Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Good and Bad of Family T-Shirts

(Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series titled “Things I was Going to Post About a Year Ago”)

Miss Bookworm recently wrote an article for “Earthen Vessels,” a small self-published magazine out of Canada. As I was reading it, the line “I can hold my head high whenever somebody looks in awe, amazement, or disdain at our colorful family” caught my eye. It is true that when our family is in public we often attract a variety of looks from other people. While I feel somewhat indifferent to the attention we attract, I know that our children are more impressionable.

Prior to our summer travels last year, I was reflecting on all of the places we would be going, the looks/comments/questions we would receive, and what effect it would have on our children. I wanted to do something to help foster a sense of family pride for these public times so that our kids could “hold their heads high.” This led us to making family t-shirts. The front of our t-shirts had a drawing related to each person in our family while the backs declared that big families rock.

Now, heading out to an amusement park or some other public venue with the nine of us dressed in the exact same shirt happens to be on the edge of my comfort zone, but the kids loved it. There were several positive impressions that I had from wearing the t-shirts for a summer.
  • A sense of togetherness. It is hard to explain, but I felt like we were closer together when we all had the same shirt on. It was like we were a team ready to take on the world.
  • A Conversation Starter. We talked to far more people than we would have otherwise. Almost all of the conversations were uplifting. While large families are rare, they are not as rare as we thought. Many people would come up to us to tell us about how many siblings or children they had.
  • Easy Kid Tracking. I am often stressed in busy public places about possibly losing track of a child. The shirts significantly reduced my level of stress because I could locate every child in a quick glance.
  • Promotion of Large Families. We were a walking billboard. I list this here as a positive, but I am not one to live in a fish bowl. At one point I was walking along with Miss Bookworm and people were yelling, “Hey, Big Crazy Family!” and waving to us as they passed overhead on a sky lift.
  • Being the Envy of Young Children. Multiple times I heard kids asking their parents why they did not have family t-shirts. Then parents would ask us where they could get these t-shirts, not knowing that we had them made.
There were a few things that I did not like about wearing the t-shirts, chief of which was that I could not go covert as a parent. If you are a parent I am sure you have been in a situation where your child behaves badly and everyone is looking around to see who the parent is. Then you look around too, like you don’t know. Of course, it never works very well when the kid looks like you. Adoptive parents have a leg up on going covert, but there is not a chance in the world when the kid is wearing the same shirt as you. Bummer.

Overall it was a positive experience and drew us closer together as a family while at the same time allowing us to reach out more to others. The only thing I would do differently would be to include the phrase “We are a family, not a daycare” right on the shirt to save us from answering that question all of the time. And maybe if it was printed on the shirts, our girls would have been able to convince the girl they met in the petting zoo that we actually were a family.


Sally said...

Laughing out loud about acting like the bad behaving child is not with you!! I have done that and even ask people around me, "Who are the parents?"

Glad your back. Missed your wonderful posts. Did you ever rid the house of those "infectious thoughts"?

Laurel said...

We have done 2 cross-country family road trips (3 weeks and 5 weeks). And, we made family t-shirts both times.

Our shirts said, "Our Big Fat Greek Road Trip" and listed the 22 and 27 states that we would be visiting.

We didn't all have the same color, though. On the first trip, boys were in royal blue while girls were in lime green. On the 2nd trip, we had different sets of kids in different colors (and mom & dad in matching color), but they all had the same design.

We loved the fact that we could find out kids so easily.

mama of 13

CrazyD said...

Sally - The infectious thoughts are beginning to fade in everybody - except one. I suppose you can guess who that one is. . .

Thankfulmom said...

We love the shirts and were appropriately envious at camp.

Joy Portis said...

LOVE< LOVE< LOVE the shirts!! Great idea!

Anonymous said...

Now the only thing missing was your blog address.

kate said...

I love the shirts!

And am still hoping the infection will morph into one that includes two "older" sisters. I've got them all picked out for you...

Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia said...

I hope you don't mind that I've put a link to your blog on ours. I'd love our adopting families to have access to as many families as possible who've also adopted from Ethiopia. Your story is beautiful!!
God's best blessings,
Adoption Ministry of YWAM - Ethiopia

Anonymous said...

Hi! Loving your blog....I'm a large family parent, too.....but we "only" have one child from Ethiopia in our family. Nice to "meet" you and your family!

CrazyD said...

Hi Kate - I am not thinking about adopting again right now, but feel free to send me the info on who you have picked out for our family at welovebigfamilies@gmail.com.

CrazyD said...

Hi Theresa - I checked out your blog to find out why you said you "only" had one child from Ethiopia. You are truly amazing with 2 1/2 dozen kids! Keep up the good work of caring for children.

Nikki said...

That's cute- I love the front of the shirts, adorable!!


erika's funny farm said...

OK, now the important question...

HOW did you make the shirts? Did you screen print them yourselves? Did you design them and find a tshirt maker and order them? I love this idea, and would love to do it here at the funny farm.

Molly's Mum said...

Your blog is AWESOME you are an inspiration. We are thinking of going to Ethiopia now too - your family is GORGEOUS xxxxxxx

CrazyD said...

Hi Erika,

I made the design on my computer, printed it out and then took it to a local t-shirt shop. I thought about trying to do it myself, but I knew that I would not get it done in time for our summer trips.

Hope that helps,


Becky said...

I love your shirts! I'm going to post a link on my blog.

darci said...

love the shirts!

Allyson said...

Is that Adventureland?
It looks like it.

Kelly said...

WOuld you be offended if we copied your idea?!?!?! These shirts are ADORABLE!!!!!!! :) Our kids would love it!

CrazyD said...

Allyson - It is Adventureland. We love that place.

Kelly - Feel free to use the idea. I hope your kids love them as much as ours do.