Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted a ton of kids. My mother to this day laughs about how, even in my “too cool” teen years, babies would always melt my heart. I had no problem looking like a fool in front of my peers if it meant getting a laugh out of a child or having a chance to hold a baby. (If you’ve ever watched that scene in The Office where Michael Scott states that he tries to hold a baby every day, I can completely relate.) I can’t really explain why I’ve always had that fascination with children, but the best I can say is that they represent everything that is good in this world. Pure innocence meets curiosity meets a lack of any prejudice toward people, it’s the perfect place to experience what mankind ought to be. While the world is so bent on factions and argument, children just want you to play house or wrestle with them. While adults often question the motives of one another, children give it to you straight, even if that means they might say the “inappropriate” thing. Children are the light to a world so often wrapping itself in darkness.
There’s an odd narrative that has been continuously driven into the modern consciousness that having a ton of kids is supposed to leave you stressed, penniless, and in want of dreams that will never go fulfilled. Although I might be offering my simple subjective viewpoint, after three years of working with over sixty couples going through annulments, I can honestly say that I’ve experienced these symptoms more often with families who’ve had very few children by choice. Most often I find myself watching families with a gaggle of kids running around, as families full of joy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t also experience some of the troubles that many families face, but I think it does mean that within the chaos of a big family lies one virtue that often comes about from the alchemies of diaper changes, constant noise, and dealing with sibling fights; and that virtue is hope. Add that to the fact that children force adults to not take themselves so seriously and I would think that you’ve got a ripe situation for happiness.
My amazing wife is now expecting our sixth child, a little girl, and we couldn’t be happier and neither could our other five kids. While I wish I could say that having so many kids is an easy and carefree life, I can assure you it isn’t. But, what I can tell you is that having a gaggle of kids has taught me more about myself, the world, and the treasure trove of living life to the fullest. Sure, these little rug rats might be a lot of work, and you may never enjoy the comfort of sitting down for more than five minutes, but I find that there’s something incredibly freeing about taking care of them. I know my purpose and therefore I know what my day is meant to contain. Sure, most of my wife and I’s days are a bit monotonous; wake up, cook, clean, work, mow, change diapers, yell at one or all the kids to stop beating each other up indoors, work out, clean up all the spills from dinner, wrestle with the boys, play kitchen with my daughter, bath the kids, try to offer some semblance of virtue and prayer to the kids, spend about 30 minutes together talking about our days, pass out from exhaustion, repeat. My days might seem to reflect the same thing every day but to the untrained eye, it’s actually a glorious mix of madness and repetitiousness. Which, for a guy like me who could spend hours in my own mind fantasizing and philosophizing, healthily brings me back to reality daily.
G.K. Chesterton, who after years of marriage actually never had children, had a great love of kids and the way their minds work. (On a side note, I think both G.K. and Frances Chesterton ought to become the patron saints of couples struggling with fertility) He once noted how children don’t mind the repetitiveness of life. That, much like the sun rising every morning, children cry out, “do it again”. In my experience as a young parent, this is certainly true. It takes nothing for children to desire the same emotive response over and over again. So, when dealing with the seeming monotony of daily living as a busy parent with a large family, perhaps what we are partaking in is the very essence of God as Creator. He too, must constantly repeat His loving forgiveness and mercy. He too, must constantly keep the cosmos in order and repeat the needed consistencies to keep that order from turning in to chaos. As big families, we are given the daily task of forgiving each other daily. We are also given the daily task of keeping some semblance of order in the home before it turns into chaos.
This repetitive reality is something that many fear today. We are a culture that loves new experiences and gets bored very quickly with anything that might seem monotonous. However, it is in the repetitive actions of life that we grow as human beings. We learn what we are capable of doing each and every day. There is actually great beauty and wonder that comes along with the nature of repetitive action. The sun rises every morning and millions of people stare in amazement and wonder. The stars fix themselves in the sky in the same pattern which has led mankind to seek out and discover entire new worlds. Imagine then, the utter elation that is felt each and every time a new child is brought into the world, why would we not, in thoughtful consideration, say “do it again”? Anyone who has experienced the birth of a child, and the incredible journey of watching them grow, can attest to the incredible miracle that human life is. The curtain between the realms of spirit and the physical are ripped asunder and a new life is presented to the world which brings happiness and innocence into a world so badly in need of it. Sure, there are numerous instances when big families are a fearful thing, and that is why the Church has offered and recognized NFP as a viable, life-affirming opportunity for couples in different situations. But, honestly, for me, having a ton of kids has taught me that being pro-life and open to children is like riding the wave of one miracle after another.
In a recent address Archbishop Chaput offered what I think could be the greatest advice to young people today:
When young people ask me how to change the world, I tell them to love each other, get married, stay faithful to one another, have lots of children, and raise those children to be men and women of Christian character. Faith is a seed. It doesn’t flower overnight. It takes time and love and effort. Money is important, but it’s never the most important thing. The future belongs to people with children, not with things. Things rust and break. But every child is a universe of possibility that reaches into eternity, connecting our memories and our hopes in a sign of God’s love across the generations. That’s what matters. The soul of a child is forever.
What the world needs today is big, holy families. Families who embrace the seeming monotony of living for our lives for others. Families who’s ethos is solidly “My life is not about me.” If we find concerns in the harrowing numbers of the future of the Church, I firmly believe that it is in families who seek holiness with reckless abandon, among the difficulties and trials that come along with it, that not only will we find a change of heart of the desperate culture, but we will see a flowering of the virtue that comes with new life: hope.