“Children are a kind of wealth,” according to Barbara Curtis, mother of twelve ranging in ages 8-39. Most Americans would find this king of statement strange or flat out absurd. We are now living in an era in which a large family is considered by the mainstream to be a sort of freak show. It was not this way not so long ago. According to an excellent recent New York Times article,
In 1976, census data show, 59 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had three or more children, 20 percent had five or more and 6 percent had seven or more. By 2006…28 percent of women ages 40-44 had three or more children, 4 percent had five or more and just 0.5 percent had seven or more.”
So a lot has changed in just 30 years. As an ONLY child raised in the 70s, I probably had an uncommon view. To me, a family with two children was normal. A family with three or more children was large. My uncommon view then is common now.
We have chosen to buck the trend.
In spite of a downward economy, we still believe that children are a blessing from the Lord. As the father of four, I hesitate to say this, but I really do mean it: the more the merrier! People with less children often look at us and say that they don’t know how we do it. But we look at Pastor Tone (my associate pastor) and his wife, Missy, and say the same thing. They probably look at Jon and Kate and say the same thing. And Jon and Kate probably look at the Duggars and say the exact same thing. In other words, God gives you the grace to handle what he gives you, but you are not sure how others with more can do it.
Another great article to read on large families and their relationship to American society was a Christianity Today cover story written a few years ago by Leslie Fields (mother of six). Here is a portion of that article, describing the positive side of being the child in a large family:
What happens in larger families? Children are more tolerant. They learn that they are one part of a whole much larger than themselves and that the common good usually takes precedence over their particular desires. They also discover the principle of scarcity; they learn to conserve. Their clothes are on loan and passed on to others when they are done. They have to share their toys. They cannot take more food than they can eat, or someone else will not have enough. They can’t take long, hot showers, or someone else gets a cold shower. They learn that their singular behavior affects multiple people. They are not the center of the universe.
Children with multiple siblings are also more accepting. They practice living with a variety of temperaments, quirks, and ages. Older children cannot stay safely within their own peer group. They learn to hold babies, sing lullabies, and change diapers. A teenager cannot retreat, morose, into his bedroom every afternoon to listen to his music—his 3-year-old brother will jump on his back and demand a gallop around the room. A 16-year-old girl will trudge through the door from school, worry on her face, to be greeted by a flying 18-month-old jumping into her arms.
Children from larger families have to work together. Every morning, the grump, the overachiever, the early riser, the dreamer, the snuggler, and the toddler must negotiate their separate concerns toward a single goal: to get out the door and to their respective schools on time. In summer, for a family with a commercial fishing operation like ours, the goal is to pick all of the fish from all of the fishing nets before the next meal. The children have to help each other. They have to work together in storms on the ocean.”