Many of today’s young adults were raised in small families. My wife and I each have two adult children.
Julie, however, is the oldest of seven children and I am the oldest of six. When I see a young family with more than a couple of children I take note. Recently I had the pleasure of enjoying a meal with such a family.
Next month I have the privilege of assisting a non-profit organization in West Des Moines with a fundraiser and needed to meet with the organization’s development director. In discussing a meeting time and place he indicated he would be traveling through my area on a given date so we planned to meet for lunch at a truck stop restaurant near my home. Before hanging up he warned me that his four young children would be accompanying him and his wife.
Introductions were easy. A gregarious Joseph shook my hand and introduced himself, advising that he had celebrated his sixth birthday earlier in the week. Then he proudly showed me the St. Joseph medal he kept in his pocket.
Four-year-old Matthew was much quieter. It appeared that perhaps his older brother talked enough for both of them. Dominic, 3, was on the bashful side, too.
And then there was beautiful baby sister Maria who is 15-months-old. In the course of our conversation, the children’s mother advised that another sibling was on the way.
Once everyone was seated and sandwiches distributed, the family bowed their heads to give thanks for the meal. My heart smiled as I remembered mealtime prayers when I was a child and when my own children were at home.
Each child was well behaved. Sweet Maria was at times more interested in my sandwich than what her father was feeding her. Joseph told me about a birthday present he had received earlier in the week, a remote control race car that went "17,000 hundred miles per hour." He told me a lot of other things, too, and I enjoyed hearing it all.
It was obvious that these kids are deeply loved and lovingly disciplined.
As the meal was coming to an end, one of the younger boys offered me a portion of his cookie. His mother warned that it contained kid germs and I reminded her that I have four step-grandchildren and I’m not afraid of kid germs. The cookie was delicious.
As we said goodbye, I thought how fortunate these beautiful children are to be raised by loving parents in a home where God is honored and where everyone is appreciated.
Later that week my wife and I gathered with my mother and five siblings and spouses to celebrate Mom’s 89th birthday.
As we sat around the long table eating pizza and telling stories on each other, I thought of the young family I had met earlier in the week. Like those youngsters, my brothers and sisters and I had been raised in a loving home where we were disciplined and taught to love and honor God.
Another parallel came to mind when I recalled Joseph’s loquacity. Like Joseph, I am the elder brother and recall being the "talker" of the family at one time. My siblings have all caught up in that regard as evidenced by the verbal blizzard in our meeting room that night. I strongly suspect Joseph will have competition in the very near future.
Though it was Mom’s birthday we were celebrating that evening, it was her six children who received the gift: another birthday with our precious mother.
Someday, say 60 years from now, I trust Joseph, Matthew, Dominic, Maria and siblings-to-come will gather in a pizza parlor party room to honor a parent, hopefully both of them, on a birthday. As they do, they will joyfully recall those wild and wonderful years they spent together as children and discover that their parents already know about the juvenile delinquencies they had attempted to keep secret for so many decades.
And, like my siblings and me, they will thank God for having given them parents who loved them, disciplined them and lived out their faith before them.