My quote this week comes from a book I recently started called Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede–a favorite author of mine in my younger days. This is a fun story about an impressionable young girl and her family set in a kind of magical alternate version of the American West. The quote is an exchange that happens when the local teacher meets her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rothmer, and a portion of their fourteen children for the first time.
“Pleased to meet you,” Miss Ochiba said. She and Mama looked at each other long and hard, and then they each gave a little nod, as if they’d had a whole conversation and both had come away satisfied. “These will be your children,” Miss Ochiba went on as if there’d been no slightest pause. “They’ve been saying you have a good-sized family.”
“Any size that’s wanted is good,” Mama said, and then told her our names.”
This is a pretty simple quote, but stood out to me for a few reasons. One is–I can’t help but gush–we had our third child, a baby girl (pictured) a couple months ago! She came seven weeks early, but is doing really well, and we are very pleased with her. Because she spent a couple weeks in the hospital, I spent a certain amount of time talking about her and our family to others, and fielded a lot of questions about why her brothers are so much older than she is (six and eight). The questions were kindly meant, and sometimes I gave short answers, and other times explained that she was born after a series of losses for our family.
Either way, it has occurred to me over the years that there just isn’t one perfect mold–one exact formula for what makes a good family. Good is, as Mrs. Rothmer points out, entirely a matter of choice, and, I would add, situation.
I also like this quote, and this book in general, because it deals with the varied effects of what “they’ve been saying,” or the words and opinions, often unwanted and unsolicited, of others. The main character, Eff, spends her life dealing with and being affected by what others say and how they treat her because of what they believe it means to be a thirteenth child. Her experiences seem to negate the old adage about sticks and stones, and affirm that words can indeed hurt.
Coming from a social media world, where opinions are readily expressed and spread, I liked this reminder that no matter how many children you have, whether or not you have any, or are even married, or whether or not your family fits the “mold.” What you’ve got can still be good–and the only opinions on the subject that really matter are your own.