According to the [Census] bureau, about 21 percent of children have no siblings, about 39 percent have one sibling, about 25 percent have two siblings, about 10 percent have three siblings and 5 percent have four or more siblings.
In other words, fewer than one American family out of 20 has five or more children.
I guess that means with our six, we are in a pretty exclusive club.
My wife had a special appreciation for these descriptions of life with a family of nine children:
"It was more difficult when we had five children under the age of 7 and I had to take all five of them with me whenever I went anywhere." [snip]
the biggest challenge is not the number of children, but the run of five boys in a row.
We also have the added fun of the fact that five of our six children are very near in age and are all boys. At one time we had five children aged five and under, but this is easier to do when you have a set of twins.
I do not think that I can adequately describe here the types of reactions we get when we all go out together. I mean it.
There are times when we walk into a public place and jaws drop. Mouths agape, the gawkers then usually nudge their nearest companion and give an incredulous nod in our direction. Then you've got at least two people going all fish-mouthed at us.
It's not just the mouths though, it's the furrowed brow combined with the nose and top lip raised upward, exposing the top teeth. And there, like some nearsighted beaver, they stare at us as we walk across their field of vision. Once their lips start to cramp up, faces are usually restored to their normal appearance and then the head shaking usually begins.
It's usually a side to side motion, as in a general expression of disbelief. Though there is a variation on this with head nodding up and down as they count the children. The other day we went to a McDonald's and as we walked in I could see a man in a car counting four of the kids as they walked with my wife. I had unbuckled the baby and was trailing behind. When I came out from behind the car I could read his lips as he gasped to the other person in the car, "there's another one." I am pretty sure this guy has been less surprised by the number of clowns exiting a VW beetle during a circus performance at some point in his life.
The children are largely unaware of all this. I, on the other hand, am slightly bemused and I take pity on the poor saps that can't hide what should be a very mild case of interest. It's no wonder our nation's casinos can make money. These people probably couldn't disguise a pair of deuces at the first table of a penny ante poker tournament.
This general reaction occurs in a large majority of the people we encounter. There is a subset of this group that will ask us a question or two. The most common is, "are they all yours." I am a smart-aleck by nature, but I resist the temptation to give one of a hundred sarcastic responses and reply with a simple yes or yeah.
Just tonight, as we were on a walk around the neighborhood, a woman sitting on her porch called to us from across the street with this very question. When we replied in the affirmative, she actually slapped her forehead, rocked back in her chair, and exclaimed loud enough so that we could hear her, "oh my god." I don't think she could have been more surprised had we then proceeded to tell her Ed McMahon had the night off and we were there to present her with a giant novelty check from the Publisher's Clearinghouse.
My seven year old son asked if we knew those people and I told him no. I didn't add that the woman on the porch thinks we're crazy simply because you and your brothers are alive, I could have though.