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Living large

Kate Moriarty  |  23 May 2018

Home truths illustrationI’m not sure if you know this already, I try to camouflage it – only naming two or three at a time, never all at once, and keeping numerical details deliberately vague – but I have quite a lot of them. Children, I mean. I have six.

Matilda’s my brilliant, sensitive 13-year-old; Christopher’s resourceful, extroverted and 10; Harry, seven, is creative and quirky; Annie’s five.years-old and pure sunshine; Daisy’s two and thinks she’s Batman. Her twin, Poppy, is Robin. Together they fight crime by distributing toilet paper throughout the house.

I could have gotten away with this. Most of the people who read this column regularly are my mum, and she already knows. I guess I’m trying to pass as a normal person.

It happens when I meet someone new. I chatter about family life and see a face clouded with consternation. The internal calculations continue until I’m interrupted, mid-anecdote:

‘Hang on, just how many children do you have?’

‘Er, six’, I cough. Then I gamely continue talking, even though it’s too late. There is a gradual backing away, as if from a ravenous Alsatian. Large families are not normal.

I’ve experimented with different ways of breaking the news, but ‘four children...and two toddlers’, ‘half a dozen’ or ‘a six pack’ all yield similar results.

It happens at the supermarket, ‘You have your hands full!’ says another shopper, indicating the identical golden-haired moppets perched side-by-side in my trolley.

‘Haha, yeah…’ I falter. I need to wrap this up quick. Annie drops cereal into the trolley.

‘Wait! You have THREE?’ shopper exclaims.

‘Um!’ I say, edging away. Harry appears with wipes. He consults his list and dashes away. Christopher arrives with his arms full of tuna (‘it was on special’). Shopper’s eyes are like saucers. She needs to sit down.

‘Five’, she croaks, ‘I can’t believe you have five children.’

I wink at Christopher. ‘Sure’, I shrug.

By now, Harry has returned, ‘Six! Six, Mum! Mum! Did you forget you had a daughter? Mum!’

‘Shut up, darling’, I say through gritted, smiling teeth and quickly sail away.

I’m proud of my children. I just don’t have time to explain to every stranger who stops me (and there are many of them) why I chose to have six. How I’m from a large family myself and am now surrounded by a small community of siblings whom I love fiercely. How I could not think of a greater gift to provide my own children than this unique sense of belonging. So I smile and shrug, and, later, invent responses to their refrains.

‘Your hands are full.’ Yes, full of good things.

‘Don’t you have a television?’ Yes, but there’s nothing good on.

‘Haven’t you heard of contraception?’ Haven’t you heard of subtlety?

‘You should learn to say no.’ You’re probably right, but my husband is desperately good-looking.

‘Don’t you know what causes it?’ We have an inkling. It’s a project that requires further research.

‘I think somebody needs the snip.’ Too late, you’ve already been born.

OK, that last one was mean. But I only say it inside my head.

Here’s how I see it. Promoting a culture of life is not just about signing petitions and writing impassioned letters. Promoting a culture of life means not rolling your eyes at the toddler in the cafe; not sighing in dismay at the baby crying through Mass. It means celebrating families of all sizes, even the ones that look like they should have their own reality series.

So, here’s to people who say ‘Well done!’ and ‘You can do it!’ while three of my children argue, a fourth is shrieking, and Batman and Robin are unceremoniously disencumbering the trolley of all its eggs.

Thank you for your encouragement. You make me feel like a normal person.

Well, almost.

 

Topic tags: familylife, responsiblerelationships, healthycommunitylife

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