As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Jeff is reading a book I recently read in which one of the authors talks about how the bible never says things like, "blessed is the couple who perfectly spaces their children" or "has exactly as many children as they intended", or "only has a small number of children so they can afford to put them in hockey".  Of course it never says there's anything wrong with having a smaller family, but when it speaks of the blessings that come from family life, it's always in the context of many children.  "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:4-5).

Unfortunately the bible is one of the few places these days where you find such encouragement.  Over and over I hear, "wow, so you're expecting your fifth?  So is this your last one?"  When we tell people that it probably is not our last, and that we have no set number in mind but rather intend to just take it one baby at a time, then it's official - they either think we're completely crazy, or that we're saints doing something that no normal person could possibly ever do.  How wrong they are on both counts!

What I notice is that the bible uses the word, "blessed".  Not holy, exceptional, abnormal, heroic - but blessed.  To be blessed is to reap rewards from something, and clearly what the bible is saying is that if you are willing to welcome children (even many of them), there will be many good things in store for you.  This is a truth that is lived by every parent, those who only have one child, and those who have twelve.  People talk to me all the time like I am a hero doing something extraordinary, and while I can agree that not everyone is called to have a big family, I think that many more people are called than are open.  Everyone thinks, “I could never do that”, but to me that’s like saying, “I could never handle that much love”.  Like if someone was going to hand you a million dollars and you said, “no thanks, I’ll just keep the fifty I have in my pocket.”  Our culture has so attuned us to the extra responsibility that comes from raising children that we are blinded to the good (which far outweighs the bad), and time and again turn our backs on the treasures that are ours to enjoy.

Yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sun was streaming in the windows, and I had some soft music playing on the computer. I looked outside at my two older boys climbing trees, and when they spotted me their little faces lit up, and they waved.  Then I looked at my two youngest ones inside, sitting on the same riding toy going for a drive together, and enjoying each other’s friendship.  I am slightly emotional these days (impending birth will do that to you!) and it made me cry just a little.  It was just the kind of moment you see in a movie, and it made me so happy.  When Jeff got home I shared it with him, and he replied that when he was out getting groceries earlier that day, the cashier commented to him how strange it was to see a man by himself getting groceries.  She said she usually sees either just a wife, or an entire family shopping together.  When he told her that he’s the grocery shopper in our house, she responded that I must either be pregnant or have a small baby at home.  When he told her that actually it was both, that we had four small children and I am expecting our fifth, she responded with, “what did you do to that poor woman?”  Hearing this in hindsight made me laugh, especially since I had been having such a great day with the kids, but I think it didn’t sit so well with Jeff.

She was definitely more bold than most people are, but her words still echoed an idea that is common to our society: that children are an affliction, and how unblessed is the family who has many.  I know when she said that, the image she had in her mind must have been of a kitchen full of messy pots and pans, a laundry room full of dirty clothes, unhappy children crying and wanting to be fed, and a pregnant and frazzled mom just wanting a break.  And true, I have many days like that.  But I also have many more good days, and I wish this is what would come to mind when people think of me “stuck at home” with all my children.  There really is no place I would rather be.

My challenge to anyone reading this is not to think of children as a burden, but as a blessing.  And not to think of the parents of large families as extra-ordinary, but normal people, not who are doing something incredible, but who are just accepting these many blessings that are being poured out on them.  I don’t know about you, but when someone is showering me with gifts I want to open them all, not just stop at one or two.  And of course I know that every person is not called to live the same life I am living (in a similar way you could speak of the blessings of religious life, but still see that not everyone is called to be a priest or a sister).  But if you are feeling like you want to have more children, don’t listen to the people who tell you that you’re crazy, or that you can’t do it.  Be open to what is on your heart, and you will never be disappointed.  The things you have in this life will fade away, but the children you bring into this world will be for all eternity.  And when I die, it won’t matter that I earned a business degree, or held down two successful careers.  And it won’t matter (thank goodness!) that I struggled along in a house that was too small and too unfinished for the family that I raised in it.  What will matter is my contribution to eternity, and the joy they helped me to know in my life.  There is nothing that could make me prouder.

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