Differences between small and large families...
(Tim, w/thanks to Eric) Our Lord, the Apostle Paul, and economists are agreed that money matters quite a lot. For instance, check out the comments on this blog responding to the news that, in China, a law is being proposed that would make an adult child's failure to visit his parents actionable in court. If the law passes, parents could sue their child for failure to visit and the child could be fined and directed to submit to a visitation schedule. What wonderful visits that would produce! Beyond the question of banks, pensions, and Social Security, though, there's another set of numbers worth noting, here.
We have a fair number of international students who attend ClearNote Church, Bloomington (our new church name), and some are from China. Due to China's one-child policy, these students rarely have siblings or cousins. Picture it: one father and mother had one child--a son; another father and mother had one child--a daughter; that son and daughter married and had one son who married someone else's daughter--again, an only child. Now what do you have?
You have a married couple who themselves have one child who will grow up with two parents, four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. It's entirely conceivable he'll have some of his great-grandparents live to the time of his marriage, at which time he'll take on through his wife another set of two parents, four grandparents, and eight great-grandparents. Let's assume only half of that couple's great grandparents survive to the time of their marriage; then that couple each has two parents, four grandparents, and four great-grandparents, which brings the total number of aging relatives on the shoulders of that young couple to twenty. And if all their great-grandparents are still alive, the total is twenty-eight.
Which is to say that, beyond the hundreds of millions of little babies slaughtered by the one-child policy and forced abortions of China in the past century, they now have a rapidly aging population. It's estimated one in four adults will be over the age of sixty-five by 2050.
Let's be practical about this. When my mother-in-law and mother want to move into someone's house...so they can be loved in their dotage when life has become too hard to live alone, they have scores of households they could move into. Children, grandchildren, and soon great-grandchildren.
And if all my mother-in-law wants is someone to visit her, she can choose between just under twenty children or their spouses, around fifty grandchildren and their spouses, and so far around fifty great-grandchildren who won't be marrying for a couple more years. Somehow, I don't think Mom Taylor will be suing any of her descendants for failure to visit!
Which is to say that the use of birth control and abortion has real consequences that aren't very nice. Life in a large family (say more than five children) and a small one is so very different as to be almost a different universe.
When we have our Taylor family reunion each summer, logistics is most important--food, tent to eat it in, bathrooms, laundry, bedrooms, dates of arrival and departure, etc.; but amost equally important is the obedience of the children. It's unimaginable that we could gather and have fifty undisciplined and unruly and loud children of postmodern narcisists running around and want to get together for a week and a half each summer.
Which is to say, have lots of children if you want a joyful old age. Otherwise, life might get depressing and very lonely. The highest rate of suicide among the elderly is in South Korea, Taiwan, and China.
But if you're going to have lots of children, you'll have to look at your work as being more about logistics and discipline and teaching your older children to care for the younger ones, and less about meaningful exchanges of the deepest feelings of your child's heart with her mother. The only similarity between a family of one, two, or three children with a family of eight or ten (my own family and my wife's) is that there's a house, a car, and a father and mother. The work required to keep the home running and the family happy and healthy and growing in godliness, though, is about as similar as the work required at a twenty cow dairy operation in small town WIsconsin and that required at the seventy-cows-milked-at-a-time on the turntables of the 35,000 cow Fair Oaks Farm just off I-65 in Northern Indiana.
But fruitfulness? Unbelievably beautiful fruitfulness! What joy!
Did you know "children are a blessing from the Lord; happy is the man whose quiver is full?" Says so in the Bible.
But a word of warning, here: the Bible also teaches that the man who doesn't provide for his own is worse than a pagan. And this has to do, not just with food and shelter, but tenderness, love, discipline, and instruction.
To sire a child is not to be a father.