Could you handle parenting 15 children? Could you also try to work at the same time? Could you do it in a place where the distances that must be traveled to get children to school, appointments and recreation are measured in how long it takes to get there rather than miles?
I am always honest with you in the posts and I will tell you straight out – I could not do this. I know that about myself and I know I could not do it.
I am in awe of the strength of the Lakota women who live on Pine Ridge Reservation. They work at keeping family together in a place where there are so many circumstances that put roadblocks in their paths. But their culture values the children. It values family. They believe in generosity and hospitality. They survive in the face of events that I am not certain I could survive – and I consider myself a fairly strong woman.
I want to tell you about one of these women who inspire this awe in me.
This grandmother still has 10 of her own children, aged 5 through 17, in her own home. Fortunately she is not a single mom! In addition, 3 of her adult children live with her – each with a child of his or her own (all about 2 years old). If you are counting, that’s now 13 children under 18 years old. But that is not enough for this family.
In addition to the 13 children of her own family, this grandmother has opened her home to 2 “placement” or foster children! In a place where there are many children from broken and troubled homes, this family has opened their home and their hearts to additional children. That is the Lakota way. Children are considered sacred. They are the future.
When I spoke to grandmother recently, I had a difficult time hearing her. It wasn’t because of noisy children. They were at a basketball game – attending the Lakota Nation Invitational high school basketball tournament in Rapid City – with ALL the children! Amazing! I remember the days of raising children. It was a task requiring great planning and organization to travel comfortably with 2 children. I would never have attempted to do it with 15. It says something for the cooperation and team spirit within this family that they are able to do this!
I asked how they managed to fit 15 children and 5 adults into one house. She told me that it was fortunate the house had a basement. They had turned the basement into a dormitory-style bedroom to accommodate the children.
Grandmother had been working. But she will be laid off on January 5, 2011 because the tribal office in which she worked had received decreased Federal funding and was being downsized. The family is fortunate to have a car and they do receive food stamps.
She must have raised the older children well; I have to believe that it is only because the children are responsible and willing to work together that this family can function so well.
I sit here thinking about what it takes to simply take care of the day-to-day tasks for 20 people:
- the amount of laundry that must be done
- the quantity of food it takes to feed everyone
- the cost of clothing everyone adequately
- the trips to doctors, dentist, activities that must be coordinated
- the time that must be given to each child
- the squabbles that must be settled
- the time to help with homework and meet with teachers
- finding a few minutes for oneself
It would overwhelm me. I am amazed at and inspired by someone who can accomplish these things in a less than optimal environment!
I will be listing the family on the OKINI list at ONE Spirit. When I asked what the children needed, the response was “socks, underwear, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo.” No expensive items, no toys. The necessities in life.
I will then be looking for sponsors for this large family generous and loving enough to take in children whose lives are in chaos. It will not be easy and I may have to look for another “sugar daddy” as I explained the other day.
It will be especially difficult not only due to the number of sponsors needed for this family. It will be difficult due to the economy in general and because I already have almost 700 children and 85 elders on my list waiting for sponsors too.
Do you have room in your heart and wallet for 15 children? Okay, just kidding.
How about one?