When casual conversation turns to the size of my family, the most common phrase I hear is,“I can’t imagine your grocery bill.” It is easy to think about the amount of time, energy and money that a larger than average family may require. But I want to tell you that having five kids has many advantages.
One of the perks of having several kids under my roof is the community that we have built within our walls. I don’t know if it is the span of ages (7-19) or the number of kids, but my favorite phrase over the last few years has become, “Ask a brother.”
You see, I don’t always have the answer. I don’t always want to answer and sometimes I don’t have the time or energy for the answer. But with five humans in various shapes, sizes, interests and experiences roaming around, there is always someone who does.
“How do I solve this math problem?” Ask a brother.
“I can’t reach __________.” Neither can I. Ask a tall brother.
“I’m bored.” Ask a brother to go outside or grab a puzzle or a game.
Don’t even get me started on complicated Lego sets, Pokémon and Magic cards. All a mystery to me. I have tried. Really, I have. But at this point I believe that it is infinitely better for me to simply say, “Ask a brother,” than struggle through a painful conversation about a world that I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around.
“What classes should I take freshman year of high school?” First, discuss this with the guidance counselor. After that, ask the two oldest brothers who very recently TOOK these classes and know the teachers. I’m not taking myself completely out of the conversation, but it simply makes sense for them to weigh in on the decision.
With my “Ask a brother,” policy, I believe I am accomplishing a few things:
1. I am encouraging my kids to ask for help AND that they are expected TO help when asked.
2. The older ones take pride in being the “expert” and passing on their experience to the younger siblings.
3. I’m teaching them to rely on one another. I want this bond to be solid long after my husband and I are gone.
Okay, so before you begin thinking that my kids parent each other I will acknowledge that you are partially correct. However, I am not sitting around watching Netflix while my kids are left to their own devices. Rather, I like to think that my delegation of tasks pays off for everyone involved. I am less stressed out by the multiple demands of each kid and they get their needs met. After all, there is only one of me and one person can only do so much. At least until my husband comes home from work…
I can focus on making dinner somewhat uninterrupted while someone is helping another with their homework (and who doesn’t want dinner?). I can have interesting conversations with my teenagers about politics, world events and what’s happening at school because someone is helping another with their latest piano piece. I have the energy and interest in spending time with each of them doing things we both enjoy because the stuff that confuses or frustrates me is being addressed by someone who understands it (like Pokémon).
We have come into this way of life out of necessity as I am most assuredly out numbered. However, I believe that every family could encourage their children to help one another no matter the age range and number in their home. After all, shouldn’t we encourage a life skill such as this for all of our children? The idea of helping one another in and out of the home? Knowing that you are never alone and someone is there to help you if you need it?
Lately I’ve been taking, “Ask a brother,” one step further as I notice opportunities beyond our home. My kids noticed the neighbor across the street struggling alone with a wheelbarrow of mulch. Rather than watch her struggle, I sent them out to help and they were rewarded with thanks and popcicles. Another neighbor casually mentioned her confusion over her Yahoo group, so I sent my tech savvy teen to her house. When I ask them to help someone (a brother, a neighbor or even a friend) they often grumble because they are kids. But when they are done they usually tell me that they are glad they took the time to help. Eventually I hope to see them do this without my
Recently I found some reading homework for my first grader which required a signature from a parent upon completion. Low and behold, the oldest brother had signed off on it. Turns out the youngest had “asked a brother” and most likely they both enjoyed it much more than if he had done it with me. It absolutely made my day.
The world can be a lonely place. What makes it less lonely is knowing that your brother has your back. Having someone around to help you or play with you is a blessing.
We are rich beyond measure with these amazing humans under our roof. It is worth the price of a large grocery bill any day.