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DNA, Shmee-N-A

By today's standards a large family is usually considered a family with more than three kids. Anytime someone says they have four or more children, people's eyes bug out of their heads. This is partially due to the fact that the average woman in America gives birth to two children. So that's what we're used to seeing. Most of the people I know I have two children. Some have three. Very few have any more than that.

For some reason when you are part of a big family - either the creators of the big family or if you are a child within a large family, it prompts people to ask all kinds of weird questions. People are curious I know, and find it intriguing because it's not something they see very often these days.

Just the six of us
I am the oldest of six children and growing up I would get asked all kinds of questions:

Are you guys Catholic? (No.)
Don't your parents know what causes that? (Ummm, I think so?)
Jeez, they're not planning on having any more are they? (I really don't know.)
I bet you have to babysit a lot. (Yep.)

Now, as an adult, I am a mother of five kids. I work pretty close to full-time outside of the home. Our kids range in age from 14 years old to 10 months old. All of these facts seem to intrigue people and prompt copious amounts of questioning. Which is great! I love to talk about my family and my kids and my marriage. I love discussing what works for us and what our dynamic is. I'm pretty open and honest so I truly don't mind all the questions. I think it's great when people take an interest in other real people - and we are very real. Flaws and all. I can assure you, as can my husband and kids, that I am bat-shit crazy sometimes. But people find us interesting and peculiar and mostly think we're kind of insane for having so many kids. And we probably are. (Truthfully, I'd be OK with one more if I didn't value sleep as much as I do and if my body tolerated pregnancy better.)

Recently I struck up a conversation with someone I do not know. We were just chatting away and she asked me if I was married and I told her that I am. She asked if we have children - and I told her that we do. Naturally, she asked how many and I said "We have five."


"Yes. Five."

"Wow! What are their ages?"

I rattled them off , "OK, let's see. The oldest is 14, then almost 13, 11, 2 and 10 months". I could see the wheels turning...

"Do they all have the same dad?"

Um. Excuse me?

What kind of question is that? No, really. What the hell kind of a question is that and what the hell business is it of yours? Maybe they're adopted? Maybe they're foster children? Maybe, oh, I don't know, maybe some of them belong to my husband? Why is it assumed that they are all mine with different dads? Why didn't she ask me if they all had the same mom?

When I answered her I could tell by the look on her face and the way she gave a curt nod (as if she knew all along) that this was not quite as awe inspiring as she had originally thought. The question that begs to be examined is: Was she less impressed with the size of my family since they aren't all from the same relationship? Does that make us less of a family? Less of an anomaly? Am I less blessed, because of this?

I'm not sure why she felt the need to ask that question or what she was implying by asking.  Maybe she wasn't implying anything.  People ask a lot of dumb questions. But this one in particular just didn't sit well with me and I'll tell you why. Women catch the brunt of so much within society already. No one ever asks my husband if all the kids have the same mom. But I get it all the time. They just assume since I have multiple children that they must have multiple fathers. Not that there is anything wrong with that - other than the fact that the assumption stems from a stereotype. And that assumption is not reciprocated upon the opposite sex. I would never assume or ask anyone (male or female) if all their kids had the same parents. I don't care. It's not important. And frankly, it's none of my business or anyone else's.

So, what did I say to her? How did I respond? This particular time really caught me off guard. It's been awhile since anyone asked me and I didn't have anything prepared.

"Do they all have the same dad?"

"Uhhh, no. They don't."

WHY? Why did I say that?! I could just slap myself, in hindsight. Well, truthfully I said no because depending on what your definition of "Dad" is, it's true - I guess. I was assuming this woman meant - "Do they all have the same DNA?" And the answer to that is No. They don't.

Before she could say anything back, but not before she could give me that curt nod I mentioned earlier, I followed my answer up with "But he is very much Dad to all of them."

Papa Bear with The Littles

"Yeah, but not biologically."

I'm not sure what that was supposed to mean. I know plenty of parents that aren't sharing DNA with their children. Parenting has nothing to do with our DNA. Not. A. Thing. There is no magically occurring relationship between father and zygote when a sperm and an egg meet.  After that union manifests into a child, and when that child needs love and care, is when parental relationships are established. Sometimes the guy sticks around - he gets to be called "Dad". Sometimes the guy floats in and out (mostly out), chooses to not pay any support, chooses to not see them, and then eventually disappears altogether. He is not called "Dad" - biologically or otherwise.

The guy that gets to be called Dad is the guy that stays. He is the guy that chooses them over himself and his bachelorhood. My husband met me when I was a single working mom with three young boys. My life and my kids were a handful and he chose to take us all on - full time. Not every other weekend. Not every Wednesday. Every day. Every single freaking day. I'm sure he regretted it some days. I'm sure he wished he would have run the opposite way, at times. But what makes him a dad is that he didn't.

Parent's Night for JV Wrestling
A dad is the guy that takes them to practice and coaches their teams. Within a year of us dating, he decided he wanted to introduce them all to the game of soccer. It's a game he's played his whole life. He ended up coaching their teams, encouraging them to try out for a more challenging traveling team, and is now President of the Soccer Association in the town where we live. After working all day, he'd change his clothes and grab his cleats and ball and "hit the pitch" with a group of young boys to teach them the game he loves.

Dads take turns taking off work to stay home with kids when they're sick. When my husband came along, before we were even married, he offered to help share that burden. Any working family knows that when kids get sick and we need to take reprieve from our jobs to care for them, it can be overwhelming. And even more so when you're a single parent of three. Having him offer and be willing to do this was just one more way he showed up for us.

Untangling fishing line...AGAIN.
A dad is the the one that makes fun of their son's newly grown whiskers. Our oldest is fourteen. He's at that stage where he's leaving the chubby awkward phase and is suddenly tall, lean, and hairy. My husband is the first one that pointed it out and suggested that maybe he needed to start shaving those long, albeit sparse, whiskers. A dad is someone who is around enough to notice that stuff.

Dads answer emails from their teachers- whether they're good emails or bad emails. Their dad is the guy that disciplines them, even when he doesn't want to. He walks a fine line of being their friend and being their dad. They all share many of the same interests- whether it be soccer, football, hockey, or video games. I know when we were first dating he really wanted them to like him - but now, he loves them. Being a parent means doing things that make your kids not like you sometimes, and loving them more instead. 

He instinctively knows what he has to do in order to raise good kids. That is the absolute backbone of being a parent.  He's the guy that gets up and goes to work every day to watch most of his paycheck fly out the window to provide them. For his kids. All five of them.

They may not bear his last name (yet). And he may not have been there when they were brought into this world. But he is, in every sense of the word, raising them.

So to answer your question, lady. Yes. Yes, they all have the same dad.


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