The reason? There were only six of us.
This is a prime example of my latest theory on family dynamics (just call me Dr. Kath).
I call it the Minus-One Theory.
Here’s how the theory goes:
Things always go more smoothly if just one person is missing from the family equation.
Am I crazy, or has anyone else ever noticed this?
It doesn’t really matter which one it is, and it really doesn’t matter how small or big our family has gotten.
Before we had kids, things went more smoothly if my husband wasn’t there, that’s for sure. I could eat what I wanted for dinner, when I wanted it, and plan my day around - well, whatever it was I used to do before I had kids (I'm sure it was something that required long periods of sustained attention, but it’s been so long I just can't quite remember!). Things were quiet when I was in control of my own destiny for the evening.
Then, when we had a baby, woo-hoo! Things were so easy for my husband and me when the little one was off at Aunt Rachel’s.
As we’ve added the second, third (and cetera) children, I’ve noticed the same phenomenon.
It doesn’t matter if the absentee is the oldest, the youngest, or anyone in the middle. It doesn’t matter if that child is loud, quiet, independent or clingy. It doesn’t matter if we are getting ready for church or just hanging out watching a movie.
There is one more chair to choose from, one less opinion to consider, one less dirty diaper to change (or one less frantic RUN to the potty!), one less pair of shoes to find and wrestle onto an unwilling foot, or one less argument to defuse. There is one less backpack to fill, one less outfit to put together, or one less person brushing teeth at my bathroom sink.
There is less conflict, and well, things are just easier.
Because I know this about our family, my husband knows I would rather do just about anything (“Scrub toilets? So glad you asked. Sure!”) than take all five kids to Walmart - or heaven forbid, some place like the Post Office or the bank. Forget it!
But take four? Well, okay, I could handle that.
I realize a person reading this might get the idea I’m complaining, or worse, trying to pawn off my kids, one at a time!
Absolutely NOT (well, at least not permanently)!
I can’t tell you how many times the girls said, “I can't wait to tell that to our brother!” or “It’s so weird without him,” on Sunday morning. After church, we went out to lunch. Yes, it went more smoothly because he wasn’t there (there were fewer issues about where everyone got to sit in the car, there was infinitely less goofing off, and our meal certainly was less expensive!).
Remember, according to the theory, it would have gone more smoothly no matter who was the Minus One!
But it just wasn’t the same.
We missed him. We needed him.
My Minus-One Theory has definite implications for dividing and conquering when getting the family organized and when trying to defuse strife (more thoughts on this are brewing in my mind).
But the kids' response to our family, Minus One, made me realize something else (again):
You just can’t measure the value of any one person in the family, whether large or small. Each one is so vital and unique.
It also tells me that this messy, uncomfortable, conflict-laden life - the one we have to face when we all realize we’re in this thing together - that is our real life, not the fragmented-but-trouble-free one.
Funny that the kids didn't even mention how well things went on Sunday.
They just knew they missed their brother.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.