I can remember the exact moment when I decided I wanted four kids. Up until that moment, I had always assumed I’d have two kids, a girl then a boy, about four years apart. (Funny how that is exactly the order in my family. What can I say? I lack imagination.)
It was June 2006 and I was in Taiwan for a family friend’s wedding. I was at my Second Aunt’s house, which was at the end of a cul-de-sac and directly across the street from my First Aunt’s house. A bunch of my cousins happened to be home and just between us cousins, we were already a small gang. (I have twelve cousins on my mother’s side and only two much younger cousins (like a whole generation younger) on my father’s side.) We were going out to see Superman Returns and I realized we had about six people going – and it was all family.
I suddenly had a pang of such sadness. Because I grew up in CA and they grew up in Taiwan, I missed out on so many family activities. I’d only seen my maternal grandparents less than ten times in my entire life. I felt as if a huge, integral part of my life had been stolen from me and I realized that my family had been so alone and lonely.
My paternal cousins were in Texas and I think I saw them twice in my life at that point. Plus, they were babies at the time. Not really that exciting. My paternal uncle visited us only twice that I remember (all before 1989) because he and my father had a falling out. My paternal grandparents, although they were with us a lot when I was younger, also stopped visiting and stayed in Texas. I rarely visited them.
Basically, the only family I had in CA was my maternal grand-aunt, my mother, and myself. My brother was on the East Coast and my dad was who-knows-where in China. I felt adrift and cut off from my family – no real knowledge of either side’s history and stories.
Right then and there, I knew I wanted four kids. That way, even if all our family was in another state or country, they would at least have each other. They would be an automatic party of four wherever they chose to go together. It would be beautiful and they would love each other and never fight and live down the street from one another. Plus, at least one out of the four kids would take care of me in my old age, right? RIGHT?!
Anyhow, I know in reality, there will be hardships due to a large family (least of which is affording all of these children and their activities, etc.) but I KNOW it will be worth it. I see my family as a way to redeem all the lousy suffering I went through as a child in a broken home with a violent and inconstant father. Thank God Hapa Papa is in no way violent, always faithful, and a wonderful father.
Now obviously, creating a family is more than just birthing lots of babies. (If only it were that easy!) I try VERY hard to make sure that even though our family is spread out all over the world, that we make connections anyway.
Since Hapa Papa’s family is in LA, we try to take a big week long trip to LA every year so his brother and sister can see the kids. We fly up my mother-in-law at least once every 2-3 months so she can get to know the children – which is a big deal since she can sometimes be a recluse. (They LOVE her. She always brings the BEST toys.)
Even though my brother is in DC, we have promised to see each other at least twice a year. They’ll fly out here once and we’ll fly out there once. Of course, there are tons of pictures and videos flying back and forth in the wireless phone ether. My kids LOVE my nephew and talk about him all the time.
My grand-aunt comes over to help babysit when I have doctor appointments and is present at parties and family events. And of course, there is my mother who comes over almost every weekday to play with the kids. She is the most constant person in their lives other than Hapa Papa and I.
As for my paternal cousins, they adore the kiddos from pictures on Facebook and have been so vital in re-connecting our families with their unbridled love and enthusiasm. And speaking of Facebook, that has connected us more to Hapa Papa’s family in Hawaii as well. We even have found out that his cousin lives in SF so we get to see them every now and then, too!
Finally, because the majority of my maternal family is in Taiwan, I am attempting to visit Taiwan every two years or so – or at least, every time I have a new baby. My grandfather is still alive – and I very much want him to meet the kids more than once. He’s in great health, but you never know.
This is all just a rambling way to say that it’s not so much having the babies that is important to me – it is the closer family feeling that I’m trying to capture. I know not all families are close and happy like they show on TV and Hallmark ads, but if I can get my family to look a little more like this happy fiction, then I will have done my job.
I want my kids to feel connected to people other than themselves in this world. That there is a whole web of people they are related to – and that anywhere they go, they have that net to fall back into. Now, I just need to see if there’s a way to connect to Hapa Papa’s family from Ohio. 😀
What about you? How do you go about creating a close family?