More Kids: The Immeasurable Value of our Wearying Children

January 10, 2022

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Goodnight, Benjamin. I love you!
Goodnight, Hildie. I love you, too!

My twelve-year-old son had tucked his three-year-old little sister into her crib and sat down on the couch in the living room to chat with me. 

“Mom, Hildie is the best thing in my life,” he grinned. He meant it.

After his initial disappointment that he was getting a third little sister in a row instead of a much desired brother, my son has been completely enamored with his youngest sibling. He carries her on his shoulders when she’s tired of walking, reads to her, fetches her snacks, and stands up for her during toddler meltdowns: “Mom, I think she’s probably tired or hungry so be sure to use a patient voice with her!”

In turn, she thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread. His three-year-old fan club of one eagerly anticipates his return from school each day. Even if her older sisters are fed up with toddler antics, her big brother is always adoring. It is a beautiful thing to see.

We often fear that expanding our family means taking something away from our already born children. But what these fears fail to take into account is the gift each child brings—not just to their parents but to everyone. 

The miracle of family life is like that of the loaves and fishes. It is more than the sum of its parts. The love is multiplied.

As a mom with four kids, younger moms will sometimes share their worries about a new pregnancy with me. “It won’t just be the three of us any more! Will I have the energy to give to my toddler or older child with a new baby in the house?” 

“Just wait til they meet each other!” I’ll remind her. “Your toddler is gaining a sibling, not just learning to share you.”

We’re often overly concerned about having enough time and energy for our kids—as if our children are in competition for those precious resources. On a practical level, my husband and I are only two people. We have only 24 hours in the day and our energy seems to be waning with each passing year. And yet, while in some ways there’s “less” of us to go around, when another child is added to a family, there is a whole new person to love and be loved. What another soul adds cannot be quantified. It is immeasurable.

The Church never demands that we have as many children as humanly possible, of course, or that we ignore the needs of the family as a whole when considering family size. I bristle when women’s physical and mental well-being is ignored in order to promote an aesthetic of large families that are simply not what every Catholic family is called to be. There are many valid considerations when prayerfully discerning having more children. Finances, parents’ physical and mental health, special needs, and other important concerns come into play. So I want to tread carefully here. I certainly don’t want to dismiss the great sacrifice of bringing a new soul into the world or the challenges that make avoiding pregnancy through natural family planning a wise decision. My goal is simply to say that this one particular fear that we parents are prone to—that there is “less” for everyone if we add to our family—may miss the big picture. The miracle of family life is like that of the loaves and fishes. It is more than the sum of its parts. The love is multiplied.

Family relationships are never perfect, of course. I’m convinced that each member of my family was specifically designed by God to help refine what needs refining in my soul, and the process isn’t painless—it hurts. Parenting isn’t paradise, children are hard work, and anyone telling you otherwise is selling you something. But when I look at my son’s love for his little sister and all that this sunny toddler has brought to our lives, I’m reminded that this wild adventure of family life isn’t something that we can measure with economic terms of resources and scarcity. It transcends all of that. I cannot imagine life without the outpouring of love that my youngest daughter, the “best thing” in my son’s life, brings to us. To contemplate the gift she is to us is to reflect on the mystery that love expands rather than diminishes. When love is given it isn’t used up, it grows. And I see it multiplying before my eyes as my three-year-old is listening to her big brother read her a book about dinosaurs. She looks up at him, completely enchanted by her very own dinosaur expert, as he points out the illustrations like a wise sage, basking in the joy of her company.

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