Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Risky Business

(I thought long and hard before I posted this.  Trust me.)

The other night over dinner, my son mentioned that a long-time friend of his, who's been married a few years now, has decided not to have children.  Tongue in cheek, I said, "I hope he's told his wife!"  ;-)  At which point my son soberly declared that he meant that both of them had agreed.  (No reason given.)

To which I commented, "That's too bad."

And my daughter pounced.

"Not for them", she pointed out.  True. "And not for the child they don't want to have."  True.

"It's still too bad", I opined.

"You think it's too bad," she accused.

"Yes," I agreed, "I do."

Then, she pointed out, I should say it's my opinion that 'it's too bad'.  (I thought that was understood.)

When that was clarified, the subject changed and we were on to other things.

But I still think it's too bad.

I never did get a rationale, but if it's the old saw, "we don't want to bring children into a world like this" -- that's an old, tired, dusty and very poor excuse.  The world today -- whenever 'today' is -- is NEVER going to be an ideal place in which to bring newborns.  Just ask Jesus, whose parents had to smuggle him to Egypt so he wouldn't be slaughtered under Herod.  And that was... let me see...A.D. 2 or thereabouts?

Yes, I still think it's too bad.


Ask any parent.  Ask Sylvia Boorstein.  As she puts it, when you have children you mortgage your heart.   It's a profound risk.  (NOTE: it's a risk whether the children you raise are born of your union or adopted.)
  • You don't know what you're going to get (healthy; not so healthy; male/female);
  • It's going to cost you upwards of $100,000 per child (in the Western world, to AGE 18 -- i.e. excluding post-secondary education);
  • Children -- and the experience of raising them --  will redefine who you are and how you live the rest of your life.
What my son was telling me when he said that his friends decided not to have children was that they didn't want to take the risk.  A mortgage on one's heart is never paid off.

As a result, they will be missing out on:
  • The experience of a particular vulnerability -- which is deeper even than that with one's spouse;
  • The experience of a particular type of loss of control -- children being the most unpredictable of beings; 
  • The opportunity to love someone (several someones) with every cell and fibre of their beings -- again, it's different from union with one's spouse;
  • The opportunity to pass on their history/faith/values/world view/hopes/joys; and
  • The fulfillment of one of God's blessed instructions: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28).
In developing countries, children are hope for a legacy (the future) and an economic future.

In developed countries -- such as Canada -- children are a hope for a legacy (the future) and a thoughtful, prayerful, careful future -- wherein they learn how to use their blessed surplus to help others, whether locally or globally.

So.  If my son's friend and his wife decide not to have children...it's too bad.


elle said...

Absolutely! Move over and let me up on the soap box. lol I have 5 kids, 1 adopted. I have 3 grandchildren through one daughter and she was in her 40's when she married. Still some hope for the youngest. The oldest is a spinster but the 2 boys... I totally agree with you. I sometimes wonder if the 'spirit of this world' is not having too much influence. Whoa, calm down granny! ;^) It really is too bad!

Sigrun said...

I nostly agree with you. But I have, in my teaching career, seen too many parents who didn't really experience what you are describing because they are too busy working, and too busy over-scheduling their children's "leisure" activities to take time to experience parenting at the closest level. And too many children in substandard daycares from 6 am to 6 pm or thereabouts, or being trained to be overly competitive in those "leisure" activities. But I still believe in having children, and I hope to have more grandchildren from my 2 kids who are "late bloomers".

Bee said...

Having a child is risky business and everyone has fears going into parenthood. But I agree...I have never known any love so fierce and profound....with every cell and fiber of my being....as I do for my children. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Gina said...

It's too bad (haha) that the subject changed at the restaurant before I could flush out my response. I agree with you that when people choose not to have children for selfish reasons (cost, risk, etc.), then yes, it's disappointing (still just OUR feeling, not theirs). I highly value children and families; you know this!

"What my son was telling me ... was that they didn't want to take the risk." That's a presumption YOU'VE made. Marty indicated nothing of the sort. And in saying "well, that's too bad," the judgement of that presumption comes across--hence pushing you to clarify that YOU *felt* it was too bad, cuz the actual decision to stay childless may NOT be too bad.

What if a couple feels like it's not their calling to have children? Then it's NOT too bad. Period. Just like it's NOT too bad that I'm single. God clearly has other plans. We don't know their reason, but IF the reason is that they feel God calling them to serve Him in ways which do not include children, then how dare anyone say "too bad" to God.

Sure, you can still *feel* disappointed in that instance, but recognize that it's disappointment in God choosing to do things differently than YOU would have planned. Genesis 1:28 is NOT actually a command that ALL married couples must heed. (At nearly 7 billion people and counting, I'm not sure it would be good stewardship of the earth if every married couple had children.)

We don't know their story.
Therefore we cannot judge their story.

THAT's what I mean when I say that it's not *necessarily* too bad. If it's God's calling in their lives, then our response should be "great! I'm excited to see how God uses your hearts to serve Him together."

...As a side note on what couples "miss out" on by not having children... I would argue that I have experienced bullets 2,3, and 4 through my nieces and a nephew--despite not even being biologically related! Bullet 2, perhaps not as intensely, but bullets 3 and 4, absolutely. If I marry and have children, that will likely change over to them. But that doesn't mean I'm missing out otherwise.