Friday, May 8, 2009

The Controversies Over Large Families

My wife’s sister just gave birth to a cute little boy named Caleb. He’s her seventh child.

The reaction to such a feat is usually a mix of awe and horror. To most folks it’s amazing that someone could keep up with that many children. And to many it’s somehow unseemly to have so many.

I must admit that I was once in both of those camps. Ok, I’m still in the first one.

After having my own kids, the notion of having that many is no longer quite so amazing. Even though I don’t want seven, I can see how someone could.

Now I’m more astounded by those who are offended by large families.

I’d like to address a few of the objections I’ve heard.

You can’t love that many children properly.” Baloney! Love is not a pie that has to be sliced smaller for each new child. I didn’t love my first child less when my second came along, and – having seen them up close – my in-laws don’t love theirs less with each passing child. We should remember that only a few generations ago large families were the norm, and our grandparents seemed to be reasonably well-loved.

That many children are a burden on society.” Ok, in some cases (I’m thinking the “octomom”) this may be true. You shouldn’t have more kids than you can feed. But if you can feed your kids, if society is not paying for them, then the end result will be more taxpayers – hardly a burden on society. This is especially true given that most western countries have declining populations.

So many children are bad for the environment.” Another load of hooey. I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the planet’s sustainable population, and as our population has grown, so have our farming techniques and water purification ability. And large families learn to be more efficient in their use of resources simply because of costs.

You don’t need that many children.” And you don’t need an HD TV. Butt out.

(Have you heard any more? Would you leave them in the comments?)

Large families – specifically large numbers of children – divert resources away from mom and dad and toward the kids. People today cannot imagine having more than a couple of kids largely because they can’t imagine not being able to afford nice vacations, good restaurants, and boats. If our society learned to see children as a treasure rather than a burden, we’d all be better off.

But there is another side in this debate that goes too far. The first thinks it unconscionable that someone should have so many children; the other thinks it unconscionable that you don’t.

Why do you tell God how many kids you’re going to have?” Um, are you talking about the God described in the Bible? The all-powerful, sovereign Lord of the universe? God’s ability to send children is not hampered by barrenness or virginity. Birth control poses no problem for Him.

I’ve known people who struggled for years to have children and people who had children in spite of their birth control attempts. God is sovereign over both situations.

I think of it much like wearing a seatbelt. I get in my car and strap myself in, letting God know I’d like to make it to my destination alive. Whether I do or not is up to Him. Birth control is the same kind of thing.

In my case, God seems to have decided two is all we can handle. He’s probably right. Some He has seen fit to bless with seventeen, and some have been moved to adopt. In all cases God is in control and He is pleased by our attempts to raise our children – however many they may be, and whoever may have given birth to them – in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 115:14-15)

1 comment:

Vinny said...

I grew up as the youngest of nine. My wife and I have two. We would have had a couple more but for health problems.

I think I know my children a little better than my parents knew me, but I cannot be sure how much difference that makes. I was still not sure when to ease up and when to push harder. I don't think I love them any more than my parents loved me. I don't think I set them any better example than my parents set for me. I was not able to shield them from the hurts of life. My children still needed to make their own mistakes and learn lessons for themselves.

I am glad that I only had to split my time and energy between two children, but that does not mean that they were any better off for it.