This Sunday I sat alongside Johnny in mass as he held baby Francis in his lap. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Francis flail and yell and spit up on the back of Johnny's hand and I watched Johnny bounce him and whisper in his ear and try to keep his eyes on the altar all at the same time like a veteran parent. No complaining, no wincing, no muffled objections. He held the baby, and he sat.
I realized then like I have a hundred times how lucky my kids are to have so many siblings. I know I have said this before but it's too impossible to ignore when you absorb so many moments of total inconvenience met with total generosity. Of course my kids get annoyed at each other, of course. They fight, and hit, and pull hair, and yell, and spit. All of it.
But they also can have a conversation while a grubby baby hand is yanking their hair, and they can give with kid a saggy diaper a piggy back ride, and they can be interrupted, and drooled on, with a leaky bottle spilled on their comforter, and a shoe gone missing, and a crying baby in the middle of a movie.
I know you've heard all the common objections to a large family. We all have. How can you make time for them all? Won't they miss out on so much? Won't they got lost in the shuffle? Won't they be desperate for their own space?
I've given answers to those questions a thousand times in my head, but the only one worth hearing is this: they will know how to love, they will know how to love, they will know how to love.
They'll learn it in the chaos, and in the interruptions, and the inconveniences. They will learn it in the spit up, and the tears, and in helping little ones get into pajamas. They will learn in the waiting to be served, and needing to serve, and in all of it.
What amazes me is how beautifully they already live this way. It's not perfect but it's pretty damn good considering I'm still on the verge of tearing my hair out at any given moment. Their world is built-in sacrifice, whether they like it or not. They are born into sharing. They are born into disruption. And, trust me, they are better for it. They are the lucky ones.
If you ever find yourself in a moment of self-doubt because your kid's shower runs cold since the littles bathed too long, or because they missed out on the last of the milk, or because a baby spit up in their lap, remember how good every bit of it is. And how beautiful they are becoming in the middle of the mess.