present with their children in targeted ways. Mothers, some of them formerly career driven, must adjust to managing the chaos of an always bustling household. But amid the hubbub of shifting play dates, sports activities and recitals, these Palo Alto couples say they have learned to manage their wealth of children and the challenges that accompany them. Five large families sat down with the Weekly to discuss the joys and challenges of raising children in Palo Alto.
The Kadifas: The diversity is enriching
hen people learn that Sally and Abdo (George) Kadifa have five kids, they always get a reaction, she said. â€œOur family is on the large side,â€? she conceded, but itâ€™s not that unusual from her perspective. Sally, 52, was also raised in a family of five children, a number that was not considered large when she was growing up. In her Minnesota community, she recalled families with six to 13 children. George has only one brother, but his parentsâ€™ home in Lebanon was always filled with extended family, she said. Growing up with her siblings was enriching, she said. â€œThey are totally different from me. But I like that there are these people Iâ€™m very close to who I wouldnâ€™t have known otherwise. They are some of my closest friends,â€? she said. And she wanted to give her children â€” George, 21, Margaret, 19, J.J., 16, Charlotte, 12, and Sophie, 10 â€” the same experience. The Kadifas married when Sally was 29 and George was 30. They knew they wanted a big family, and they were willing to make the sacrifices, they said. When their first child was about to be born, George was embarking on a high-tech career that would take much of his concentration and time. Sally was in her medical residency. She decided not to complete her training. Sally said she knew George could not build his career if he had to split his time with managing the household and children while she continued her career. For Sally, giving up her career â€œwas a difficult decision,â€? George said. â€œI was lucky to have her make that family choice. It hasnâ€™t been easy.â€? When the children were young, he worked at Oracle during an intense time. His job became 24/7, and â€œit was critical how to balance travel with being present,â€? he said. â€œWhen our first son was born, I had to go to Japan. A kid his age, every few weeks they look different,â€? he said. He founded a company whose IPO kept him on the road for four weeks, he recalled. â€œSally was the support that protected everything. I couldnâ€™t imagine the family moving forward at that time without her. In some ways, I feel she did all the work and I didnâ€™t,â€? he said. George said he never imagined he would have five children, but he loves having a large family. â€œThe more children we had, the more we enjoyed it,â€? he said. To keep close to his children and balance his busy schedule, he will have dinner at home sometimes and take a red-eye flight for business. He will fly back the next day so the children will have the continuity of seeing him. In some ways, that arrangement has been advantageous, he said. â€œSometimes I felt that I got more sleep on the red eye than at home,â€? he said, somewhat sheepishly. â€œWith large families, the key is patience. To be fair with everyone is critical and to make sure that everyone is equal,â€? he said. Sally said that with a 12-year spread in ages, it is important that the children find common ground with one another. She looked for things they could do together. Everyone took part in the Peninsula Swim Association Summer Swim League, and the family took part in the First Congregational Churchâ€™s spring musical, including Sally. â€œThat made it less crazy for me. We never did club soccer or volleyball. When there are five kids, you canâ€™t have one parent leave for out-of-town games on a regular basis,â€? she said.
If there are shortcomings from having many children, Sally said it hasnâ€™t seemed to affect her children negatively. â€œOne thing they give each other is a lot of attention. Where I sometimes feel I fall short, they do a lot for each other,â€? she said. There are things she wishes she could have done, however. â€œWe never got to Disneyland when my oldest daughter was in the middle of the princess phase. We couldnâ€™t go with an infant and a baby,â€? she said. Ironically, her toughest parenting challenges havenâ€™t come from within the family but from the Palo Alto school community, she said. Parent volunteers make many of the activities happen, but the volunteer opportunities â€” and what is expected â€” are set up for parents of two kids. Schools rely on parents for everything from classroom help to driving on field trips, she said. â€œMany nursery schools require parents to help out weekly or monthly during the school day. There are informational meetings to attend for many activities. By participating, parents get to know other parents and build community and support each other in raising their families. This is very positive, but sometimes with a large family it can be overwhelming to try to participate in some way in everything each child is doing â€” even if that is limited to two activities per
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The Etheringtons: Teaching tolerance and responsibility
photo-mural of family covers an entire wall of Linda and Robert Etheringtonâ€™s home. There are little girls in dresses on a spacious front lawn and the family posed on the front porch. One part of the giant mural contains a family joke of sorts: all seven girls sit lined up with their backs to the camera. Each wears a sports jersey with her position in the family on the back â€” numbers 1 through 7. Linda Etherington smiled at the mural. â€œWe love kids. We love being around kids,â€? said Etherington, who has six brothers and sisters. Robert was also raised in a family with six children, she added. â€œThere was always someone to play with, always someone to go somewhere with. My mom was easygoing. She let us go play for hours. When she wanted us, she had a giant bell and sheâ€™d gong it,â€? she recalled. The Etheringtonsâ€™ brood includes Avianne, 21; Allyson, 20; Holly, 18; Cassidy, 17; Amy, 15; Taylor, 9; and Elizabeth, 7. â€œBecause of our faith we consider children to be a great blessing and opportunity,â€? Etherington, who is Mormon, said. She said she understands and doesnâ€™t discount concerns about overpopulation, but the family believes God loves children and wants them to be brought up to do good in the world. From a young age, the Etheringtonsâ€™ children have learned compassion, tolerance and self-sufficiency. (continued on next page)
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Section 1 of the Oct. 19, 2012, edition of the Palo Alto Weekly.