Faith, laughter key for Catholic families with many children

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s report, “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2007,” the average number of children being raised by married couples is 1.9.

That seems like a very small number. It isn’t even two whole children.

The fact is, most families have two children, and they look at couples with five and think it’s a lot. The family with five children is equally amazed by people with seven. And families with seven children exclaim in disbelief over parents raising 13. Now that’s a lot.

Ben Daniel, father of seven, puts it in perspective.

“It seems like a lot when you talk numbers,” he said. “But when we sit down and eat dinner, I can’t imagine what it would be like without each one of them there. It doesn’t seem like a lot to me.”

Still, he understands the looks they receive when the family goes somewhere and seven children come spilling out the van.

Some people come right out and ask how they manage. The answer, according to the families that spoke to The Miscellany, is simple. It’s God.

Laura Boronski, mother of seven with an eighth on the way, said she prays every morning before she even gets out of bed, and turns to God “every 30 seconds” for guidance and support.

 “I don’t know how people who don’t have faith make it through,” she said.

Meet the Boronskis

Laura and her husband Jeff have six girls and a boy: Tessa, 15; Emily, 14; Megan, 11; Patrick, 8; Mary Grace, 6; Clare, 4; Faith, 2; and a baby due the week of Easter that will bring their family to eight.

Mrs. Boronski said they don’t know the gender of the unborn baby, but Patrick is definitely praying for a brother.

They live in Loris with three dogs and five cats.

The McLaurins

David and Karen McLaurin have four girls and three boys: Marielle, 17; Daniel, 15; Micah, 14; Eva, 12; Clare, 10; Catherine, 8; and Jesse, 6.

They live in Charleston and belong to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

The Daniels

Ben and Patty Daniel live in Charleston also and belong to the Cathedral. They are close friends with the McLaurins.

The Daniels have five girls and two boys: Mary Katherine, 12; Taylor, 11; Benjamin, 10; Rebecca, 7; Sophia, 5; Jordan, 4; and Luke, 3 months.

Each family speaks of their faith that God will provide what they need. They talk about living simply, the way Jesus taught. And they all have a willingness to laugh.

They have other elements in common, starting with the decision to homeschool their children.

“I’m not opposed to school, but out of the clear blue sky I felt like that [homeschooling] is what I was called to do,” Mrs. Daniel said. “God whispered in my ear. It’s actually easier.”

Laying out clean uniforms, packing lunches and book bags, and getting everyone out the door could be chaotic, she said.

The children prefer it too.

Marielle McLaurin, 17, said they have more flexibility over their curriculum, and since it doesn’t take as long to finish their work, they have more free time.

While being together as a family is a benefit everyone says they enjoy, it also leads to other aspects that can cause friction. Constant noise, never-ending responsibilities and no time alone top the list.

Yet most of the family members say when they do have time alone, away from the noise and responsibilities, they miss it.

The Daniels said they will go to a movie together, and by the time it’s over, they are ready to be home with their children again.

“When there is already so many people around and so much going on, it’s kind of boring with just us,” Daniel said with a laugh.

Each of the fathers has a job with a certain amount of flexibility. Daniel is a builder, McLaurin is a sales engineer, and Boronski is a title examiner.

The mothers have taken on the job of raising and educating the children. Both parents pitch in to make sure they are involved with outside activities.

Daniel said he remembers a time when his first three children were babies and he was doing a lot of physical labor. He came home one night and collapsed on the bed, mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. He looked at the cross over the bed, and had an image of pushing all his troubles in a wheelbarrow up to the cross. “I gave it all to Christ, and instantly I felt better,” he said.

McLaurin said he goes to Mass every day, even when he is on the road.

The young children said their faith gets them through difficult times, such as wanting it to snow in the South.

Prayer is essential.

“You can’t go it alone,” Mrs. Boronski said. “You need to have him with you every step of the way.”

 A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either.

The McLaurin siblings joke that their father is the problem child in the family. He just smiles.

“Kids make you laugh at yourself, not take yourself so seriously,” Daniel said.

Not that it’s all fun and games. It can be hard for parents to find time together. The couples said they might have five minutes before bed, or maybe 30 minutes early in the morning, but mostly it’s all about the family.

It can also be a struggle to make ends meet, with medical and dental bills being the biggest worry.

Families eat simply, with everyone pitching in to prepare meals and do chores.  

Sometimes they crowd each other and fight like all families do, and when that happens, they find an outlet. The children run outside, take a walk, play the piano, or maybe just find a different sibling to play with.

Mrs. Boronski said she and her husband try to keep it simple, to keep the children involved in giving and just enjoy the ride.

“There’s no such thing as a boring day when you have this many ages,” she said. “We just have a lot of fun together.”

As for those families with 1.9 children who think having seven and eight children is a crazy idea, Daniel has some advice.

“It’s like Mother Teresa said: Saying there’s too many children is like saying there’s too many flowers,” he said.