Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How we're populating the earth...

We went to the Denver Museum of Natural History yesterday, seven of my children, one little friend, and my brother, Dave, and I. We have a museum membership as it takes only two or three visits a year to pay for itself. But, we made a miscalcuation and didn't check the website before we planned the trip. If we'd looked, we'd have seen that yesterday was a "free day" and everyone in the world had planned to be there. Gack. We like it much better when we can park right up front and the halls are so deserted that our chatter echos.
But, yesterday we were bumping elbows with the whole Denver metro population. Nice folks, for the most part. Generally, people who want to go to the museum are a good sort, and we all get along with one another very well. At one point, though, shuffling through the crowd, the Littles and I got separated from our group of bigger kids who were getting the scholarly tour of the dinosaur pavilion from my paleantologically inclined brother, so we parked the stroller in a little nook outside the "bone" rooms to wait. The six children and I chatted, I texted with my brother to check on their progress, and scores of people passed by enjoying the exhibits, involved in their own worlds. Except one pair of older ladies.

I couldn't help noticing them eyeing us as they passed. And I couldn't help hearing their passing comment, because I suspect it was meant to be heard. One said to the other, and I quote: "Yes, they look like they're all hers. Isn't that horrendous?"
Ha! I didn't even have all my kids with me! But, I didn't say anything.
Now, some years ago, these ladies' comment would have made me angry. I've been hearing this kind of thing for over fifteen years now, ever since our family broke the acceptability level of three children, but over the years its effect on me has changed. It doesn't make me angry any more. I don't feel the urge to make a biting, sarcastic retort. No, these days it makes me feel sad.
It makes me sad that these two older women (in their sixties) didn't know, first of all, that if you're going to gossip, you should at least have the courtesy not to gossip where the gossipee can hear you. (Sheesh!)
Second of all, it saddens me that, in the tradition of gossip, they jumped to so many conclusions, not just about our individual situation, but about big families, in general.
And the saddest thing is that this conception is practically universal. It's heart-breaking that so many people tolerate the sins of abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity, etc, then complain about the high incidence of violent crime, including rape, and whine about today's crop of lazy, irresponsible, addicted young people. They don't see the connection between the accepted modern mindset, which teaches all the reasons for limiting family-size, and all the evils that come from the same humanistic religion.
Isn't it odd that modern humanism in its singular backward way teaches that people are both the most and least important cog in the universe? Everything revolves around improving our life on this planet, and yet life in itself has no value. The selfish needs of the individual, globalized into materialism and earth-worship, have eclipsed any care for the soul (the real good) of the people of the world, generally or specifically.
So now, in a typically ironic way, our society considers having a large family a selfish act.
You see how they come to this, don't you? Modern society teaches that the earth is more important than children. You've heard the mantra: We can't further burden what they conceive to be an already overburdened planet. To be amazed at what they really think, check this article out. And then, see here and here for excellent explanations of why this myth is exactly that ~ myth.
Then, of course, the world teaches that things are more important than children. A great emphasis is placed on what many call a "quality" of life, which can only be enjoyed by a family of one or two children. Without expensive vacations, cutting edge gadgets, big screen tvs, and palacial McMansions to live in, children will grow up deprived, they say. So, in order to afford these things, they limit their children to no more than 2.5 hatchlings per household, and then both parents work conscientiously long hours -- and deprive their children of the one thing they most need and want: their parents' time.
We've all seen how the world teaches that convenience is more important than children. Raising more than two children is not only expensive, but it's challenging ~ and terribly inconvenient. (The remark we hear for that one is: What are you, crazy?) There really is no question about it. A person who wants the world to revolve around him or her will find great inconvenience in raising more than a matched set of children. Raising more requires purposeful efficiency, planning, patience, tolerance, and self sacrifice.
The irony is that these are all the attributes population-zero people would like us all to exhibit toward its most currently popular end of "saving the planet," but would never consider positive attributes put toward raising a half dozen like-minded future voters. That idea is not only inconvenient, but dangerous in the mind of today's eco-religious. Much of our "green" world is willing to forego the convenience of anything that produces waste products, including the water required for flushing toilets for the good of the planet but can't imagine living on less in order to nurture and support a generous-sized family. It seems that today any inconvenience can and should be tolerated to preserve our natural resources...
All natural resources, except our greatest resource ~ our children.
And the most rare, the most precious-resource children that I know are ones that are brought up understanding first hand, the Godly prudence of conservation, the reward of self-sacrifice, the necessity of patience, the value of charity, and the desire for proper justice to those who don't play by the rules. And, though these virtues can be found in children of any family size, they thrive in big families. Not only that, they grow deep roots and spread great canopies. Children from big, happy families blossom in ingenuity, creativity, generosity, and love. They are almost always givers. They enrich the world. They populate heaven.
I'm sure those two little old ladies would be able to cite examples of big, impoverished, welfare families that would make a mockery of this statement. And, it's a sad truth that they're out there. But, I could, in turn, point out a nation full of self-centered, spoiled, rudderless people from small families that has had hardly a chance to learn better. There are worse kinds of deprivation than not getting to go to Disney World as a child.

But, I wouldn't do that. Even though it looks like I just did that very thing, I wouldn't really point my finger. For one thing, I just don't have the heart to argue about it any more. And seriously, we big family folks don't point our fingers at little families in derision. Have you ever seen any of us do that? We love families ~ all families, big and small. But it makes me sad that parents of large families (and their children) have to hear this kind of abuse about something so integral to our belief systems. It'd sure be nice if a world that preaches tolerance to every evil could squeeze out a little tolerance for a family that exceeds the norm. But, it'd be nicer still if the world would understand that a value for life and a love for integrity, the standard under which many big families march, produces darn good people.
Lots of them.
(Do you see now why I can't make pithy biting retorts? It takes me 13 paragraphs to get it all out.)

Famous people with or from big families:
Benjamin Franklin was one of ten children
Mark Wahlberg is one of nine children
St. Catherine of Siena was the youngest of twenty-five children
Frank and Lillian Gilbreth were the parents of twelve children
Queen Victoria had nine royal children
Stephen Colbert is one of eleven children
Celine Dion is the youngest of fourteen siblings
Johann Sebastian Bach had twenty children altogether
Danielle Steele has nine children
Justice Antonin Scalia, himself an only child, is the father of nine children
Mel Gibson has seven children
Queen St. Margaret of Scotland was the mother of eight children, one a canonized saint.

For more information
and some big-family inspiration:
Check out this scientific study on children from large families vs. small families and their behavior in a school setting.
This rabbi's take on his large family is heartening.
Kim at Starry Sky Ranch stated it perfectly a while back. (Bless Kim's decision to get away from blogging right now, but I miss her wise and insightful posts!)
And Jennifer at Conversion Diary has some great links and thoughts on the subject, as well.
H/T: to Jackie at Catholic Mom of 10 who provided the Patrick Madrid link, a Catholic perspective on overpopulation. Jackie (who's on vacation right now) is also writing about this topic these days.


Aimee said...

Amen, Lisa! People think I'm crazy and I "only" have four. It can be disheartening at times, but I keep my mind on God, not society.

Thanks for the "famous kids from big families" list. I'll share it with my kids! :)

SQUELLY said...

This is a brilliant piece! Spot on! We are such a sad culture- failing to value what should be at the centre of it - family and raising up life styles that damage people as exemplary. When I was training as a teacher I was told I must embrace difference- but it turned out it depended on what kind of 'difference'. Only the fashionable type which I cannot agree with. My Mum was one of eleven kids and when I say that people act like it is terrible. It is so uplifting that you value what counts.

Thanks you for speaking the truth- this is hope!

SuzyQ said...

What a great post!!!
I love it Lisa :0)
You say everything I feel.
I remember the first time we all went out together as a family after Seraphina was born. It really did feel like we had crossed the "three child limit" all the stares we got! Especially as the three youngest are so close in age. I sometimes wonder what it will be like when we have more! Yet, like you, in my heart, I don't really mind what anyone else says. Our family is so precious to us and our children are happy, in fact the girls can't wait to have another brother or sister lol! And that is what matters most.
Your family is just beautiful, I can't believe you don't get anything but compliments on your gorgeous children!
Thanks for this. I'm going to bookmark it :0)

Kim H. said...

Beautiful post, Lisa! You offer amazing insight. And like Aimee, I get "you're crazy" - and I only have four. :) And I just respond "no, I'm just blessed".

My four favorite sentences from your post : "Children from big, happy families blossom in ingenuity, creativity, generosity, and love. They are almost always givers. They enrich the world. They populate heaven."

Well said.


Kim H. said...

Oh, and I also meant to say thanks for the list of Saints to pray to - I have been meaning to google that, but haven't spent much time at the computer these days. You know, my Mom's orders. I guess, even at 39 I still have to obey. :)

MightyMom said...

hold on! wait! stay right there, I've got something to show you!!

don't move!!

MightyMom said...

shew! FOUND IT!!

I tried to shake off some of the dust....


MightyMom said...

ok, my internet keeps restarting hence the multiple posts here.

I get tired of people looking at me and my 3 under 5 and saying "you're busy".....what's up with that?? and the "you're done now, right?"

I once went on a tirade about how asking a woman if she's using birth control was the equivalent to asking how often she had sex...why isn't personal stuff allowed to be kept...personal??

(1 paragraph per child..so I guess I'm done :-) )

Maeana said...

What a truly insightful piece. I think there is a generation of women in their 60's who were talked out of the big families their mothers had, and now find themselves either having to degrade the large families they see or admit to themselves that they made a mistake they now regret. I have found that most of the only positive comments I get from that age group are the ones who come up to me to tell me they had many of their own. I also have to say that I must be lucky to live in the area I do because I hear FAR more postive than I do negative comments of any kind.

Lisa said...

Aimee ~ That's the trick to keeping perspective. What God thinks is the key!

Squelly ~ The whole "tolerance" except for "you" and "you" thing really does annoy. Especially since you know it's got to be diabolically driven. There's tolerance for everything except for what is good. &:o' But, where there's life, there's hope.

Suzy ~ Thank-you, but you're girls are so so lovely! It is amazing that anyone would make comment ~ or turn anything but a delighted eye on them all! It's just the climate of our times, unfortunately. You're so right, though. As long as our consciences are clear and we're finding joy in our families, what anyone else says just doesn't matter. I'm sad for them.

MM ~ Thanks for the link ~ what a great post at "Pen of Jen" ~ I liked her post about babies being a "drag" and her carbon footprint, too. Powerful stuff!

And, you're right ~ It has never ceased to amaze me that people will ask such personal questions and make such rude comments. Good grief! What if I asked them: "What's wrong with you that you only have one child? Is it a physical or mental problem?" If I said such a thing I'd feel like the worst kind of creep ~ and I would be! But, it's no different than the sorts of comments I've heard.

Maeana ~ I think you're right about that generation. I was wondering the same thing, because, honestly, I get more of that kind of thing from the 50-60 crowd than I do from my age and younger. And, I should say, too, that the comments have been fewer in the last 5 -10 years ~ and are always are less in rural communities. But, I've had less and less exposure to it, as my kids grow up, too, because I'm just not out with all of them as often. My oldest kids are grown, and we tend to split up the rest of them anymore for in-town outings, so I only have 3 or 4 with me at a time instead of the 6 or 10.

Natalie said...

Goodness the old biddies! I can guarantee they thought they only reason you were at the museum was because it was a free day, because its obvious a woman with so many kids could never afford to do outings like that.

I just have my boy right now and my second one on the way. They will be around 18 months apart and I'm already gearing up for the comments, positive and negative, to come. Fortunately, our family know we want at least 6 kids so they won't be critical of us.

Good post today!

Natalie said...


This is a great video I just saw. Hope you enjoy it too. I think it fits with your post today.

Lisa said...

Natalie ~ Wow! GREAT video! I'm going to post the link, if that's ok with you ~

And Mighty Mom's, too. Both excellent links!

GrandmaK said...

Great post...It reminds me of the time we had moved here,Ron was working late hours and we still had to stay at the hotel. I noticed that a friend, who would come down to dinner with her daughter later than us, always had men approaching her. She asked me one evening if she could borrow a couple of my children, she noticed no one accosted me. There is strength in numbers. Pretty proud of my 5 children. Cathy

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. As we prepare to cross into having 5 children in June when this baby girl is due, we do often get these comments/looks. It's so sad. Children are not a curse, they are a blessing. Why should we tell God "no" to the most wonderful miracles? God Bless!

Bia said...

Lisa, I stopped by this morning, read your post, and couldn't comment because I was astonished . . . yes astonished. You see, I look at your family and I see love, faith, compassion, creativity, togetherness . . . everything that a family should be.

I remember when I first "met" you a little over a year ago, there was so much that I learned from your family that I applied to my own. And, truly, if it had been possible (if I married younger, if I hadn't had complications with the last pregnancy) I would have had several more children.

Sadly, those two ladies (along with many others) just don't get it . . . and I feel sorry for them.

Bless you, bless you, bless you for being an example to us all.

Michelle said...

Good day. I have been looking at your blog for a bit and quite enjoy it. I would like to have a more in depth conversation about this if possible. I am 26 and am going through RCIA right now, although I am from a Catholic family and have only ever gone to Catholic churches my whole life. I will be graduating with my accounting degree May 2010. I was married this past year, and will have a renewal of vows (remarriage to the same husband) this year in my church once we are official members. I have thought about this subject many times. My husband and I currently use natural family planning and sometimes condoms. I sometimes feel like the use of condoms is almost as bad as abortion (which I have never and would never do), because it interferes with God's plan. Also, I know that if I let go and just let Him do His will everything would be fine, but I worry about the other stuff. Not Disneyworld and a McMansion (as you called it), but I worry about a college fund. I love the idea of a big family, but I want a house, just a regular old house, and to be able to do some stuff, like movie night. For my husband and I we need two incomes. If we didn't both work we would not be able to live in our 1 bedroom apartment, yet alone have a house or have any savings. So my questions to you are do your kids have college funds? Does your household make a big enough income to support 11 kids? I am not being snarky either. I love big families, and wish I was in a position to stay at home and have many kids, but I am not. If you are then that is wonderful, truly. I think your post has many good points, but it is not entirely selfish of everyone that doesn't have a big family. I am not some eco nut either. I come from a family of 3. I have to pay for my own college, which is why I see an importance to have a college fund for my future children because I will have student loans for the next 10 to 20 years which interferes with the income I will have to support a family. I could do without the extravagant things in life, but there are some things that are needed to have big families, like enough food for an army. These things take financial support as you are well aware of, and not everyone has those kinds of means. As I said I wish I could have a big family but I will need to work for the next 30+ years and cannot have a big family as I would find it irresponsible to have a large family and not be there to support them. I hope for my husband to find a better job so we can have 2-4 and me work part time, because I do not want other people raising my babies. I want to be the best mom I can be and I couldnt work part time and give each child in a large family their due time and effort. Do you see the issues here? It isn't selfishness for me. I am at www.goofysocks.blogspot.com and would love any more insite you have.

Thank you