Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mega Families

Newsweek's story on a growing "Quiverfull" movement, in which families have as many children as God lets them have, caught my attention today.

I have been obsessed with large families for as long as I can remember.

* I am one of six kids.
* Growing up, we knew a family with nine kids, and I was jealous.
* I loved watching The Waltons, The Brady Bunch, and The Partridge Family.

But I could not disgree more with the intentions of those involved with this movement -- or those those who come to the same conclusions about family without a "movement" behind them.

About 10 years ago, I wrote a story about large families for MSN's OnParenting (now long gone). I interviewed parents of large broods, anthropologists, and others.

I learned that people tend to fall into two camps when they have large families: They can afford it (e.g., Mel Gibson, Angelina Jolie), or they have large families for religious reasons (i.e., Quiverfull adherants; staunch Roman Catholics).

With octomom Nadya Suleman's appearance, I'm adding "hoarder" as a third reason.

As I interviewed a mother of, then, nine (she had one or two more, as I recall), she told me that she and her husband "would have as many chidren as the Lord gave them." That wasn't the first time I'd heard that.

Yet I couldn't get the thought out of my head while talking with her that no one owes anything to anyone who's not yet conceived. Furthermore, God gives us free will and an actual place in history.

These people and I were born at a time and place that includes all sorts of coolness via health care, including family planning. If someone wants to use only natural family planning, fine. Do it right and be 98 percent protected from unplanned pregnancy.

To toss out one's free will -- and brains -- is to trot too close to culthood ...

Do I still like big families?

I'm still obsessed with them, and plan to reconnect with a family that includes 23 kids -- all but six adopted.

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