our rooms were generous. But when you have 13 people in a house and 6 of those children/young adults, are all taller than me well..... you get the picture.

I have found that (with the older children away) our family structure and how we intergrate as a family falls more in line with how we were when we were a family of 9 with Rogan being the baby.
At that time in 2001 before the real age of Blogs and Facebook we were part of a Charlotte Mason  Newsletter exchange. This was where a group of families all did a 'letter' to exchange with other families. Each family contributed one per year and we all received each other's newletters.It was a very informative way of receiving encouragment and ideas from other like-minded families.

The other week I found the one we contributed for 2001. It was really interesting to see how we used to live our daily lives in this homeschooling lifestyle. If you are interested and have the time (it is a 30 page document)  you may find some useful information. Our Charlotte Mason Newsletter (it actually starts at the bottom and goes up, I don't know how to change this around).

As I think back sometimes and as I read this I sometimes think of this as our "Golden Age" of Homeschooling. However it is only as I really reflect on our family and the changes I see that I fully appreciate and understand that our family is not static, and nor should it be so.
A family is like a mobile, always changing always moving and to me this is a wonderful and  blessed oportunity.
An opportunity for all to grow and mature, an opportunity for the younger to become older and to mentor the younger children, an opportunity to grow and have responsibility that helps them become more independent and mature, as well as an opportunity for us as parents to grow too and to form new and more mature relationships with our older children.
The other day Stephen said to me "you don't seem to know where all the children are any more or what they are doing all the time." Initally I was upset at the implication that I wasn't able to keep up with our children or the idea that perhaps I wasn't as committed to my vocation as much as I should be........
then I realised that, NO I don't always know what each individual person is doing any more and that is all right....
WHY is that all right you may ask?
Well our children are not small anymore, they do not move on mass together all the time, playing ALWAYS together in a suburban  backyard. Our children have always been close to one another, and although this continues still, as the older ones have grown, they do not spend every minute together anymore, and thus are not as easily trackable.

The older children need time to be individuals and to be separate from the rest of the family; time to develop without the 'family' always being together. It has been hard to adjust to this for some of our middle children who remember the days of  'everyone playing together' and not being able to adjust to the change of the older ones not wanting to do that anymore.

However there are times when I believe it appropiate that ALL should be togther for something and I will insist upon this.
Having said that we do have a lot of family celebrations and traditions that automatically mean bonding time together.

We live in a very large house, 580 square metres, on 5 acres of land and I should allow our children the freedom (that comes with age) to explore and have time to do what they want (within house rules of course).

That must mean I know where the little ones are all the time, right!
Well I must say honestly, no, I don't to the exact minute always know where the little ones are, but I have a rough idea of the territoy they are in.

Should this be normal? Well, as I said the dynamics of our family has changed with each child. The number goes up for sure, but each child presents with an indivdual set of wants and needs and as with each new baby that we welcome into our family we allow them to be individuals.

These needs change too as children grow and develop and although we have some very strict parameters that are NON-NEGOTIABLE, I believe that as loving, compassionate parents we need to treat each child as an INDIVIDUAL: this may seem at times that one or another child is being treated differently, but there are many ways to raise and nuture a child within the 'family code,' that still allows all to be bound within the 'family circle.'

Just recently I left a comment for a dear friend about how family changes all the time and not to be too quick to want something to happen (Emily was anxious, as we all happen to be, for her precious baby to be born). This is what I said ~
"Just enjoy these last days with your little ones as is. It changes so quickly. I always find I want to enjoy the last days with our family as is, while still anticipating the new arrival. Because it all changes again, always for the good, but life is not the same and family dynamics are not the same."

Kathi at A Mothers Prayers was also talking about a routine that had worked for her for so long that wasn't as effective with her changing family, they were growing older, and she was struggling with the letting go of this family routine, that had served her so well in the past.

I left her this comment at the time:
"I think a family is a moving and changing circle. What used to work when our children were all little is different now we have big and little and middle children. The family structure isn't the same and nor should it be. We change and so does our family's needs.
Spend some time in prayer working out what is essential for your family and don't be afraid to let go of something that worked for you for so long and that has such wonderful results and memories."

Our ideals and how we relate as a family in given circumstances need to be adjustable. There have been times when I have LOVED the way we homeschooled and connected as a family. It was hard to give up these 'comforts' that I had to allow for the growth of our family, but as time goes on I am convinced that a static family, a family that adheres to the way they have always done it will not be a growing, dynamic family structure.

There is so much I wanted to share on other topics relating to a large family: things like expectations, behaviours and attitudes about large families, but I think I have spent long enough on this ( my lack of a computer has been a major problem), so that I will do another post on these issues soon.

Blessings to you and your homes,


Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing, Gae!

Erin said...

So pleased to see you got to start your series:)
You are correct, it does all change, and although it is normal to spend some time grieving what we did have, (I know I spent too much time grieving our change in homeschooling dynamics)we need to look at what we do have.
I'm so enjoying this time with my teens, precious time getting to know and respect them as individuals as they start to navigate their way in the wider community.
I guess I have grown alot by these challenges, not only as a parent but as an individual. And the changing family dynamics, the shifting of the olders to more outside pursuits allows the younger ones to step forward and grow too. I have to say I've been very impressed with my middles (11 &9) as they have shown what they are capable of whilst their older siblings are away (with yours)

Cinnamon said...

Hello Gae,
So good to come by and peek in on what is going in with your family.

What a lovely post as your family, ours as well, changes it seems with the seasons.

Not only do our children grow up but our schedule/routine needs tweaking continually, as well.

Hope you have a wonderful week~ Cinnamon

Prairiemaid said...

Beautiful post, Gae. Families do change and we don't realize it during the "process." Once, I wanted to write a book, entitled "The Changing Faces at the Dinner Table." Corny, I know. But that year, my father died, but we gained a sil, grandson and adopted two boys. So we almost doubled.

Life is interesting, but never still.


allisamazing said...

I've enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. I sometimes find it hard to keep up with the changes that happen in our family and I only have two kids!
Sometimes I wish for the comfort of the familiar and the way things were but on the other hand there is so much life in the changes! Thanks for sharing. ~Alana~

HomeGrownKids said...

Hi Gae,
Oh family dynamics certainly do change, don't they? I often sit back and reflect as you have done in this post.

I too, recently wrote about homeschooling way back when… when our correspondence was through the CM Family Newsletter and how wonderful it was. I love blogging and FB but there are definitely aspects of the old days that I miss.
A beautiful post… thanks for sharing.

Katie said...

Thank you, Gae, for sharing this. I am just beginning to feel that we are approaching a time where our family needs to move into a different routine based on the kids growing and changing so. I've only got 4 children so far, but I can see that as they grow, I'll have much growing to do, too, to keep up with their changing needs. Blessings!

Amy @ Raising Arrows said...

I really enjoyed reading this! I can even seen how our family dynamics are starting to change with a 12 year old being our oldest. So interesting to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for sharing!


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