In response to some critical comments regarding large families on Crystal’s blog, I want to share what I know and believe on the subject.
First of all, I think we each need to consider our goal in child rearing, and our standard for arriving at that goal. If we’re just trying to raise productive and well-adjusted citizens, then it’s all subjective to where and when we live, and the best way to get there is just a matter of opinion.
In that case, I could say I’m right and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, just because I think so.
But this is not the case. We believe that there is no neutrality and the Bible is the only standard for right and wrong. The Bible tells us that children are a blessing (Ps. 127), and they ought to be raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). All of our methods, principles, and results need to be examined in light of this goal and standard.
Ultimately, does having one’s own bedroom and the undivided attention of both parents help one to serve God and fellow man better? Probably not.
Does helping with housework and changing diapers teach and prepare a young person to serve? Absolutely – if it’s part of godly training and upbringing.
As the oldest of 14 children, I’ve always been grateful for the “mothering” experience I gained by helping out. I never suffered from the uncertainty that plagues so many new mothers these days.
I never resented “sharing” Mom with so many others – on the contrary, I loved being able to help and being appreciated, both by my parents and by the younger children who looked up to me. My younger siblings have received far more attention from their 4, 8, or 12 older siblings than an only child could ever receive from his/her parents. It may sound trite, but there truly is more love to go ’round in a large family.
Likewise, our children enjoy being part of a large family. They agree that more toys and a bigger bed instead of 6 sisters would be a very poor trade. They suspect that a house with only 3 or 4 inhabitants would be a little too quiet and rather lonely. They think they stand a much better chance of overpowering Dad in an evening tussle if they outnumber him mightily.
They love having so many aunts and uncles (several are the ages of my children) and they are excited about the prospect of having many dozens of cousins someday.
My mom is young, fit and beautiful in her 50′s – and she thinks it has much to do with many years of progesterone and chasing toddlers. She is the delighted grandma of 14 little ones, with 7 children of her own still at home to keep her and Dad company.
I think being part of a large family helps children prepare for life as a Christian adult.
I’m going to go out on a limb by saying this, but I think that modern small families in which one or two children have their parents’ undivided attention have contributed to a basic self-centeredness and irresponsibility that is at the root of many problems in modern society. Don’t get me wrong. Not every child of a small family suffers from this “syndrome,” but I do think there is a connection in society at large.
What are some of the symptoms?
- children who don’t know how to share or get along with others
- children who think they *need* every new toy that their peers have
- teens who think their parents owe them a car when they turn 16
- 18 year olds who think their parents owe them a fully-paid college education
- new wives who know nothing of keeping house, because their mother had no need for their help
- new mothers who know nothing of childrearing because, again, their mother had no need for their help – or there were no younger siblings to help care for
- 28 year olds who are unwilling or unable to leave home and support themselves
The list could go on and on. The point is that the home is the training ground for one’s character (Pr. 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it) – and in a large family, lessons about sharing and serving others (Ph. 2:3-4) will come very naturally.
I have noticed that people who come from large families tend toward one extreme or the other: either they loved it and want the same experience for their own children, or they hated it and want a very small family or none at all.
I firmly believe that these two views have everything to do with their own parents’ views of children and parenting: either children are a blessing, and we thank God for every single one, or children are a burden and we love you but we only ended up with so many because [fill in the blank: we didn't realize how difficult/expensive it would be, we didn't believe in birth control, we had unplanned pregnancies, we tried for one more and had triplets...].
I think this is most emphatically NOT proof that we ought to have smaller families; rather, it is proof that we ought to make sure we demonstrate to our children the truth of Psalm 127. They need to know that children are truly a blessing, not to be thought of like caviar (an expensive indulgence that some people dislike for good reason, and others enjoy only in small quantities).
I’m not saying that large families are perfect. There are large families that make people think, “That’s why I only had 1!” But the problem is not the number of their children. The size of the family only magnifies things, for better or worse. The problem is their failure to raise them, in any number, to God’s glory.by Did you enjoy this post? Please share it with your friends!