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July 24, 2009

This Wonderful Life: Forget the Village; Maybe It Just Takes a Big Family

As a potluck dinner party was winding down, we were sitting in our friends’ living room last weekend watching our children wind up.

That happens when you feed them a large meal of protein, fruit and cobbler with ice cream.

The children numbered more than half a dozen. The youngest were three and the oldest were not yet out of elementary school. In other words, even one-onone, these kids would have been a force of nature.

Thrown together (and outnumbering the adults present) they had the potential to become a perfect storm. But they didn’t.

Sure, they raced around the house, giggling, creating little dramas and occasionally shrieking in ways that caused all the parents to pause and decipher whether the screams conveyed great pain or great joy.

But the adults were also able to do something that my husband and I seem to find nearly impossible when we’re evenly matched with the children: We had conversations with limited interruptions.

It was glorious.

We were even able to gather after supper in the living room. Kim, our hostess, pulled out her knitting and worked on a project as we talked. The children raced in and out. They made a circle in one corner of the living room, playing a game and making plans that we adults were not supposed to hear. They took care of each other.

Someone said, ``Isn’t this nice?’’

Not looking up from her knitting, Kim pointed out that perhaps humans were meant to live like that — in efficient groups that always have enough adults to get all the day’s work done, attend to all the children’s scrapes and dramas and still have time for knitting and talking at the end of the day.

Now, I’m not ready to move to the kibbutz quite yet, but it really does make sense.

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