Friday, October 27, 2006

Minding Our Own Business

In recent years, I have met and gotten to know many families with several children. I grew up in a family with only two children, and now I have three of my own, so in my extended family, three children constitutes several. However, when I speak of having several children, I mean more than four; more than a set of parents could have without owning some sort of very large car, van, or sports utility vehicle. For instance, I know one family with seven children. The parents are in their early fifties and the children range in age from twenty-three to nine. The family is very close-knit and when the little ones were babies, the older siblings helped out. I have a good friend who is about to turn forty-four and she just discovered she is pregnant with her fifth child. I have another friend who is forty-one and, brace yourself; she is pregnant with her ninth child. Yes, ninth. I know several others who have multiples, but you get the idea.

My husband have three children because we were blessed with three precious babies; end of story. It is nobody's business why we had as many as three or why we have no more than three. Yet, in recent years I have met many people who have very definite ideas about the number of babies other people should be having. There is no definite number, per se, but out of the people who hold strong opinions on this subject, I find that there are two camps of people out there: those who think families should only have a couple of children and those who think families should have as many babies as possible. I for one, fall into neither camp, because I believe the choice of how many babies to have is between a husband, a wife, and God.

I have one acquaintance on the side which thinks families should only have a minimal amount of children because pregnancy is so hard on the mother. This acquaintance knows the family with nine children and thinks they are mad. In fact, she has made noises about talking to the husband about the issue, since she is concerned about the wife's health. My opinion is that she is treading on very dangerous ground. I have another acquaintance who would never say anything to this family, but she continually gossips to others about how awful it is that they have so many children. She bemoans the fact that the children must share rooms, wear hand-me-downs, and not have the "proper" amount of time with each parent each day. It seems very odd to me that this person is so emotionally involved in the life of a family which has nothing to do with her; a family, I might add, that is extremely happy, has well-adjusted children, and is financially well-off.

Yet, I have been surprised at the other side, as well. There are groups of people out there (mostly women, I am afraid) who believe that every family should have as many children as possible. While I have no quarrel with this concept, I find it odd that these people try to impose their beliefs on others. I have had these people ask me why my husband and I stopped at ONLY three children, and I have heard them gossip viciously about families with only one child. I am horrified that anyone would presume to enter into such a private domain. Not only is is none of their business, but they also have no idea the sadness or damage they might be inflicting on a family which truly wants more children but cannot conceive, or those in which health issues prevent further pregnancies.

I am delighted with my friends who have multiple children and those who have only enough so the entire family can fit into a compact car. Babies are a blessing, regardless of how many we have, and that should be the focus. When we judge others based on the size of their family, we are entering into dangerous territory and we best get out as soon as possible. We can only imagine the hurt that might be inflicted by insensitive words about so private a matter. When we can learn to keep our eyes on our own babies, our own families, and our own way of doing things, without imposing these parameters on the rest of the world, perhaps then we might be able to train our own children to do the same.

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