If you are a Real American, your weekend probably didn’t look too different from mine: serrated animal carcasses over blistering coals, five gallons of something that looked like it might be coleslaw, and a low-level explosives show, the kind that would likely make you and your family victims of a Predator strike if you were living in Waziristan.
So I’ll skip the details and go straight to the real mind-bending stuff: my cousin and his eight children. I’m not talking about one of those huge-hearted foster families. I’m talking about one man and one woman producing an octo-squad of tow-headed children.
His family could hardly be more different than mine, even beyond the sheer volume. He homeschools his kids in the Adirondacks; I am trying desperately not to. I consider myself Jewish (despite being a half-blood); I’m pretty sure he’s raising his kids very Christian. I know they are all John Birch-level conservatives (the oldest son wore a t-shirt that said “Annoy a liberal: work hard and succeed”).
But here’s the twist: his kids are wonderful, the t-shirt notwithstanding. They are gentle and outgoing and hugely cooperative. They play great with younger kids; they are at ease around adults. Their demeanor is no small triumph in our family, which has not always had such success raising kids (another cousin who was arraigned for bank robbery this weekend managed somehow to post bail and attend the barbecue with his daughter).
Given that my wife and I don’t plan on exceeding replacement rate (i.e., no more kids) and that we’re not about to move into the wooded hinterland, what can I take away from my cousin’s success? For now, one thing: don’t sweat the little stuff. These kids surely weren’t each individually swaddled with intense attention and personalized fuss. There’s just not enough time in the day to do that with eight kids. But the kids have come to rely on each other, and their parents provide the vision thing. It’s something we should all aspire to, whether we have two kids or eight.