Wait, big families can be normal?

Editor’s note: We welcome John White to the CV Blog. John is an attorney who lives in Chicago with his wife and three children.  

The reactions that people have to big families can be downright hysterical.  I am one of seven (a trait I share with both gluttony and Dopey – but I digress).  Anyone who is from a big family has experienced it.  The confused disbelief…”you have how many kids in your family?!” — the quizzical skepticism… “no way”, even the open mouthed blank stare punctuated by a double blink and a little drool…“drip drip.”

You know what I’m talking about.  If your offspring, or your siblings, number more than two, it is automatically assumed that your family must be grossly dysfunctional, backward, and well, just like, weird, riiiight?

Which means, of course, that your family must also be highly entertaining for the rest of us.  Or so thought the producers of a planned reality show who came to film the family of Diane Madison of Mundelein, Illinois.  Diane tells the story in a recent letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune:

Right after the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” was released, our family was asked to do a reality TV show for a major network. I am the mother of 12 biological children and, at that time, they were all living at home (two were in college). Our first family wedding was to take place later that year, which also involved a family reunion on my family’s side. I am also one of 12 children.

After a weekend of taping, we were told that “we were too normal and did not have enough conflict.”

I find this hilarious, and not surprising in the least.  But I’m sure Diane wasn’t really surprised by this either.  As a renegade mother of 12 she is no doubt all too familiar with the general society’s attitude toward children:  Other people’s kids are cute, sometimes.  In pictures.  Don’t have any yourself.  Maybe one.  Two if you are Catholic.  Or Mormon.  Fear children.  They ruin your life.  Puppies are better.  You can lock them in the basement.  Let’s go get some Thai.  I think I hate you.  I need to go find myself…

Yeah, it’s healthy.  Basically they should have just told Diane, “Look lady, we were expecting a real freak show here, like maybe Thing One through Thing Twelve, and this just doesn’t cut it.  Why did you have 12 kids if you were just going to be so normal?  What’s the point?”

I believe it was Blessed John Paul the Great who said the greatest gift that parents can give a child is another sibling.  He was right.  Good for Diane Madison and the rest of you parents out there willing to venture into the “abnormal.”



  • chrysd

    I actually enjoy the shock value of my big family. It isn’t our 7 children I am referring to. Our youngest, Thomas, James, was just boen last month. It is the 27 children my maternal grandfather had… and no, not all from one wife.
    When people seemed surprised by our “little” family and ask if we will have more or something, I like to respond that we won’t try to catch up with my grandpa or anything and tell my story. It is a hoot and gives perspective. Most people get distracted from the amazement of having as many as we do when I talk of my mom’s crew. Besides, who wants to be from a normal family, anyhow?

    • Panda Rosa

      Father of 27? Good heavens, just what was your grandfather up to?

  • Therese

    Great article. Live being a normal mum of 8 normal children. I have always thought that smaller families would be more likely to have children that fight. I think children from smaller families would be more likely to compete for mum and dads attention also.



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