Fall. Cool, crisp air. Red, orange mess of leaves in the trees and streets. The return of students back to class.
And according to Jeff Arnold ’76, the start of four months of too much quiet.
Arnold and his wife, Susan, are the parents of eight – that’s right eight – children ranging in age from 22 to 8: Barrett, 22, a senior communication major at Millikin; Katie, 21, a Millikin junior majoring in English; Laura, 19, who is attending Loyola University; Lydia, 18, the next Millikin hopeful; Ellie, who celebrates her sweet 16 on Dec. 5; Amelia, 14, the last daughter in her first year of high school; Craig, who ironically turned 11 on Nov. 11; and Rory, 8, the youngest Arnold with the cutest smile.
Arnold admits that having a large family has its overwhelming moments. He and Sue both came large families and knew they wanted the same for their own.
“Sue and I made a premeditated choice to have a large family and understood that our lives would be different than a lot of people in today’s world because of it,” says Arnold. “Our lives revolve completely around the kids activities, the home and the office, church and school, and we are happy with that.”
Arnold notes that during the winter (aka school months) everything is regimented and much more orderly; however, summer is a different story. “Our house is a virtual central hug of activity, especially since we have an in-ground pool. During the summer is when I really do need a psychiatrist and/or a spiritual advisor, or at least a space of my own, especially now that so many of the kids are older teenagers.”
So what’s the key to keeping it all together and staying out of the psychiatric ward?
“Most importantly love,” says Arnold, “and then patience, a sense of humor and a strong faith on our part and understand on the kids parts. Both the children and parents must understand that no matter how good Dad’s job may be, there aren’t going to be fancy vacations, expensive cars and a computer or TV for each one when there are eight siblings. Learning to share, by all of us, is the order of the day. They know that resources go toward the basic living necessities and toward grade school, high school and college tuition to provide a solid foundation for the future.”
Ah yes. Education. Another important staple in the Arnold household. With three of the children already in college (two of which are attending Millikin), no one can argue that the Arnold kids don’t know the importance of a solid education. How did they get such a strong sense of value for education?
“By example,” says Arnold. “Both Sue and I, as well as every one of their grandparents, every one of my four sisters, every one of my wife’s four brothers and two sisters not only went to college, but graduated from college. Our children were never told they had to go to college or were forced to go to college, they just knew they were going to college. It is important to attend college from not only a purely education point of view, but from a socialization one as well. A chance to ‘leave the nest’ and discover a new world ‘out there.’ To make mistakes and succeed too. It is, of course, our hope that the remaining five all go to college too, but we won’t love them any less if they don’t.”
On his down time, Arnold is CEO of the Association of Rotational Molders International, a trade association that currently represents member companies in 58 countries. He attributes the steady running of the Arnold household to Susan, who also does volunteer work for St. Peters Catholic Church and Rosary High School, both where the children attend school.
So what leaving advice do the experts have for us?
“There is definitely one piece of advice that we would give any parents, whether they are first time parents or not, and that is to love your kids as much as possible each and every day,” says Arnold. “Where there is strong love, many perceived problems disappear or evaporate. A lot of patience doesn’t hurt either but that comes with love. Love conquers all.”
The complete article appeared in the winter 2005-06 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.