Friday, February 5, 2010

How Many Is Too Many?

An interesting question I found today: Should the Duggars stop having children? (This picture includes all but their newset one.)

First of all, I wonder why anyone thinks this is any of their business. If you don't want people telling you you have to have kids, you shouldn't want anyone telling you how many you can have if you want them. I know most of us think about having that many kids and literally want to gouge our eyeballs out of their sockets, but let's consider this for a moment, shall we?

As a general rule, the average individual can't handle that much, and doesn't want to. But what if you did? What if you could?

Most of the responses I saw were along the lines of  calling them selfish, vainly ambitious, cruel, irresponsible.... you get the idea. Someone who has that many kids is selfish because they're contributing to the problem of overpopulation. They don't really take care of all their kids because they make the kids take care of each other, and that's selfish and irresponsible, too. They're doing it to get into Guiness. It's all about them!! There was also a horrifying sentiment of "serves them right" regarding the premature birth of their youngest daughter. How appalling is that?! Just because they have a lot of kids, they somehow deserve to have a child suffer? Or it's somehow their FAULT that she was born early? What a disgusting attitude!

Are we seeing a pattern here? Are you seeing how all of this hinges around a certain attitude toward procreation and children as people? They are cast as extensions of their parents. I suppose in a very literal sense, that's what they are. But all the people who hurl these accusations can't seem to get past that attitude to realize that that's not where this family is coming from.

When most people think about having that many kids, they think of people like the Octomom. They think of someone who deliberately and selfishly brought children into a home in which she was unable to provide for them financially, in which she has deprived them of a father figure so her sons had someone to pattern after and her daughters could learn how men are supposed to treat them, and who expects other people to pick up the dime for the cost of her choices. They also think of the people who reproduce indisciminately and feel no sense of responsibility for the life they helped create. The woman who has eight children by 5 different fathers by the time she's 25. The man who does a "Hit it and quit it" routine, never bothering to see what consequences he has created, and being uninterested in shouldering the responsibility for the ones he does find out about.

But the Duggars aren't those people. They have been married for several more years than they've had children, and have a stable and loving relationship. He is gainfully employed in a job that makes enough money to support his entire family. They make that money stretch by looking for deals, buying in bulk and expecting their children to contribute where they are able. Putting an older child in charge of a younger one is not cruel, nor does it constitute a theft of childhood. How much does a child learn by being given responsibilities commensurate with their capabilities beginning at a young age? Is it really so awful to teach a child loving service for those around them? Frankly, I wish more kids were being "robbed" like that. All of these kids are expected and taught to work, to be kind and of service, to love others, to develop their talents, the boys are all expected to get their Eagle Scout awards, which is an enormously beneficial skill-building program, and it would seem that they are expected to go to college, be thoughful, educated and civically active citizens. Raise your hand if you think that's bad......

These are people with deeply held convictions who follow them consistently. They have made very clear that they believe each child is a gift from God, and they behave accordingly. They treat each child as a rare, precious and wonderful thing that they feel honored to be blessed with. They love that child, nuture that child, educate it and send it into the world as a productive human being. Have you ever really looked at that family? All the kids are well-groomed, clean, fed, smart, talented, they all play an instrument.....I'm failing to see the downside here. This family lives within their means, they are debt-free, their children are hard-working because they've been taught from their earliest years that life means work, and that that is an honorable thing. Do we seriously want FEWER people like this in the world?! I say God bless them for being willing and able to take on this challenge.