Saturday, April 23, 2011

Does Size Really Matter?

I grew up with 5 older brothers. That's right. No typo, 5, count 'em, 5 older brothers. We are as Irish Catholic as they come. Growing up in our neighborhood and parish, this was the norm. Pretty much everyone had a gaggle of kids. We were not unusual. No one looked shocked when they found out how many of us there were (except our teachers). And, you almost had to feel sorry for them. Every time they thought they were in the clear, another one shows up. When it was my turn, there was a double take when the attendance card read "Roche, girl". I got used to it.

Nowadays, families are smaller. When we moved to Indiana, we were surprised to find larger families are much more common here. I've met families with 7 or more kids. Each one of these families has had comments made about the 'absurd' size of their family. "How do you handle so many kids? Why so many? Isn't it hard to raise so many? How do you afford it? Do the kids get enough attention? Did you want a large family?" Is it really any one's business how many kids you decide to have? It's as intrusive and rude as asking someone how they got pregnant. Personally, I don't have a stake in how you got pregnant, how many kids you have or how you raise them. I'm too busy raising my own.

Paul and I are happy with our family of 4. That number works for us. People are surprised that, coming from a large family, I don't want more children. I know my limits and my limit is 2. I get scared when I am out-numbered. Don't get me wrong, I loved my childhood. I never felt left out or neglected. My parents made sure we all knew we were loved and valued. I had 5 protectors and was the ultimate tomboy/Daddy's girl. He only had one and I milked it for all it was worth. Hint, dads never know how much dresses should cost. They are defenseless against tears, too. I learned well and early. I have passed this skill onto my daughter. Her grandpa is putty in her hands and not the least bit ashamed about it.

In today's Wall Street Journal, there is a review of Bryan Caplan's book "Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids". Really? Selfish? Unless you are breeding to land a reality show and exploit your children, how is having multiple children selfish? Is it any of our business how many children people choose to have? I have never met a child from a large family who resented it or felt neglected. I speak to at least one of my brothers daily. The holidays are big, loud, chaotic and fun. My dad spends most of his time travelling from state to state to visit, go on fishing trips, attend baptisms, First Communions and graduations. And, if you asked him, he wouldn't change a thing. The man has 6 kids living in 6 states. The airlines love him.

Everyone knows what is right for them. Parents have a limitless capacity to love, care for and nurture their children. When it comes to love and nurturing your family, is there a limit to your supply? As a mom, I never run out of hugs or kisses. As a father of 6 and grandfather of 10 grandchildren, I think my father would agree. Go ahead, have a baker's dozen of kids. Just don't ask me to babysit or change diapers.

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