Parenting: Mom and dad of 12 share their story

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parenting, big family picture

What constitutes a “large” family? It’s definitely a subjective term. Some people might consider a large family to include four children or more. Others might think 10 kids and beyond makes a family “large.” Many families have more than 10 children. In fact, some  have 15 or 20. Parenting is a journey, whether a family consists of one child or more. Recently, a married couple with 12 children shared their story on a podcast interview for “The Missions Tribune Newspaper.” One of the first things the interviewer noted was the couple’s joy. They laugh a lot. He mentioned that parenting 12 kids would exhaust most people. Yet, as he has spent time with this particular couple on several occasions, he has always noticed that they and their children are full of energy and joy.

What can we learn from the parenting journey of a couple with 12 kids who are full of joy? Probably, a lot! In addition to raising what most people might consider to be a large family, this particular couple has three children with Down Syndrome. One son with the condition is their biological child. He was the youngest child in the family until they adopted another son and daughter who also have Down Syndrome. As I listened to the podcast, several key takeaways caught my attention. I believe there are life lessons here to benefit all those who are currently navigating their own parenting journeys.

Parenting is a vocation, and every parent must discern what is best for his or her family

parenting, boys in suits and bow ties holding baby girl in pink dress
Zoe loves her big brothers so much

The parents on this podcast happen to choose homeschooling as their primary means for educating their children. At one point, the interviewer asked if they thought that all families should homeschool. The mom’s answer was filled with wisdom and insight that every parent should take to heart. She explained that each parenting journey is unique. Parents must determine the path they are being called to take within their own households. She doesn’t assume that homeschooling is best because it’s what she and her husband have chosen to do. She cautions parents NOT to base their decisions on what other parents are doing. Instead, she encourages every parent to pray and seek God’s will in their own lives. What works best for one family might not be good at all for another.

The mom in this story used to work as an auto claims attorney. Some time after her third child was born, she decided that she wanted to stay home full time with her kids. The decision was not made lightly because, at the time, she earned more income than her husband. Sacrificing her career would mean an immediate and substantial financial change for their family. However, as she recommends to all parents, she and her husband prayed and discussed their parenting journey. They determined that making the lifestyle adjustment would be worth it if it meant that she could be at home with her children full time. The key take away from this portion of the interview is that each parent is called to do what’s best for his or her child or children. No two families are exactly alike.

Never hesitate to reach out for support in your parenting journey

two boys and one girl with Downs Syndrome, sitting on wooden bridge
The three youngest Lathwell children bring their family much joy

This mom of 12 wants parents to know that a parenting journey is not meant to be traveled alone. She encourages parents to tap into local resources for support when they do not feel equipped to handle a particular issue. As mentioned earlier, this couple homeschools their children. However, their two sons with Down Syndrome attend public school in classrooms where all the students have similar special needs. Their mom admitted that this was an extremely difficult and humbling decision for her to make. She’s typically the type of person who likes to be in control of a situation.

She says that reaching out for support was the best thing that she and her husband could do. It helps her sons achieve their full potential. Both parents also spoke about building relationships with likeminded families as a means of support and encouragement in their parenting journey. The curve balls that life often throws our way are easier to overcome when we have a strong support network in place. Having another parent to talk to or laugh with, or a shoulder to cry on, helps us persevere through tough times.

Teach kids to be helpers

girl in white dress holding baby girl with white bow in hair
Grace Lathwell loves to hold her baby sister

When a household consists of several children, support can come from within! Both parents in this interview mentioned that the older children in their family often help with their younger siblings. The parents make it a regular habit to teach their kids to always be on the look out for ways to help others without being asked. Teaching kids to recognize someone in need and offer help is a valuable parenting tool. The Dad made it a point to say that he and his wife try to lead by example. His hope is that his children will witness their parents being kind to each other and willing to serve others and will take the initiative to do the same.

Dad says that family traditions are important

parenting, woman holding poster of kids with Downs Sydnrome, three boys, boy in red hat
Lathwell Family proudly carries posters of their special needs kids at the March for Life

When the dad of 12 was asked about his annual participation with his children in the March for Life in Washington D.C., the interviewer mentioned that it must be stressful for a big family to travel. The dad said that he is making memories with his kids and developing family traditions. This is a blessing that far outweighs any travel stress or inconvenience that might occur. He also emphasized that he thinks it’s important to teach children to stand up for their beliefs, and his family’s annual trip to D.C. for the pro-Life rally is not only a fun time together but also a way for his children to act on their beliefs.

Family traditions might be as simple as having supper together on Sundays or pizza on Friday nights. Maybe your traditions include an annual vacation or special customs that you enjoy to celebrate birthdays. Such customs strengthen the family bond and create memories and stories that kids and parents will cherish for a lifetime.

Talk to your kids about real world issues

Parenting in 2021 and beyond undoubtedly carries unique challenges that might not have been as prevalent for families long ago. Issues concerning drugs, politics, persecution of Christians and other real world problems can be heavy burdens in a parenting journey, especially if a child makes choices that adversely affect his or her well-being. One of the helpful tips the parents of 12 offered in their interview is to always “keep the conversation going” with your kids at home. The mom said she is relieved and thankful that her family has not experienced drug use or some of the other modern-day problems that many families have suffered. However, she immediately added that she “Never says never,” because she understands that all kids are at risk.

Both parents shared that they often have family discussions at home, and they believe it helps them stay connected to their children. Mom said that she often presents hypothetical situations to the kids, then asks them to share ideas about what they might do or say to avoid trouble in such cases. She says this activity is especially helpful when kids are preparing for college.

Listen to the podcast!

parenting, man and woman wearing sunglasses, black formal clothing
Kevin Lathwell says he and wife Cindy are a “good match”

Parenting is a rewarding, sacred and wonderful yet challenging journey in life. I learned a lot from listening to Kevin and Cindy Lathwell, parents of 12, in their recent podcast. I also have a small confession to make, which is that it’s not the first time I have been blessed and uplifted in my own parenting journey from listening to or observing the Lathwells. Cindy Lathwell happens to be my best friend in real life! It is an honor and a privilege to write about the Lathwell Family and to share this beautiful interview with our Hot Mess readers!

This is approximately 30 minutes that is well worth your time! Enjoy!

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