Good people, please have babies!

My column in today’s Greenville News.

Good people, please have babies!

 When our children were small, it was common for older men and women to walk up to us and say ‘what a beautiful family!  Enjoy every second, because they grow up so fast!’ We were always appreciative, thanked them and stored away their insight.

Now I find myself doing much the same thing. I see fathers, mothers and children in airports or hotels, in restaurants or shopping centers (or the ER) and I remember the sheer, frantic joy of it all.  The endless efforts to keep them safe, herd them from place to place, feed them, bathe them and finally tuck the little darlings into bed. I recall, almost tangibly, the delight of collapse as Jan and I fell into each other’s arms and began snoring…only to wake immediately at cries of distress.  (Or be scared into cardiac arrhythmia by the child that always liked to stand at our bedside in the dark and stare until we noticed him. Everybody has that kid.)

Now ours are older.  (Not gone, mind you…our youngest is only 13 and her brothers 14 , 17 and 19…they’re still children, do you hear!)  But I’m old enough to look with wonderful perspective at the families around me.  Therefore, I can only say this to young married couples.  ‘Have babies!’

It’s funny. My wife’s father was one of 17 children, and my grandparents came from large clans.  Jan was one of four.  But our family of four was deemed far too large by many people we encountered.  A common refrain was, ‘you’re a doctor, don’t you know what causes that?’  Or the ever popular, ‘don’t you two ever watch tv?’  (A. yes, we know.  B.  TV is much less interesting than the alternatives.)

We aren’t alone. I’ve talked to many couples who dared to have more than one or two children, but who were met with shock and surprise.  And some who were met with cruelty and unkind remarks about overpopulation.  (Which, by the way, is quite the opposite of the real problem in most of the first world, which is rapidly de-populating; Japan sold more adult than infant diapers last year.)

It’s a pity that children are viewed by so many as a problem, rather than a blessing.  It’s a pity, as recently suggested in a Time Magazine column, that pregnancy is treated as pathology in sex education courses.  In fact, those courses should cover both contraception and the proper timing, finances and expectations for those young people who actually want to have children.  It’s a shame that people who decide to choose children over career advancement are seen as somehow unbalanced and unmotivated, when the very future of the country depends on their children.

The nation depends on their children working, contributing, paying taxes, serving in times of crisis and adding their own genius to the future.  Their successes and failures as parents will determine how much money we bleed as a nation in order to try and repair the consequences of inadequate families: consequences like drug addiction, poverty and criminality which are clearly associated with poor family structure.

A country without enough children is doomed, in the same way that a church without a playground, or a children’s ministry, will too soon be a place of successive funerals until someone puts up the offering plates and turns off the lights for the final time.

Furthermore, in this world there has to be some balance.  So, I also tell young couples, ‘good people need to have children.’  And their children need good people to marry. And the kids from bad family situations, born into hopelessness and struggle and abuse, well, they need good people to marry as well. The cycle has to be broken.

Of course, we reasonably say that young people should wait until they are mature enough for children.  And I certainly agree, up to a point.  Even though that first dog as a couple may help a couple to learn to share responsibilities, it isn’t enough. Ultimately, we’re never ready until we do it.  Children raise us, leading us from selfishness to selflessness.  They also serve as a common goal, a shared struggle for parents, fusing a man and a woman further and further into one entity and leading them ever deeper into the meaning and power of love.

So I repeat:  have babies.  It’s good for the country and good for you.  But enjoy them:  after all, they grow up so fast!

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