Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Size Matters

The following is my opinion and is not intended to offend or incite any inflammatory response. If you are offended, perhaps it is out of guilt or conviction, but certainly that is not my intent in writing the following viewpoint.

The opinion written below describes a few who fall under the group targeted in this discussion. It is not to be inclusive of all. With that understanding, allow me to proceed...

I've noticed that large tends to assimilate with large and small tends to assimilate with small. There is affinity for those of the same kind. I refer, here in particular, to families of different sizes, in terms of the number of children. Let me explain.

I grew up with fond memories of Christmases spent surrounded by many aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad was one of nine siblings. We gathered in one of my aunt's homes in the city. I remember the chaotic sounds of kids having a great time playing games and adults talking -- all in the same open space of someone's basement equipped with its own mini kitchen so that everyone could be together for this festive time. I remember the smells emanating from the oven filled with the Christmas Eve dinner to come. Many tables filled up the space to accommodate the numbers of children and adults, and were loaded with many delectable foods to snack on that potentially could fill your belly before the meal actually arrived. The main course was set out later and, even with all of the snacking done up to this point, everyone ate like it was the first meal they had laid eyes on in days. My aunts and uncles only had 1 or 2 children each and yet, when we all got together, we filled a home to capacity. It was a very fun time, as we also exchanged gifts and the adults shared stories of days gone by. At the end of the evening, everyone retreated with their small families to trek to our individual homes.

Later, after those days had passed, my immediate family of 4 (mom, dad, brother and me) joined a family of 9 and their cousins for Christmas Eve. Again, we were able to enjoy the fun chaos and excitement that a large group offers as they 'adopted' us into their festivities. I remember digging into Christmas Eve dinner at the stroke of midnight after their grandmother prayed for what seemed like 10 minutes. For some reason, after all the pre-dinner appetizers were devoured, we were all very ready to dig into the main feast of the holiday -- a second meal, if you will. The party lasted well into the wee hours and, to this day, I still remember details that live in the recesses of my mind as fond times of my childhood.

Now, as an adult and with a family of 4 again (husband, myself and two kids), I notice a significant difference. We spend holidays alone -- just the four of us, or sometimes with my parents. It's our regular small group gathering, except with a large meal accompanied by gift giving. My children have never experienced the excitement and chaos of a large family gathering. After all, they don't have many cousins their own age and my husband's family no longer gathers for the holidays as they once did. Even when they did, it wasn't like the celebrations that I experienced. My Cuban heritage brought a different style. Cubans are flavorful, loud, and rich in heritage and deep in traditions. We're dramatic, opinionated, and excitable. A quiet evening is impossible when 2 or more Cubans are together. Think 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' - the same!

I am in awe of and I love large families and large gatherings. I think they're neat and seem to offer the excitement and thrills and sense of community that I once experienced as a child. I enjoyed being welcomed into the larger extended family described above, and sharing in their gatherings. They were very gracious and thought nothing of having others outside their own family join them at holiday celebrations. I felt like I was part of them. I was free to be me and we were not judged by the fact that we weren't part of their tribe.  

What I also admire about large families is their love for children. Not that we don't love our children or that others don't love theirs. Large families have a special appreciation for each one born to them as I do for mine. They are brought in as a member of an exclusive club. Unfortunately, it appears more often these days to be to the exclusion of all others.

Nowadays, I have noticed a shift in many large families I am acquainted with. It seems that larger families are comfortable in spending time with themselves or maybe with their own extended, blood- related family members. They create their own community by having more children and feel that it completes them.

We, for a variety of reasons have two children that God graciously blessed us with. We are very grateful with our small quiver. However, I sometimes feel that our family is often looked upon as being too small to bother with. We somehow don't have enough to bring to the table in terms of size and variety of ages. I'm not sure what exactly we're supposed to be bringing, but, whatever it is, we must not have it. Instead we have only our desire to be included. I have friends with large families, but they seem to get more delight in entertaining other friends who also have large families. In fact, just recently, we were left out in the cold when some friends of ours with a large family discovered another large family just like theirs. Their interest in us quickly decreased and the need to get in touch, as frequently as we once did, quickly dwindled.

Most of our acquaintances from the circles we are in have large families, yet we seem to get left out of a variety of activities because we're small. It feels like we're the malnourished family. We have no strength in our small numbers. Somehow we didn't fill our home as well, so we're not included in their so-called community/home as warmly. Instead, we get to sit idly by and watch the delight as those families relish in each other’s company, like outsiders doing a little window shopping.

Do keep in mind, that not all large families are this exclusive. There are exceptions to every rule. I have seen large families embrace a smaller family, and that is very encouraging to see. I have also noticed that a home where there are adopted members appear to be exempt from this tendency as well. They seem to see the benefit of expanding the 'color' of their 'family.' They tend to have less interest in simply just bonding with blood relatives, but would rather share their love with those outside of 'their own kind.' This is an interesting phenomenon. When families adopt, they more readily welcome others. There is no need to be homogenous.
They seem to recognize the benefit of diversity…in their family and friendships.

What I think large families tend not to see is that it's the 'malnourished' (small families) that sometimes need to get fed. They (large families) often ask me with no malice 'why do you only have 2 kids,' or they unwittingly ask about our plans for holidays with little or no intent to include us in their plans. After all, they are complete and have no more room for others, specifically those not of their own kind. I was once told that the reason for us having so many pets is to substitute for our absence of so many children. Really? Now knowing that, I’ll remember to bring all my babies to the next social gathering; furry ones included. That should make us more welcome.

On the other hand, a small family sees nothing wrong with another small family. It's actually ok to be small. I feel very accepted by families like ours with only 1, 2 or 3 children. However, I don't simply want to be in a group like myself. I want to diversify and expand our horizons. Why just hang out with those that look like yourselves? If I wanted to do that, I'd shut myself in the bathroom and talk to the mirror all night.

I want my kids to experience the thrill of being part of a larger community that embraces us as we embrace them. There is no reason that I needed to fill my home with kids just so I could isolate my children from the benefit of sharing our lives with others outside our home.

So, my message today is addressed to large families. Don't get angry. Just give this some thought. If you are from a large family, think about whom you surround yourself with:

- Do you just stick with your immediate and extended blood relatives?
- Do you spend time only with other large families?
- Do you 'adopt' many other people/families of various sizes in order to create a more diverse family which therefore enriches your own immediate family!?

Size shouldn't matter. The heart is what really matters.

Merry Christmas!

Matthew 22
37And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.