That is one big number. In this case, it is, though it’s not so large when one is discussing, say, cups of coffee consumed in a week or the number of socks lost in a month. Then it seems perfectly reasonable. But when the topic is children, 19 is a very big number.
I’m referring to the television show, “19 Kids and Counting.” It’s based on the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family from Tontitown, Arkansas. As the name says, they really do have 19 kids, and they really are “still counting.”
I used to think that having four children made us a good-sized family, and to the folks who hold to the old American average of 2.3 kidlets, it is. When rubber-tipped arrows are flying, Air Soft pellets are denting the blinds and the dining room’s become the new Indy 500, it feels like a legion.
I’m not the only one. A sister-in-law who has her own quartet reports a disturbance in the force there as well. Thanks to the Winter That Never Ends, her own tribe has grown increasingly restless, and they’ve taken to playing basketball. Not outside, of course, ‘neath God’s great, blue sky where the wild wind blows free. Of course not.
No. Her living room has become the site of the Final Four. Using a small, rubber ball, they carom and thunder about, shooting at a hoop the size of a saucer that hangs on the back of a door. Naturally, the, uh, “playoffs” spill into the dining room or down the adjacent basement steps.
You can see, can’t you, why she calls them her “final four” and why they’re no longer counting?
Funny, how kids think that they must eat. Especially boys, and especially when they hit a certain age. My brother morphed into a food furnace overnight, eating everything that couldn’t crawl away. Any food within a two-mile radius suddenly developed a magical property called evaporation. As my father said once in wonder, “He gets hungry eating.”
It was for that very reason that a fresh beef quarter came home the other day. Into the freezer went 63 pounds of burger, nine roasts, five packages of stew meat and assorted steaks for grilling. Those are the numbers, thanks to the hungry males who straggle home from work and school, asking the infernal question that mothers everywhere will know: “What’s for dinner?”
While 63 pounds of hamburger sounds like a lot for our family of six, it’s a drop in the bucket for the Duggars. In 2011, they spent $3000 a month on groceries, which includes 16 boxes of cereal and seven gallons of milk per week.
That’s a lot of money, and that’s a lot of food. It’s a lot of people, that’s why, and a couple of card tables won’t cut it when you’re feeding a crowd that size. When you’ve got 42 legs, 42 arms and 21 sets of teeth, you’ll need, oh, say, an 18-foot dining room table to hold everyone? Yup and yes.
I’m not sure what the Duggar kids do with it (beyond the errant kick at a sibling beneath the table). But I know what the Schrock kids would do. Believing that the Lord has called them to grander things, they would promptly stage their version of the Brickyard in one giant oval with Little S. bringing up the rear. They would.
That right there is a mother’s cue to wave the red flag, bringing their dog and pony show to a screaming halt, redirecting traffic. For me, “traffic” means eight arms, eight legs. For Mrs. Duggar, it’s 38. Of each.
Then the wise mother will engage her racers in other pursuits. Like laundry, for instance, to the tune of 40 loads weekly (that’s the Duggars) and 10-12 per week (that’s the Schrocks). After that, they can use their combined total of 92 limbs and tackle their rooms (eight for the Duggars and two for the Schrocks).
It’s no use banging their collective heads (23 altogether) or gnashing all of their teeth (I’ve lost count). If they cop a ‘tude like that, Mrs. Duggar and I know what comes next—cleaning all nine of the showers (seven and two). And once they’re done there, the Duggar kids can head to the family RV and prepare it for the next family trip. Cleaning and straightening 15 bunks should take them right up to dinnertime.
Meanwhile, the Schrock kids can tackle The Three using push mowers or sharp scissors, depending on what mood I’m in. Little Brother can be the water boy. That way, he’s employed, too.
Which takes us up to dinnertime. Mr. Duggar and Mr. Schrock are home from the office, and two families gather at two tables. Around a combined 24 feet of “race track,” two dads get the day’s news from two moms.
Two houses are sparkling, one lawn is all trimmed and two moms are plumb beat and exhausted. From all those kids and that counting.