12 Is Enough

Written by Heide Brandes in the December 2013 Issue

The Babbs have 12 children.

Yes, an even dozen, a full house, a good mix, a large brood, a small herd.

The Babb FamilyThey are your typical American working family…with 12 kids. “We’ve answered all the typical questions people always ask,” said father Brian Babb. “We never planned to have 12 children, and we never looked at it as a burden. Our children were gifts, and it’s just fun to have a full house. People always assume you’re a kook or something when you say you have 12 kids.”

For all intents and purposes, the only reason people make a big fuss over the Babbs—besides their welcoming attitudes and friendly natures—is the fact that their family is so large. In this day and age when having four kids is considered brave, most people can’t imagine having such a full house. “People always tells us, ‘Oh, I’d have another but I don’t have the time,’ or, ‘We’re waiting until we can afford to have a baby,’” Brian said. “If you keep waiting for the right time, you’ll never do it. It’s the same with kids. It always works out.”

For Laura and Brian Babb and their family, a full house means more fun, more family and more festivities. They can’t see why anyone makes such a big deal of it. But, with 12 kids comes a certain amount of challenge, like the logistics of getting everyone to various sports practices and doing laundry. December is a rough month, hosting five birthdays and Christmas to boot, but it’s all in a day in the life of the Babbs.

“When we go to school, everyone asks, ‘Oh, are you a Babb?’” said Anna Laura, one of the younger sisters. “People know who you are.”

The Babbs are, of course, Mom and Dad but also, from oldest to youngest: Andrew, Peter, Leah, Philip, Hannah, Rebekah, Mary Kathryn, John, Sam, Anna Laura, Ben and Abby.

Welcome to the family.

A Full House

Laura and Brian met while they attended college together in Dallas, but after the oil bust in the 1980s, Brian didn’t complete his final year in college, studying to become a petroleum engineer, and instead went to work for his father. Soon after college, Laura and Brian married and had their first two boys, Andrew and Peter. “Then we started seeing articles about how petroleum engineers were needed, so we decided it would be good for Brian to go back and finish school,” said Laura. Brian graduated and began working with major oil companies in Midland, Texas. After 12 years and 11 kids, they moved to Oklahoma in 2002. Abby was the last to join the Babb brood.

“We’ve been raising kids for 27 years, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary for us,” said Laura. “But, I did realize even back then that large families were not the trend. But, both Brian and I came from large families. I had five siblings and he had six, so that’s what we were used to.” Although the Babbs never set out to have 12 children, they didn’t fight against it either. “We didn’t do it for religious reasons, but we were open to God’s plan,” said Laura. “He had a plan, and we let it happen.”

Sibling Simplicity

For such a large family, the siblings all seem to get along. Andrew, Leah and Hannah are out of the home already and Rebekah started college this past fall. The five-bedroom house in Edmond includes a bedroom for Mom and Dad, a bedroom for the girls, a bedroom for the boys, a spare single room for the oldest child and a playroom.

“You always have people to look out for you,” said the youngest, Abby. “When there are 11 other brothers and sisters, you’re never lonely. There’s always someone to play with.” Sure, brothers and sisters bicker. Sometimes they even fight. But if one of the kids is gone overnight, the others miss him or her. They like to share rooms. Ben, a spunky little dark-haired lover of lizards, likes to see his sisters squeal when he brings out his pet bearded dragons.

“They all get along for the most part,” said Brian.

Even the logistics of raising such a big family isn’t as difficult as one might imagine. While the Babbs do not go nuts on planning where every cent goes, they aren’t spending irresponsibly either. Because the children are involved in various activities, planning and organizing how to get the kids to their practices and appointments can be a little tricky, though the older siblings help out with driving too.

“Laundry doesn’t even overwhelm me,” said Laura. “I have a system. Everything is hung up, except sock and underclothes. Everyone has a spot on the rod in the laundry room and everyone has their own laundry basket. It’s their responsibility to come get their own clean clothes, though a few do use their laundry room as a closet.”

While some larger families draw names for Christmas, the Babbs choose to buy presents for each child and let each child buy gifts as they see fit. The family focuses more on celebrating individual birthdays instead.

“Because of the size of the group, it’s a lot more fun. The house is never empty,” said Brian. “You have more fun with more people. We never have had horrendous times with logistics, and, now that some of the kids are older, we have some time for just the two of us too.”

Raising each child—especially through the tough teenager years—becomes less complicated with each child. “Once you’ve been through it three to four times, it gets easier,” said Laura. “You know what to expect and you feel much less worried when they reach an age where they start to withdraw or want their independence. You know it’s going to be painful—painful for them, for you. They have to figure it out. But then one day you turn around and you see your child and think, ‘Wow. He’s an adult. He’s making adult decisions,’” she said. “We are very proud of our children.”

TreeAbby, however, is the last child, and is eight years old. The Babb household will be strangely silent when Abby moves out… but maybe not so much. Already, the older ones are getting married and starting families of their own. “It won’t be an empty nest,” said Brian. “We’ll have the grandkids then.”

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