Side by Side by Side

“Side by Side by Side,” Ensign, Dec. 1992, 63–64

Side by Side by Side

At three different chessboards, three pairs of children concentrate intently, the older ones teaching the younger ones. Six of the seventeen children of Le Roy and Mary Wirthlin of West Bloomfield, Michigan, have decided to have a Christmas vacation chess tournament. “Whether we’re indoors or out, we love to do things together as a family,” says Sister Wirthlin. “All play either the piano or the violin or both, and all love to read—a fact that is evident in our hefty library fines.”

“The gospel encourages us to be our best and to do our best,” says Brother Wirthlin. The children, nine of whom are still living at home, have been leaders in their schools—academically, athletically, and politically—as well as strong, active members of the Church. Seven of the Wirthlins’ eight sons have become Eagle Scouts, having enjoyed canoe trips and long hikes with the family as well as with the Scout troop, and six have served missions. The Wirthlins’ nine daughters have worked hard beside their brothers and parents on the family farm, less than an hour’s drive from their suburban home, and have been successful at activities like running on the cross-country team and cheerleading.

“Sheep, pigs, chickens, horses, and all the work that goes with them have taught our children the value of responsibility and dependability,” says Le Roy, a vascular surgeon who loves farm life and nature.

Wirthlin wisdom for keeping children productively involved in the right things may be contained in Le Roy’s quip: “We try to keep them as tired as possible. At the point that they’d rather go to sleep than go get a Big Mac, that’s just about right.”

Keeping active, doing things side by side, is the Wirthlins’ idea of fun. If it’s not a chess tournament, it may be some friendly competition target shooting at the farm, where they may also race to see who can clean out a horse stall fastest and best. But for the Wirthlin family, it’s all done side by side by side.

A roomful of Wirthlins is a roomful of fun.