Friday, August 16, 2013

Children, Virtue, etc.

My friend, Sarah, who writes at a few spots, including The Feminine Gift and Catholic Insight, wrote a post in the latter responding to an article in Time magazine about the phenomena of couples intentionally remaining childless. I will respond to her response, or rather, just make a few related comments. Sarah's post is here.

She wrote, she said, as someone unintentionally childless. I write as someone sometimes intentionally sometimes surprisingly child-ful. Really child-ful.

Not Sarah.
One of the things Sarah remarked on was the drifting of couples who have children from those who do not. I get that. It makes a lot of sense. Of course, it need not be so. Sarah and her husband, Jason, are known throughout our community as two of the most generous, self-sacrificing people there are. They are always at home in the homes of families. They are two of the most welcome people in town. Why? Because they intentionally expand themselves and give of themselves - that is the primary side-effect of child-rearing, the forced virtue-building it brings. Having child is God's gift to make you a better person, because you almost have no choice but to grow in virtue with children. So, you see, childless couples are not forced to go down the road of self-absorption and hedonism that has claimed many souls. Sarah is a writer, like me, and like me, has a lazy, tea-drinking propensity; writing and laziness go had-in-hand, believe me (it's a preference for mental activity over physical activity). But everyone has to fight against the inertia of concupiscence, no matter your situation. If you choose not to fight against it, by, for instance, not having children, or not cleaning the fridge, or not helping your neighbour cut his firewood, you will simply not grow in virtue. It is either be generous with your time and energy and grow in virtue, or not. There is no third option. But, again, what child-rearing has over fridge-cleaning, is that your fridge will quietly take your neglect, your children will not.

Now, I have had five children, or so, (lol), and I can speak out of that experience. Sarah spoke of quiet and peace, etc. None of my children have had colic or any really serious health issues (other than for a short time quite serious asthma and epilepsy). I won't down-play the stress that colic is. One of my nieces was very hard on my brother and his wife for this. Yet my experience is that there are times of intense strain, and there are times of great peace an joy. Thankfully neither one is interminable. No one should experience boundless peace in this world since the human tendency is not to grow thereby, but to become something not very admirable. And neither should anyone be subject to endless stress and strain. Even as a parent of five, who has had a great deal of money-stress and the normal stress of pretending to be be married while being an immature little brat, there are times of peace and joy. I am sitting in front of my computer writing, aren't I? Another friend of mine calls her blog "A Moment's Rest," because blogging is one of her ways to enjoy those periodic rest times. Most parents have a bit of time like that each day. Most parents look forward to the kids going to bed at night, so they can enjoy that 'golden hour.' You can't live for a 'golden hour,' but it's nice. It's like salt on the food. You don't eat a plate of salt, but a bit on your steak is oh-so nice.

Either me or Anne-Marie
Parenting isn't hell, in other words, a non-stop marathon of suffering until you die a saint. No, you can be a selfish parent, even a selfish parent of five (or so). If you happen to be a selfish parent, you will find those twelve hours a day when your children are awake a living hell. It is not supposed to be that way. People who look at it this way tend to have one child, and say stuff like, "I can't wait to get my life back." Yet I have never felt so alive, so authentic, my life so significant. Until I bought into the fact that I was first and foremost a husband and father, and theologian and everything else second, I found life much more difficult than I do now.

So parenting or not parenting - neither one is a cure for what ails you unless you live it as God intended. Nevertheless, there are severe repercussions for selfishness. And the selfishness we are seeing in the refusal to use the gift of fertility as intended has serious consequences. Sarah mentioned one of these: dying alone. I am thinking of getting a t-shirt made up to wear when I go into public with my five ducklings and receive all those 'stares.' The t-shirt will say something like:

My Large Family will be Running Your Nursing Home!

So, what was it you were saying about
how people having too many kids is ruining mother earth?


  1. I loved this post. Even the middle of New Brunswick, a van full of sleepy kids and almost zero hours of sleep can keep me from reading about Sarah Gould! I agree with all sentiments expressed. Rebecca and Hannah can roast marshmallows for seniors activity time!

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