I make fun of my friends with large families. I say insensitive things like, “Here, take Declan. You’ll never know he’s there. You have too many kids to count anyway.” I’ve said that twice this summer alone. Just this week I said it to my friends up from Texas… They’re amazing. They have three boys that eat vegetables, go to bed on time, and march around in an orderly manner being polite and stuff. AND they don’t even have cable TV. Incomprehensible! They’re much better parents than me.
My three nephews, by contrast, do not march around quietly… visiting there puts me in the middle of a cyclone of activity that moves so fast, it’s where Dyson got his vacuum idea. I love when my nephews fight and don’t eat their dinner, because I feel like a better parent myself.
“My kid’s whining, but their’s just popped each other in the head.” It’s what I like to call the “judgment free zone.” I get to relax, and not worry how bad I am as a mom. One. Two. Three. Four. Everyone’s alive and inventoried. If I left Declan behind, nobody would notice there either…just one more boy running around in circles not eating peas.They’d shove a baseball glove in his hand and he’d be off on a field somewhere, catching fly balls instead of mayflies. Easy enough.
How do you know how many kids are too many? The minivan. Buying a minivan is a commitment to expand the human birth rate. It has no other purpose. It neither races nor looks cool. Growing up, I was trained to laugh at minivans. Several friends, among them a somewhat manly man and two cool women have said, “Once you try a minivan, you don’t ever want a car again.” Could I, without a large family, be the one out of step with society?
I have a couple friends with four kids. That’s nothing next to my hometown friends with the family of twelve. They had to eat really fast to avoid getting their food stolen by someone hungrier.
Four kids–The respect and awe I feel battles with my desire to make minivan jokes. Four kids is almost a basketball team. Impressive. Especially when they eat vegetables and go to bed on time.
When Four-Kid Friend Number One was contemplating Kid Number Five, she sent me an article to read. It was an in-depth commentary that professional families were indeed having more kids. That it was a trend. She was part of the norm, not bucking society’s expectations to reduce the surplus population.
Yet she didn’t have a farm, so she didn’t need those kids. In fact, she lived on Long Island where reducing the surplus population gives you a greater chance you won’t have to cuss someone out for a parking space in five or ten years.
I was mystified. Researching further, I realized she did need those kids. It wasn’t all about love and raising a family.
Here’s the bottom line. Having kids is like gambling. You don’t know the outcome. We can’t afford college for them, and some turn out bad. It’s like playing the long odds in Vegas. You put all your chips on the black 22, or the big green 0, and if it doesn’t hit, you die a poor shriveled geriatric whose pension is enough to eat a can of cat food while you watch Wheel of Fortune. The more you play, the greater the odds you might win once.
Higher birth rates are important to your future. Nobody invests enough in retirement, college breaks the bank, and Social Security pays out enough to buy you the postage stamp for your back tax payment. After the Baby Boomers spend all the money in the coffers and Congress votes itself a big, fat pay raise with the last few coins in Ft. Knox, I’m going to need some way of taking care of myself into old age. Thankfully, I’m already starting to forget things, so I may, by that time, forget I have no money. Just in case, I’m planting vegetables. I’ll have lots of cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, carrots, and corn. But that’s hard work.
My friends did it right. They had tons of kids. When you have tons of kids, you are, in fact, increasing the odds that one will do really well.
“We love all our kids equally.” You can say that, but you really have to put a couple more eggs in one basket. The kid who’s going off trying to create world peace is impressive and worth bragging about, but, let’s be honest, that’s not the one who’ll pay off your mortgage like the one who wins American Idol. Much more important to get that one singing lessons than pay for Yale for the first one, I think.
I’m not having any more kids–I’m too old, and having a ton of students makes me feel like I have a million kids. I have a couple who said that if they ever make it rich, they won’t forget me. One’s in Hollywood right now. But by “forget” do they mean “send me a spare million after their episode of MTV Cribs airs” or “give me a shout out on national TV?” It makes a difference. I need to plan my financial future.
Just in case, I’m going out to plant my fall crop now. I don’t have four kids, and so I’m going to have to make my way…all on my own.
[images: eonline.com, formerchildactors.com and firedoglake.com]