Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Which is better- small families or big families?

    I am very opinionated.  It has gotten me into a bit of trouble in my life.  I had hoped that my blog would provide an opportunity to share my views without as much risk of offending people.  After all, if you don’t like what I have to say, you don’t have to read the blog.   Still I have been careful to try not to offend anyone and have been somewhat guarded with some of my more controversial opinions.   However, there has been a blog post rumbling around in my head for a while now and though I have tried to silence it lest I offend anyone, it hasn’t relented and so I am giving in….  I apologize in advance if it comes across as judgmental….
    I read in a Catholic parenting book, many years ago a statement that has stayed with me ever since.   The author was speaking about family size and being open to life and he said that in smaller families, specifically those with one or two children, many parents have a tendency to treat their children like little gods and goddesses.   At the time, I had only two children.  However, the statement did not offend me.   Maybe because I had always wanted to have a big family and knew that my family was not complete with two children.  Whatever the reason, I was not only not offended by the statement but instead, I was intrigued.  I saw exactly what the author was talking about.  I knew families where the one or two children were exalted to undeserved heights.  Lovely families with parents who only wanted what was best for their children, spoiling them rotten with material goods, unhealthy parental attention and focus, and ridiculous expectations to perform in order to please their parents.  I saw that these parents, though certainly well intentioned, were doing their children a disservice by making them out to be the center of the world and worthy of something awfully close to idol worship.   I know of families where the children are involved in unending activities, where their every whim and passing interest is catered to and there is no consequence for wasting time and money on things they end up having no attention span for.  I know children who are given bedrooms and play rooms full of toys none of which is appreciated or valued.   I have seen families where the children can do no wrong, where their parents are convinced that every little thing they do is monumental and deserving of a celebration or, at the very least, proper acknowledgment from the world around.  Now, it could be said that this is a universal American thing, not exclusive to smaller families, but it is a lot harder to maintain such treatment when you have 4 or 5 or 6 children to cater to.  It just isn’t realistic in a big family and I don’t know any families with many children who are able to keep it up.
    On the other hand, a very good friend once observed that some people with bigger families see their children, not as gods or goddesses but as little trophies to show off.  This observation, too, intrigued me.  I had never thought of it before but I could see her point too.  Having a large family does attract a certain amount of attention.  It is not necessarily all positive attention, but as anyone who has spent time with young children will tell you, even negative attention seems to be strangely desirable, at times.  I could see how children could be viewed as trophies.  How it could be easy to get caught up in a sort of numbers game, “I have 5 children,” the mother says proudly with her beautiful brood all lined up in a  row.  “Well, I have ten children ranging in age from 16 to newborn,” says the other mother looking perfectly poised.  Though I have no television and have never seen them, I am told there are several reality shows out there that feature families who sound as though they may suffer from such attitudes.   Yes, unfortunately, our children can be seen as status symbols.  I pray that I will never fall prey to such beliefs.  I hope I will never lose sight of the fact that my children are unique individuals, sent as blessings from God, and not as feathers in my cap to show off or exploit.  Nevertheless, the idea of trophy children was one that caused me to think.
    So, now that I may have offended every woman who has ever given birth- whether to one or many children, what is my point?  Only to make others think as it made me think.  Well, that and to share my own observations and opinions on the subject…I believe that our children are to be valued, to be respected, to be nurtured and loved- but all with God at the center.  I believe the only way to truly plan our families, with the right intention, is to be open to God’s plan and to seek His guidance in all our marital and parenting decisions.  I believe our children will be served best by parents who love God above all, who trust in Him completely, and who want most to serve Him by raising faith-filled well-adjusted, humble children.   And I know, for me, the only way I can dream of achieving that is by putting God at the center of my life and relying on His guidance and grace.

1 comment:

  1. Wow,
    That's a great post--very well said. It's true that in worldly company a large family can be looked down upon, while in the company of Catholic homeschoolers, a smaller family may be looked at with suspicion. I have a friend who is only able to have two and feels inadequate or inferior when she's around her friends with larger families.

    Well, you're right--God has the plan and the control, not us. As for myself, I am grieving that I couldn't have more, but then I realize how blessed I am to have five. I have suffered from that ridiculous pride at times, as though I made these kids. How foolish of me! I am also so aware that I in no way deserve these blessings, and with the smallest turn of events could be a protistute or a mom in jail who has lost custody of her children. Truly, everything is a grace and none of us can boast.

    Thanks for sharing that!
    In Christ,

    P.S. FYI--we are back this week with Kids Say the Darndest Things Friday and would love to have you join in or stop by if you're able to. :D



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