Friday, 21 January 2011

Blessed are the children

OK, no one is allowed to argue with this one - children are blessings.

I may not be as open to life as the Catholic bloggers I follow, but I think I've sussed out why I am much more at home spending time online learning about them, their families, their philosophies and their faith.

They see each child as a blessing.

I grew up in a household which I perceive lacked spirituality, and focused more on the lives of the two adults who established it, than any bigger picture. My parents were never concerned about having kids or not, but after I arrived, they knew they didn't want anymore. Children were tricky; they required a whole lot of attention, and if my mother had another, she thought my father would leave. (As it was, dealing with us both seemed to prove a trial for her, especially when our opinions clashed). Around the age of two, I was packed off on holiday with my grandparents and great aunt, so my Dad could recover from his vasectomy peacefully and in less pain.

I didn't enjoy being the only one. Dad didn't like the noisiness and messiness of children - still doesn't. My mother and I spent a lot of time together, but I feel she still treats me like the child I once was, and we have never psychologically moved out of the very small, nuclear family unit that we once were.

So this has perhaps coloured my viewpoint on children. Interestingly, I never gave much thought to having them myself until I met my husband. When it took us years to conceive, I suddenly became more desperate and tried to understand God's plan for us. I didn't desire a larger family; I just wanted a baby.

When a daughter arrived, I was delighted. But it was a steep learning curve. Life was now impossible to plan. Thankfully the gifts of patience, flexibility, humility and spontaneity were bestowed upon me. I learned to put my perfectionism and control issues aside.

And despite the difficulties, we desired to gift our firstborn with a sibling. Luckily this was part of God's plan, too. Daughter1 was just past 18 months when Daughter2 was born. Having them this bunched together was extremely hard work. But, I never doubted the joys. Yet, I never expected to have another.

Whether or not people condone the way we have undertaken family planning, I truly believe our children have been born according to God's plan. Daughter3 arrived last August, four years after her nearest sister. She is a treasure and our family is enriched - and exhausted - beyond bounds. We aren't categorically ruling out having more, even though our current work and domestic situation would logically exclude it.

I don't move in Catholic circles in real life, but I spend a lot of time with fellow Christian women, and several of my friends also have larger families - by which I mean at least three children. But what I am beginning to encounter from people who do not know me or my faith - together with a surprise that I have three children, or surprise that I was open to getting pregnant again in the first place, rather than having a 'happy accident' - is utter shock that I would consider still more children; that I see God's hand in the form my family has taken. And if we go on to discuss the subject, coupled with this is their shock that I consider every child a blessing, rather than sheer hard work and something to deal with, rather than someone to love.

It saddens me that I live in a culture which fetishizes babyhood (yup, a post in progress) but doesn't value children. That thinks larger families exist to live off the welfare state or to cause trouble. That thinks it is enough trouble providing for one, let alone more. That doesn't understand that I can't necessarily chat on the way to the playground because my two school-aged girls are trying to get a word in edgeways with me, and I want to talk with them!

I want to displace the shocked looks from people's faces when they realise that not everyone is fulfilled by living in a small family unit, and that the chaos and sheer messiness of family life can be embraced rather than controlled. I want to reach out to the mothers I know of three, four, and five children and tell them that I understand - it is hard work, but it brings huge joys. I know we are oscillating here in the UK between inherited attitudes that children are 'seen and not heard', and the desire to bestow every material, intellectual and emotional advantage on our children, as long as they develop to their potential. But I wish it weren't so shocking to people to admit to being open to having more children. Yes, it hurts, yes, they challenge us, yes, they don't allow us to do everything we think we should be doing. Yes, being a woman is more than being a wife and mother for many of us. Yes, parenting is a very tough job which needs hard work. But what gifts children are!

Some of us don't feel it is our calling to be mothers, and I'm not saying everyone should be a parent. But I feel it should be everyone's calling to delight in children, to appreciate the human race, especially when they are learning life lessons and beginning to grow, physically, emotionally, spiritually. When we are across the way in France and Spain, our children are treated as people, rather than nuisances. They are treated as special, unique human beings rather than noisy little things who just should shut up so the adults can talk in peace. In my indigenous environment, I don't seem to meet many people who see each child as a gift and a blessing, rather than something to stymie our own lifestyles, drain our resources, grey our hair and tire us out. So thank God for the websites and blogs that I read, that value children oh so much. On some days, they help me more than they would every realise.

Blessed are the children.


  1. Excellent post, MM. I'm neither a Christian nor a parent, but Mrs QO and I both come from 'larger families' by your definition, and we very much love and value our siblings' children and our other godchildren (even if that label isn't formally applied, but it will indicate the importance of the relationship we attach to those children). We very much try to treat them as 'people, rather than nuisances', and that seems to me to be the key to a happy and healthy relationship with them.

  2. Thanks Mr QO - and I have very much enjoyed your tales of looking after other people's children!