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AM I DEPRIVING MY CHILDREN?

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by Lorrie Flem, Publisher, teachmagazine.com

"Do you know what causes this?" asked the lady who thought she was asking an innovative and witty (Believe me. Neither is true.) question while looking at our 6th sweet baby, Kiley. At times you want to avoid an uncomfortable question, one you would rather not answer for one reason or another. Maybe it's too personal; "Are you going to have any more children?" Perhaps it would require too lengthy a response; "Well, we were going to add on to the house but then Jim fell off the roof and broke his . . ." Or you are afraid the answer may offend the one who asked the question; " Do you believe women should wear pants?" asks the nice lady wearing slacks. A good way to divert a question and possibly avoid answering it entirely is to ask a question of your own.

Recently I was questioned about the wisdom of having such a large family in today's economy. The questioner was concerned that we were probably depriving our children of vital things. Let me ask you a few questions. Not to circumvent the answer to her question, but to answer it.

Am I depriving my children of social interaction? They live in a family with 8 brothers and sisters and a mom and a dad. They have a grandma and grandpa that live across the street and 2 more that spend a few days with them at least once a month. They go to church once a week if not more often and we have a weekly Bible study in our home. We have swimming, piano, and Spanish lessons weekly and participate in a weekly homeschool co-op.

We have found that time spent with a variety of ages, like God designed the family, is healthier for positive, unselfish attitudes than in artificial environments with children of all one age group. So am I socially depriving them by surrounding them with these people and activities? They learn on a daily basis the fun that can be had with people of all ages and the give and take that goes with it. They are learning to understand that their activity desires are not always going to be met. Sometimes what they want is not the best choice for our family. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children of love and attention? I make sure to have some one-on-one time with each of them weekly. John loves to keep me up with current events. Levi and I can wash dishes together. Drew often accompanies Jay and I on errands. Dessaly folds laundry with me. Kiley and I go high and low together and get the dusting done in half the time. Haley likes to walk up to the mailbox with me. Luke loves to sing songs with me. During all of these we have time to talk alone together. I give them individual attention whenever one of them is hurt, disobedient, or tells me that they need it either verbally or non-verbally.

Perhaps the best answer to this question would be to tell you that each time we have had a new baby the other children embrace the newborn with open arms. They argue over the honor of holding him and later playing with him. My little ones look up to their older siblings and the older ones happily help care for their needs, most of the time with no parental prompting. They learn from living in a large family that their needs are not always going to be met as soon as or in the way they want. They are beginning to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Am I depriving my children of a 'normal' family life by having a large family? Soon after James was born our nearly sixteen-year-old son, John answered this question eloquently, "You know Mom, before James was born I was nervous about our big family. We already stick out so much in public and another baby would even make it worse." I'll remember this poignant moment the rest of my life, then he lovingly gazed down on his fourth brother closely cuddled in his arms against his chest, "I hope we have a whole bunch more." In a large family children learn that life does not revolve around them, their desires, or their preferences exclusively. They learn that mommy and daddy's love for them, and their love for each other is not diluted by having more children, but that it is a given they will always be able to count on. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children by having them eat a banana or an apple for a snack instead of a bag of potato chips? I try to feed them the best fuel for their growing bodies. Which of these is superior? Child obesity is a problem on the increase in the United States. By cutting back on just a single bag of potato chips each week you will save $104.00 a year and make the better choice. Their taste buds do not always call for the best decision. They are learning that what we want is often not the wisest choice. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children by having them drink water with each meal instead of milk, juice, Kool Aid, and soda? Americans don't drink nearly enough water. Besides, who made water? Do you want to argue with Him? By cutting out just one glass of soda per person per day would save $136.87. For a family of our size with 9 drinkers � well of soft drinks � $1231.83 a year would be saved to say nothing about our health. They are learning that the smart financial decision does not always involve large sums of money; a penny saved is a penny earned. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children by not taking them out to eat at fast food restaurants very often? The quality of this food is appallingly low and the caloric content is atrociously high. Not to mention the mixed message I send by trying to teach them to make healthy eating choices by encouraging them to snack on carrot sticks and then feeding them French fries. Besides, I am blessing my children with a healthy marriage relationship. By not grabbing a bite to eat for lunch or a pizza on the way home even once a week at $10, I save $520 a year and Randy appreciates that. They are learning that a woman can be a helpmate to her husband in the decisions she makes. They are also learning that the advertising we are surrounded with is not necessarily showcasing the smartest thing to buy. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children by not buying them every toy they like? Do I let 3-year-old Lukey eat all the chocolate he wants? Not unless I want him to be sick! I don't give my children everything they want. It isn't good for them and as a mother who loves her children, I try to give them what is good for them rather than what they want. Besides, watch them and you will see that they tend to play with a few favorite toys over and over. They are learning that often less is more. They are gaining a valuable life skill, the joy that comes from sharing your blessings. They are learning about real life.
Am I depriving my children by not purchasing each new piece of attire they see and want? Do I buy them the sweater that "everyone else has?" Not if I want them to learn that Godly attire is more often than not, not "like everyone else's." Just like with toys, they tend to wear a few beloved pieces of clothing anyway and they are learning how to carefully pick what to spend money on. They are learning that new clothes are new whether they come from the local thrift store, a friend, or a trendy department store. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children by not buying them each a car or paying for each of them to go to college? Speaking from personal experience here, a car and 4 years of private, liberal arts college education does not ensure they learn to give it the best care and appreciate them. In fact, it probably has the opposite effect. A college degree does not equip you with the most important knowledge, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Cars and college education are probably more effective when they are paid for, at least in part, by the student. They will gain an increased awareness of the value of a dollar. They are learning that you have to work for what you want. They are learning about real life.

Am I depriving my children by choosing to stay home with them? I don't work outside of our home in part to protect them from the detriments that come from having lots of interaction with children of the same age, multiple cans of soda pop, bags of potato chips or Big Mac's a week, expensive (not necessarily the best because expensive is not synonymous with better) toys and clothing, and becoming latch-key children. If I were to go to work so my children can have these things the world would not consider me to be depriving them. If I become so active in church and other outside the home commitments that I am not there to kiss Haley's owies and listen to Drew's jokes, even most of my Christian acquaintances would not consider me to be depriving my children. But I believe I would be.

So am I depriving my children? Am I aware of what causes this? Thank you for asking and yes, I most certainly am.

Visit Lorrie at teachmagazine.com




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