Small Families, Helicopter Parenting, and the Fear of Children Being Children

Monday, August 4, AD 2014

Matt Archbold shared a story that is simultaneously humorous and quite sad.

My wife and I recently attended a sports banquet for one of our kids’ sports teams at a local restaurant. It was one of those events that I wanted to go to about as much as I wanted to get three teeth pulled. But my wife assured me it would be fun. I didn’t believe her but I came anyway.

We’ve gone to so many of these things as my five kids are all on at least three sports teams. All the kids sat together at a very long table and all the parents sat at another table with the coaches. I have a theory about sports teams, the worse a team is the more coaches it has. And this team had lots of coaches.

We were seated with about eight coaches and some parents we didn’t really know.

So what’s the first thing someone we don’t really know will bring up as a conversation starter? Well, it’s the only thing they know about us which is that we have five kids. This one coach said he knew it was us when we arrived because he saw all five of our kids walking in. “That could only be the Archbolds,” he laughed.

The mom directly across from me, who I didn’t really know and hadn’t seen at many games, leaned in conspiritorially and asked, “Who has five children? I’d kill myself if I had that many kids.”

Go to the link to read the rest of the story. The key statement comes here:

The woman, however, didn’t appear to appreciate my little joke and continued that she thought it was irresponsible to have that many children because you couldn’t possibly give enough attention to five kids. She then went on to explain all the things her child is involved in from soccer to piano to basketball to a reading club to field hockey.

Though the Zummo family exceeded the culturally acceptable family size last October with the birth of our third daughter, I must say that we have fortunately not had many if any encounters with such negative people. I have heard the occasional expression of incredulity from parents of one or two children, but nothing approaching the sentiments expressed by this individual.

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13 Responses to Small Families, Helicopter Parenting, and the Fear of Children Being Children

  • Thanks be to God for large families.
    A large family a century ago might of been fourteen or so, however today the objection to families with five or more children is disheartening. A close friend of ours has eight children, and homeschools another seven children.
    He is a humble man earning a modest wage, yet the children never are in want.
    Especially when it comes to parental love. I’m in awe of their love for God neighbor and their children.
    God bless you parents that are frowned upon by the politically (in)correct types.

  • “I have been following Lenore Snenazy’s blog Free Range Kids for some time, and every day it seems she relates yet another story about a parent going to jail because their child was found – GASP – at the playground by herself or locked in the car for all of ten minutes”

    Astonishing how the world has changed in five decades. Back in the Sixties in the summer in my town kids were kicked out of their houses at 7:00 AM, fed at noon, and then kicked back out until supper. We were left to amuse ourselves with the neighborhood kids with nary an adult in screaming distance. My brother and I at seven were walking to grocery stores up to a mile away to buy items for our parents. I emphasize that none of this was at all unusual. This used to be how life was and I am very glad that I was raised in that environment, including lots of chores, that taught me at an early age to be self-sufficient, resourceful and how to deal with others without Mommie and Daddie running interference for me. We have managed as a society to foul up the simplest things that prior generations had no difficulty doing with ease.

  • “What do we do with precious possessions, especially those that cost a decent amount of money? Don’t we treat them with gentle care?”

    Reasonable care, yes.

    Now, I suppose my most valuable possessions are my horses (and I love them dearly), but if I were so nervous of an injury to them, or me, that I never jumped them, hunted them, rode point-to-point, then why have horses at all?

  • It seems the anti life mentality goes along with an anti- child mentality. Listen to the commentators and jokers about how terrible it is to be -horror of horrors- on a plane with small children on board.

  • Anzlyne , part of the problem small children have on an airplane has to do with their parents. I took my two little boys, 6 and 2 to Tampa in June. the 2 year old was scared of the turbulence, which was unavoidable. I invested in a DVD player and got a $5 DVD of the movie Unstoppable (the train that roared through fictional Pennsylvania towns). They were fine.

    We have two boys. We wish we had more, as we lost three to miscarriage, and we may not have anymore. I am nearly 51 and menopause is right around the corner for my wife. I grew up with three brothers. We battled, fought, got hurt and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. My childhood was not very different from Mr. McClarey’s. In May I stared out the window during school. June did not come soon enough. We were outside – riding bikes, swimming, climbing trees, and as we got older did yard work, washed the car, used scrap lumber to build things, etc.
    My dad was a proponent of a longer school year. I am not. Kids need to go outside and be kids during the summer. More than likely they will spend a lifetime indoors, from school to work.

    I have worked for over 25 years in an office setting. Rare is the coworker I have encountered with more than two kids. Frequently encountered is the married childless coworker.

  • Very well said, Mr. Zummo (and Mrs. Zummo (and certainly with input from Misses Zummo, Zummo, and Zummo)).

  • Silly Paul, you have no idea how the nightmare is just beginning

    My parents wanted 3-4 children but, alas because of health reasons I ended up being their only one. I myself will seem to never be a father (I really would have liked to have 2 or 3 by now) so yes, sometimes I (and others I know) feel a bit angry at those who throw away the “extra” children they might have had when some families would gladly take more.

    I’d be interested to see if there’s any correlation between the helicoparents and the houses they were raised. If I was to venture a guess, I’d say maybe they were raised in single households and so felt deprived of affection (and want to be sure their child does not). It seems odd because life was once so much more fragile (I read how President Coolidge lost his son when the boy was playing tennis and got a blister – TENNIS!) – perhaps that’s why heaven and faith was so infused in society, because we missed everyone so much. Nowadays if your mom permits, you’ll be highly likely to live and make it to adulthood, yet parents act so frightened as if blisters still had a chance to be fatal. A side effect of the loss of culture saturation in faith and the afterlife? I don’t know. Maybe the answer is all of the above.

  • My mom was one of 18. (there are 3 left)

    The older ones looked after the younger ones.

    They grew up loving freedom and hating big govt. crybabies and nannies.

  • Nate Winchester wrote, “life was once so much more fragile…”
    “Sir, replied Dr. Slop, it would astonish you to know what improvements we have made of late years in all branches of obstetrical knowledge, but particularly in that one single point of the safe and expeditious extraction of the fœtus,——which has received such lights, that, for my part (holding up his hand) I declare I wonder how the world has——I wish, quoth my uncle Toby, you had seen what prodigious armies we had in Flanders.” (Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne c XLIII (1759))

  • Before pornography became free speech, before abortion freed individuals of parental responsibility, before atheism became a religion, before the Ten Commanments were torn from their post, before the Person of God was evicted from His Creation, people were free to enjoy life.
    .
    Before ritilin was forced on children to make them look happy, before parents were excluded from their children’s upbringing, except to take the blame, children had a happy life, to dream, to plan, to create. Children had fun.

  • I’m one of seven & my poor Mom would be in the slam. If I were moping about the house she would tell me, “Go out and play, ride your bike!” sending me off in the dangerous world (horrors!) possibly never to return.
    Of course, in the olden days “it takes a village” had meaning in the true sense. Any misbehavior on my part would be reported back to my folks at the speed of sound.
    It was considered fine to leave an older sibling to babysit the younger.
    It was expected that kids would get their share of bumps and bruises, maybe even a broken bone.
    What a difference a few decades make.

    I think XKCD hits it right on the head:
    http://xkcd.com/946/

  • So many people who have few to no kids of their own want to parent yours. Look at how many empty-nesters and 2-1-zeros there are in your legislature. Think about that. Election season is upon us. Vote wisely.

  • Empty nesters don’t care about kids or families?

The Illusion of Security

Wednesday, June 12, AD 2013

One Child

 

 

 

Lauren Sandler, a proponent of having one child, writes a predictable piece in a predictable news magazine, Time, about he joys of stopping at one child.

She’s on to something. According to the USDA, a child born in 2011 will cost an average of $234,900 to raise to age 18. If your household income is over $100,000, you can raise that number to about $390,000. Yes, there are some savings after the first child — you don’t have to buy another high chair! — but it’s not as though you get a huge volume discount on subsequent offspring. There are also opportunity costs of a mother’s loss of income from parental leave, scaling back hours or dropping out of the workforce entirely. No wonder, according to the USDA, two-parent households with two children devote over one-third of their income to their kids. Add it all up and there’s a strong economic case for stopping at one child.

And yet the world will tell you — from grandmothers to sitcoms to strangers in the supermarket — that money shouldn’t be a factor in deciding to have more children. If you express concern about how much children cost, then you’ve clearly got your priorities wrong. You’ll make it work, they tell you. Don’t be selfish. (I wrote about this and other stereotypes of parents with singletons in a cover story for TIME.)

Having raised three children I can say that for my family the 234,900 per child figure was way off base, unless one adds into the mix the lost funds of my wife not having a job during much of the time that the kids were growing up.  Of course that is the wrong way to look at it.  My wife and I did not get married in order to see how much stuff we could accumulate during our lives.  We got married because we loved each other and hoped that our love would be blessed with children.  My wife worked harder than I had to in our efforts to raise our kids, and I often told her that she had the important job in our house and I worked merely to facilitate her efforts for the kids.

In this vale of tears we have no guarantees as to our economic success, no guarantees as to how many, if any, kids we will be blessed with and no guarantees as to how they will turn out.  Every minute of our lives we are working without a net.  I often plan and calculate various aspects of my life to ensure the best outcome that I can, but I realize that the most important parts of my life are often completely out of my control.  It takes quite a bit of faith to endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that come our way in this world and to realize that we always and everywhere are dependent upon the mercy of God to see us through.  Modern men and women mostly do not accept this.  They think that they can eliminate risk and turn our journeys through this life into a cocoon where we will have endless fun, accumulate lots of material items and never hear of such things as pain and sacrifice.  Such is not, and never will be, our mortal lives.

A much more accurate reflection of our lives is contained in the closing prayer of the Rosary:

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15 Responses to The Illusion of Security

  • From a practical viewpoint, having one child by choice is a bit daft. We become a burden as we age. That is the reality and the more adults to share that burden, the better.

    My maternal grandfather died in 1954, when my mother was seven. Worse yet, he was the only child to survive to adulthood, as was his mother and father. My mother was an only child of an only child, of an only child.

    Mom describes her childhood as “lonely,” surrounded by aging and distant relatives. She cared for my grandmother for many years, a draining task for single children.

    We may not need lots of kids to work the farm anymore but they are still the surest security we will have in old age.

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  • An article in The Economist reported the demographic crisis in the West.

    In the European community there is 1.4 fertility rate — that means that in five years deaths will outnumber births. The most prosperous areas have fewer children. The fertility rate in Italy and Spain is 1.2, that translates into a population in twenty years to half of what it is today.

    The typical citizen will have no brothers and no sisters, no cousins, no aunts and uncles. The Economist continued that the situation in the US is better because Americans are more devout — we are churchgoers and churchgoers get married and have families.

    One of the reasons the Church defends marriage in the face of divorce, cohabitation and redefinition of marriage is that marriage and family are the Sanctuary of Life and when that sanctuary is violated, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, real happiness, society itself are at risk.

    Church is hated by liberals and democrats because it is the one bastion against their cult of death.

    As western populations age, we will see the generation that aborted their children euthanized by the survivors.

    Do the math: 4 grandparents -> 2 parents -> 1 child

  • Mr. Shaw,
    Your second to last paragraph is brilliant. I will have to borrow it in argument.

  • In addition to the other good comments; who will the Dems tax if there are no children? Or, “Jordan, te presento a Juan Carlos.”

  • We can be sure that the Moslems are not worrying about the cost of raising up a large family.

    We will pay for this selfishness, and not just by the lost productivity of millions unborn.

  • A weighted average of the total fertility rates in the Near East and North Africa places it at around 2.66 births per mother per lifetime (and the most recent measure for Israel is 3.0). A weighted average for the Central Asian states and Pakistan is around 3.5, and (bar Afghanistan) rates in these countries went into long-term decline around 1985). The 2011 rate for the U.S. was 1.89, but the rate has been above 2.0 for most years since 1990.

  • “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” One of the purposes of our Constitution.” “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” from The Declaration of Independence. “A nation divided against itself shall not stand.”

  • The typical citizen will have no brothers and no sisters, no cousins, no aunts and uncles.

    And I was feeling lonely because my kids only have two first cousins once removed, and three first cousins twice removed that we actually get to see….

  • Today’s (June 13, 2013) Wall Street Journal reports, on page A8, that 12,419 more white, non-Hispanic Americans died than were born in the year ended June 2012. In 2009, there were about 200,000 more births than deaths among that demographic group.

  • I hate those child cost statistics. They ignore the benefits of raising children and reduce it to how many fewer toys a person can buy. A child may cost money in direct expenses and lost earnings, but each of those children will provide a benefit to society when grown. They will add to GDP when they enter the workforce, and the amount they produce will far outweigh what they cost. Children are an investment who will yield a profit. The greatest predictor of wealth for a society is the level of investment compared to consumption.

    Rather than count the cost of raising children, we should count the cost to society of those who remain childless by choice so that they can spend everything on themselves. Children are not leeches. Selfish people are leeches. I say we ban contraception and require everyone to have at least five children! That will pull our economy out of its current long term prospects for insolvency.

  • “I say we ban contraception and require everyone to have at least five children”

    Believe it or not, that WAS actually the law at one time in one country…. Ceaucescu’s Romania. The motivation there was to build up the country’s military and it’s workforce. Unfortunately, it was also a big part of the reason there were so many Romanian orphans after their revolution.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying that we shouldn’t be more supportive of largers families, or that there are not real dangers to a declining birthrate or to a critical mass of adults in society choosing to have only one child or none at all. And I agree that the “cost of raising children” articles are extremely misleading.

    That said, the Ceaucescu five-child policy was, in some ways, comparable to the Chinese one-child policy in that it treated people as mere cogs in an economic and military machine, and was instituted by a repressive Communist regime. I doubt very much that it was motivated by reverence for human life or for the integrity of the family.

    It’s one thing to try to make life easier for those who choose to raise more children via tax breaks, etc.; it’s another thing entirely to establish a de jure or de facto maximum or minimum number of children that everyone “should” have and ostracize or punish those who violate the “norm.” Also, don’t forget that there are many people out there (like me) who have only 1 child, or none at all, because God for whatever reason saw fit not to give them any more. I sure do wish I had more siblings and that my daughter had some but it just didn’t happen and it’s too late to do anything about that now.

  • “12,419 more white, non-Hispanic Americans died than were born in the year ended June 2012.”

    Could that be as much attributable to the start of the dying off of the Baby Boom generation (the oldest of whom are now 66-67 years old; I know several people who died of cancer or other conditions at that age) as to a decline in births?

  • I strongly disagree with the idea that the State should encourage childbearing because I see nothing to suggest that such a policy would encourage those who should have more kids to have them.

    The State is not advantaged by single-parent households. Extraordinary stories of great single-parenting are exactly the, extraordinary. Parenting is hard work; hard enough for two parents and damned near impossible for one. (why anyone in command of their wits would choose to be a single-parent is beyond me.)

    A policy like you suggest would add to kids from single parent homes without adding kids to two parent homes. We did that before if you recall. It was the effect, if not the stated purpose, of American welfare laws before Welfare Reform.

    Furthermore, the parents that I know with only one or two kids didn’t limit their procreation because they couldn’t affor more kids. They did so because their values include exptic vacations, new cars before the old is worn out, expensive private schools, and “time for us.”

    Parents of many kids, as I gather from your other writings, understand parenting to be full of sacrifice. Those with one or two kids want the benefits of kids without those sacrifices. (Understanding of course that this is a broad generalization.)

  • It wasn’t a serious suggestion. I was deliberately being over the top with the suggestion that the state require five children from each couple. I had no idea that Romania had that policy. Wow! I just did a little quick reading on it. The policy applied to single was well as married. Both single men and women who didn’t have any children by age twenty five were taxed punitively. Yeah, that’s not the Catholic model. Children are the product of love, not social engineering.

Lies People Tell Children

Friday, September 17, AD 2010

Ann Althouse has fun with a recent back-to-school speech delivered by President Obama:

President Obama’s back to school speech contained blatant lies…and if there were any students not bright enough to notice that they were hearing lies, the lies, in their particular cases, were, ironically, bigger lies. Check it out:

  • “Nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing. I believe that.”

If you believe that, you are so dumb that your chances of controlling your own destiny are especially small. But it’s absurd to tell kids that if only they dream big, work hard, and get an education, they can have anything they want. Do you know what kind of dream job kids today have?  A recent Marist poll showed that 32% would like to be an actor/actress. 29% want to be a professional athlete.  13% want to be President of the United States.  That’s not going to happen.

Even young people with more modest dreams — like getting a decent law job after getting good grades at an excellent law school — are not getting what they want. To say “nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach” is a blatant lie, and Barack Obama knows that very well…

…Does [Obama] look at a poor person and say, his life is what he made it? Of course not.

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13 Responses to Lies People Tell Children

  • The ideology of egalitarianism (we all have the same moral worth, but differ quite a lot in aptitude and interest) has massive opportunity and emotional costs – and not infrequently, just so some elite can feel good and morally superior.

    In education, for example, what if very easily observable differences in educational attainment (existing across time and environment, regardless of massive influxes of cash – go ahead and look into the Kansas City and New Jersey examples as particularly bad on that score) are due in no small measure to heredity? UH OH – thought crime. But then our whole educational system is a giant false pretence, with constant “innovation” to little avail. Better to have tracking and a revival of vocational training (combined with a massive lowering of immigration to keep wages from crashing).

    If, that is, our PC-addled stomachs can take it, which I seriously doubt.

    Once again, leftists and right-liberals: you care about the poor? Stop destroying their wages through the systematic decline of industry and the influx of labor. Cesar Chavez, a great hero of mine, understood this, but many of you seem much more interested in status posturing – after all, your job is not in jeopardy……

    /rant

  • Interesting. The idea of ‘vocation’ is thrown quite out the window, isn’t it? When life only has a meaning that you choose, can it really have a meaning?

    Having said that, I believe intelligence is a very flexible trait. Not to mention wisdom.

  • I find myself conflicted about this kind of thing, in that, on the one hand, it’s demonstrably false that you can do anything if you try hard enough, believe, in yourself, etc.

    On the other hand, with sufficient effort one can often do a number of things which a given teacher, relative, mentor, etc. would not actually realize that you would be capable of doing. So while what you can do in life is certainly contrained by ability, there is a great deal one can do with sufficient effort.

    It seems to me that sometimes our development is spurred on by a bit of delusion. I look back at stuff I wrote in high school, which I honest thought was very good writing at the time, and I know it was just bad. Yet, if I’d been fully aware at the time how bad my writing was, I probalby would have simply quit. In similar form, a certain amount of “you can do anything with sufficient effort” kind of thinking may actually be helpful, even if it isn’t true. But if you have no idea of what your actual limits in ability are, and you really do spend fifteen years of your life trying to become an astronaut or an NFL star, when you pretty clearly just can’t, you’ll end up a pretty disappointed person.

    American culture seems fairly heavily based on the illusion that with sufficient hard work anyone can do anything — perhaps as much so as some traditional cultures were built on the idea that everyone was categorized by birth. I’m not sure what happens to American culture if we actualy admitted on a widespread level that many people don’t actually have the ability to “rise to the top” even if they work hard.

  • It’s a balancing act. I’ve been discouraged from doing things I’ve been told I wouldn’t excel at but looking back my only obstacle was the discouragement. I’ve also been encouraged to do things I’ve failed at miserably. It’s good to pursue big dreams but it’s equally important to assess our chances of success realistically and take measures to hedge our risk of failure.

  • ….How many folks stick with what they wanted to do in high school? (Well, TECHNICALLY I’m being paid to write, but I don’t think that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk would even be recognizable to me. ^.^ I’ll still never be able to write the stories I dream of, any more than I’ll paint the images I dream, or be a great singer.)

    I can’t stand the “you can be anything you put your mind to”– although I like its cousin, “work hard and you can succeed.” It may not be the success you were thinking of, and the work may be in more places than you ever imagined, but hey.

    An odd association popped up: how many dang times in the Bible does God pull his little joke of giving folks things in ways they never thought of?

  • I can’t remember who said it (W.C.Fields or Will Rogers?) but I always loved this advice:

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After that, move on – there’s no sense in being a dang fool about it.

  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” ~Mark Twain

  • I think Christopher Lasch offered that early 19th century writings on the subject of coming into adult life did not typically incorporate notions of upward mobility, but of each man having a ‘competence’. The difficulty with that at this time is that contemporary division of labor leaves a large fraction of the labor force with service jobs for which the level of skill and capacity for acquiring it is severely limited. One salutary social adjustment is having such employment nearly universal for people at a given point in their life cycle and another is having such employment as a pragmatic supplement to family income. Still, you have a large fraction of the labor force who do this sort of work all their lives and have to look outside their work for aught but minor satisfactions.

  • I can’t speak for other eras, but all my 50+ years I have observed that most people work for money. They very seldom have jobs that they would confuse with their avocations, and those that do are mightily blessed. Fathers work in jobs they do not particularly enjoy as an expression of love for their families. I doubt this is new. There is risk in the ubiquitous admonishment “Find your passion!” We have tens of thousands of 20- and 30-somethings in this country who live at home waiting for an occupation to surface that suits their passion or interest. This is not to say that no passion seeker ever succeeds — just that it is a very risky strategy. My observation is that those who embark on this strategy successfully usually do so from a posture of family comfort. A trustafarian can more rationally try to align his work-life with his interests than most of us.

  • The part of the message that is true, and ought to be repeated is this:

    Nobody knows what you can do until you work at it for a while.

    But “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” is simply false. It also sends an extremely bad message (as does the french fry poster), that certain kinds of work is to be sneered at, that workers who toil at those kinds of work are “people who didn’t put their mind to it,” and that the purpose of work is self-satisfaction and pride.

    Which it’s not.

  • Which it’s not.

    It is not, but there is a sense of craftsmanship to be had in tasks well-executed. (Of course, people’s capacity to experience that is variable, as is their opportunity).

  • Craftsmanship =/= pride.

    Satisfaction in a job well done =/= self-satisfaction.

  • As in most things there needs to be a balance between “You can do absolutely ANYTHING if you try hard enough” vs. “You are nothing but a helpless victim of circumstance and it doesn’t matter what you do.” Perhaps the first attitude is an overreaction to the latter, or vice versa.

    Although perfection cannot be achieved in this world, there is a value in setting the bar pretty high. Another favorite quote of mine from Mere Christianity: “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

It's About the Children. Seriously.

Wednesday, August 4, AD 2010

I must confess that today’s judicial ruling out of California which overturned Proposition 8 has riled me up, suprisingly so. I heard about the ruling while listening to the livestream of a tech podcast in which one of the three podcasters is a lesbian (previously “married” in CA) and the other two (middle-aged married men) evidently supported the decision. The ease with which they threw out bromides (“finally, equality!”) bothered me, primarily because it revealed two things: 1. a group of intelligent people couldn’t grasp that there might be real objections to same sex “marriage”, and 2. as I’ve noted previously, too many (probably most) Americans simply don’t understand the essential nature of marriage. Simply put, the state’s interest isn’t strong feelings or commitment… it’s children. And — to state the obvious — a homosexual relationship isn’t structured towards procreation the way marriage is.

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29 Responses to It's About the Children. Seriously.

  • Well said.

  • Exactly. Americans, even conservative Protestants, have removed children from marriage. Without a procreative intent, admittedly, there is little reason to ban gay marriage. Or incest for that matter.

  • Americans?

    Westerners. America still has the highest birth rate in the Western world, and Utah has the highest birth rate out of all the states.

    Supposedly “family friendly” Europe cut children out of the picture a long time ago. All of the welfare provisions, reduced work weeks, paid maternity/paternity leave didn’t do a damned thing to reinforce families or birth rates.

    This is because Europe not only removed children from the marriage, but God from their lives and culture. Mormon Utah thrives for exactly the opposite reason. When will Catholics get it?

  • Actually, welfare did help increase the birth rate in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have the highest birth rates in Western Europe.

  • How would things look if marriage were dead? Out-of-wedlock births, acceptance of any cohabitation arrangement, the presumption that any relationship in non-binding…exactly what we have today. Marriage is dead as a norm in the West. There are only pockets and subcultures that preserve it.

    We talk about the “war on Christmas”. Christmas has been stripped of its old meaning and given a new purpose; a few of its traditions are unthinkingly continued. By the time the courts started enforcing “holiday pageants” in public schools, the war was long lost. That’s exactly what’s happened to marriage.

    Maybe my blood sugar is low or something, because even I am not usually this pessimistic. I’m just not seeing any reason to be encouraged.

  • Marriage is dead as a norm in the West.

    Yes, this is what I’ve been saying about the SSM debate all along. To those who ask, “How is SSM going to harm your (traditional) marriage?” I say, “It’s not — the damage has already been done. I just don’t see the reason to codify the death of marriage in law.”

  • Marriage is certainly in disrepair in the west. Many forces contributed to that, but the disentanglement of sex, children and marriage via modern birth control options is certainly a key part of it, resulting in the normalization of premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, serial monogamy, etc. That said infidelity (i.e., extramarital sex) is still largely unaccepted in the US. Marriage may be in the ICU, but it is not dead yet.

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  • The trolls are out.

  • restrainedradical wrote Thursday, August 5, 2010 A.D. at 8:29 am
    “Actually, welfare did help increase the birth rate in Europe. The Scandinavian countries have the highest birth rates in Western Europe”.

    The birth rate in Sweden is 1.67 children born/woman (2010 est.), i.e., less than replacement. Much of this is probably due to immigrant populations.

  • It seems to me that there is an assumption that the U.S. is a fine moral country.
    The opposite seems to be true. The number of child murders continues to increase.
    Poverty is widespread despite “Wars on Poverty” [because of?].
    The immigration question continues to fester. {On what moral basis can immigrants be denied entry?].
    The continued base treatment of Indians reeks to heaven.
    Justice Ginsberg speaks of “undesirable populations”.
    Multi-skillionaires give much money to killing babies in this country and abroad.
    Pornography becomes more and more widespread like a plague.
    Actors are treated as moral gurus, because their faces are familiar, not because they know how to behave.
    To put it succinctly: what is it in the U.S. which gives it any claim to be a light unto the nations?

  • I’m not sure I understand the argument. People who don’t procreate shouldn’t get married? Then where are the rallies against childless marriages? Why aren’t we banning people whose disabilities prevent them from having children from marrying? Or the elderly? Why aren’t we protecting the procreative institution of marriage from these barren impostors? And what about adoption? Since adoption by same-sex couples would challenge your argument, you must be against that, too. In which case, shouldn’t we stop straight couples from adopting, too? Those children may be in need of care, but of course the bigger need is for people to have their own babies. Please help me understand how we can include the disabled, the elderly, adoptive parents and those who are childless by choice into the Prop 8 campaign, because clearly we’re leaving a lot of people out.

  • Thanks for the comment, Maisha. You raise a common but good question with regard to our position, and it’s one that certainly seems to follow from my post. I somewhat oversimplified the argument last night, but in so doing left the door open for your objection. Let me see if I can offer at least a beginning of a response.

    Our position is that marriage is an institution in which a man and a woman come together with a desire to grow more deeply in love and with an openness to children, *even if children are for some reason impossible for them*. For us, the act of marital love — sexual union — is itself ordered towards procreation, even if in at any particular time procreation is impossible (perhaps due to infertility, because the woman is not in the fertile stage of her cycle, or whatever). So in the case of an elderly couple beyond childbearing years, the sexual union remains structurally oriented towards procreation.

    Such is obviously not the case for the same sex couple, however: same sexual acts of their nature cannot be procreative, while — all things being equal — heterosexual acts are always structurally procreative.

    That’s the beginning of a response… let me know where I’m unclear, and I’ll try to clarify.

  • When I comment on subjects like this my post is in danger of being deleted, which is ok, I have to answer to God for me, not whomever does the deleting.

    That being said:

    With the Catholic Church, the children are really just pawns. The real battle is keeping the pews full, I think for the power that gives the Church. I would like to think otherwise but I really do not, based upon personal experience.

    When divorce happens, the Church does and says nothing, to heal a marriage, when it is clear to the Church, as they have all the evidence they need in nullity cases, that a marriage has simply been abandoned and the abandoner has taken the spoils, including the children.

    Rather, should not individual priests and bishops in authority, address the situations, especially when these are presented to the Church for nullity investigations and work, tirelessly, pastorally and with canonical strictures, to restore marital union? Especially so when nullity is shown NOT to exist?

    No such thing happens, at all!

    No, Chris. I do not agree it is about the children. It is about power and control, although it should not be that way.

    If you must delete this, go ahead. I did not mean any disrespect by it. I just commented on my personal experience and from what I have heard from others, who have been through it.

    Regarding marriage, I believe, the chemical inability to make the sperm/egg do not invalidate, the inability to “perform the act” necessary for procreation, either physiologically or psychologically, is what validity and hence, real marriage, hinges on, provided the people are free of all other impediments.

  • If I’m following you correctly, Karl, two comments come to mind.

    First, there are programs present in the Church which try to heal broken/dying/weak marriages… Retrouvaille comes to mind.

    Second, I’m not sure what you think clerics can do to get two people back together who refuse to do so.

    Can you elaborate or clarify?

  • Going there would hijack the topic. I simply wanted to infuse my personal experience into my comment.

    I have never, once, seen the slightest concern for the scandal and abuse our five children have experienced by any of the priests or bishops who were supposed to pastor them. To this day the scandal is encouraged.

    Our acceptance of divorce has prepared the groundwork for this “dumbingdown” of marriage.

    It is about the children and their souls, that is clear, but I do not see the Catholic Church as having the moral high ground. Not over divorce, Chris.

    God is teaching his Church, if it will listen to spouses like myself and others who have seen its evil deeds, to repent and to LISTEN. Bur for twenty years, the ears of the Church have been sealed, in my personal experience.

    I hope, whatever it takes to break the back of the dead consciences of the Catholic intelligencia, lay and clerical, is done. They do not listen. They listen to “experts” they DONOT

  • LISTEN to their victims.

  • The Church must defend marriage, period, not selectively in the face of a homosexual challenge.

    It must cease allowing its teachers to stress the “benign” nature of divorce. It must do so with strong canonical sanctions. It must hold to account, with formal canonical sanctions those who abandon marriages, particularly when they do not seek counsel from the bishop or when they abuse those few specified canonically allowed circumstances when separation is allowed.
    Wrongful divorce must not be unaddressed, in public and those who refuse, without substantive, serious reasons, to work, endlessly if necessary, at reconciliation, especially if there are children involved, should be formally and very much in public, be admonished and in short order, formally excommunicated, if the refusal to work toward healing the marriage continues. All those who cooperate, formally, with the support of the unrepentant, should similarly be held to account, with more vigor if they are a religious or in any position of authority/importance in the Church.

    The Church has lost all credibiliy due to its generations of laxity regarding marriage. This is constantly used against the Church and justifiably so.

    Unless this is addressed and addressed, last year, the Church is the hypocrite it is so often accused of being.

    May God have mercy on His, very unfaithful Bride. It is those of us who are struggling to be faithful to both our spouses and our faith, who God requires
    His Bride to listen to. The Pope and the rest of the Catholic clergy need to understand how much harm they do each day our cries are left unanswered with almost anything but disdain, from those who should know better.

  • Karl,
    When you write that “the Church” has been moving in the direction of accepting divorce, I believe you should modify that by saying many [most?] priests and bishops have been moving in this direction. And it is, as you rightly note, part and parcel of the sexual scandals. Once start hedging – even in the smallest manner – on matters of Church teaching, the hedging simply grows.
    The hierarchy is mealy mouthed when it comes to the use of the pill. Most of the pills are abortifacient. All of them sterilize. How often do priests and bishops note this? How often do they remind the faithful that they are committing a mortal sin by the use of the pill?
    But I believe there is a mistaken notion that our bishops, as such, are a saintly lot. They are not. You have but to read a bit of the history of the episcopacy to realize that bishops do not contribute much to the list of saints, to those we are enjoined to emulate. They are for some reason a timid lot.

  • Unfortunately too true. We must remember that the priesthood and episcopacy are charisms, gifts for the good of the Church, and not holiness. A mother at home raising her children may have a far greater place in heaven than many a bishop.

  • How is SSM going to harm your (traditional) marriage?

    That is really the incorrect question – it should be “How is SSM going to strengthen marriage as an institution?”

    And the answer is, it is not. It will only further hide the now barely recognized fact that the proper end of intercourse is procreation.

  • I think there’s a real serious question whether ANY church in the USA takes marriage seriously–with (ironically) the possible exception of the Mormons. Among Catholics, even those who cannot remember the number of the commandments, let alone the content of the list, can tell you that when we want to divorce and remarry in church, we just get an annulment on some (frequently bogus) “psychological” ground. This happens no matter how long the supposedly invalid marriage has lasted or how many children it produced. This last point is especially important; the annulment regime now in force is saying that it is NOT important to stay married “for the children’s sake.”

  • ron chandonia, I agree that there have been serious abuses in Catholic Church annulments. But the idea of an annulment does not hinge on whether the apparent marriage lasted many years, nor on how many kids there are, nor on whether it is better for the kids’ sake to stay together. If a couple never did get married to begin with, despite appearances, then it means that they have been living an error for however long the apparent marriage has been going on, whether short or long. I accept that a long-lasting arrangement suggests that there must have been a real commitment to permanence, but there are other commitments needed for the marriage to have taken place to begin with.

    I know a couple who got married 20 years ago, and got an annulment 2 years ago: the guy had been a pornography addict and sexual deviant the entire period. He was incapable of a real commitment to marital fidelity at the time of the wedding, because he was addicted to porn.

    The Church usually states that if a couple has kids, they both have a deep, serious obligation to see to their welfare even if a divorce or annulment occurs. How can it be better for the kids for the Church and society to pretend that a marriage took place when it didn’t. I should think, generally, that a couple with young kids, who discover that they never did truly marry, ought to ask themselves whether they might have a moral obligation to actually make real the apparent marriage that they had been living in action, for the sake of the kids. But of course, nobody discovers this without a marital breakdown, and at that point it is often difficult to establish that it really would be better for the kids if their mom and dad got married even when they hate each other.

    Given that at least 30% of heterosexuals don’t seem to have a grave problem with the very idea of homosexual marriage, it is probable that many, many people don’t understand marriage enough to actually form a marriage bond with another person. Given that, it should not be surprising that many annulments are granted correctly.

  • May one not also ask what is the difference between gay “marriages” [sodomy] and marriages in which the female uses the pill to sterilize herself? Marriage is not even chiefly for procreation. Procreation is an added blessing. To reject that blessing is to reject the Almighty.

    Consider also the vow “until death”. As Harry Truman remarked “if a man will not keep his word to his wife, to whom will he keep it”? The Church does not prohibit divorce when it is but separation. It prohibits divorce – it points out the breaking of the vow – for “remarriage”.

  • Gabriel,
    It is my understanding that the Church does not so much prohibit divorce as simply not recognize it. Indeed, while legal separations may be favored over divorce as such, I believe that the Church understands that divorce under civil law is often necessary in order to ensure protection of the weak — usually but not always the wife or children. Consequently, what is not permitted is remarriage (absent an annulment of course), since the first (without an annulment) the marital sacrament remains in place and remarriage constitutes adultary.

    Thanks for the Truman quote. I was unaware of it.

  • How mislead and scandalous these comments are.

    How easily you have swallowed the Kool Aid of divorce to think that it is anything but condemned.

    Do you reacall it says…..God Hates Divorce. How easily man has rejected the expressed Will of God and searches for rationalizations for his sins.

    Watch and learn as society and the Catholic Church decay for their self-serving attitudes, especially towards marriage. The reconing will come.

  • Karl,
    Emoting about Kool Aid is not productive. While I’m hardly an advocate of divorce, and it is certainly true that the rate of broken marriages is scandalous, the fact is that obtaining a divorce in and of itself is not understood by the Church to be a sin. Indeed, the Church views a civil separation and a civil divorce indentically. Neither has any effect whatsoever on the marital Sacrament. The Church recognizes that the parties are not morally enjoined from selecting whichever legal route leads to greater justice under our civil law system. This is especially important in the case of serious abuse. Neither legal approach, however, permits “re-marriage” in the Christian sense, even if civil divorce does so under civil law. The sin occurs if a person bound by the marital sacrament to his spouse remarries or otherwise has relations with another regardless whether the married couple are separated, divorced, or neither. Note the important fact that the Church does not view civil divorce as disturbing the status of a Christian marriage.
    Of course, as I noted the rate of divorce is evidence of deep and disturbing problems within our society. The wounds, especially to children, are incalculable. But divorce is a symptom of sin, not the sin itself. This is pretty straightforward Church teaching.

  • Karl,
    Catechism 2383:
    “The Church teaches that the separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases. The Catechism states: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.”

    Which is to say “divorce” is a civil separation, not a breaking of the marriage vow.

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 2)

Tuesday, June 22, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1]

Restraint, Relationships and Planning Parenthood

When I say that we “naturally want to avoid having children” at certain times, I would imagine that the image that comes immediately to mind is of birth control, abortion or infanticide, and most traditional societies have seen these in some form or other. However, I’d like to turn our attention to something so basic and so prevalent that we don’t think about it much.

From an anthropological point of view, the entire structure of our romantic and family relationships serves as a way to control childbearing, limiting it to situations in which offspring can be supported. Consider: Requiring that young women remain virgins until marriage ensured that children will not be born without a provider. Nor was the decision to marry, when it came, a strictly individual affair. Marriage was negotiated and approved by the wider families, because the families were in effect committing to help support the new family unit being created. Many cultures also required the husband’s family to pay a “bride price”, not simply as compensation for the lost contribution of the daughter to her own family, but as proof that the husband was of sufficient means to start a family.

Once in place, this set of cultural mores and laws provided an easy way to adjust to want or plenty:

Continue reading...

12 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 2)

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  • Chastity is very important both in and outside of marriage.

    “And the set of moral and societal norms surrounding marriage provide us with a way to manage that fact responsibly in order to have children only when we believe we can support them.”

    I agree. But, unfortunately our society’s norms and sense of morality has changed over time leading to a deterioration of family values, which has also in turn led to a break up of the traditional family unit.

    Plus, the Catholic Church has been quite remiss in promoting and teaching proper fertility treatment alternatives to IVF that are in line with Catholic teachings.

    But, Fr. Benedict Groeshel did recently host a show on Catholic fertility for couples with fertility issues.

    http://teresamerica.blogspot.com/2010/05/faithful-couple-reflects-on-issues-of.html

  • I wondered if you’d mention Ireland. People think of the Irish as baby-crazy, but that has not always been the case as you say.

  • As a cradle Catholic I agree with your assessment. The only thing I don’t agree with is the use of birth control (aka condom) when your married and don’t want children. My spouse is a Medical Doctor and also disagree with the method the church authorized since it is not as full-proof as birth-control or condom. Let me correct myself hormone birth-control we are also against. My question I guess is why is the church against condoms even in marriage?

  • Marriage requires an openness to procreating and condoms inhibit that openness or are a barrier to that openness.

    Here is chart analyzing all forms of contraception and it shows reasons why the Church is against each form of contraception.

    http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/nfp/action.shtml

  • Alex,

    As Teresa says, the Church’s opposition to barrier forms of birth control are based on the understanding that they falsify the procreative nature of the sex act. From a Catholic point of view, there is not a moral difference between the use of hormonal and barrier methods of birth control.

  • Alex,
    While it’s hard to see at a glance because the columns are out of alignment, the chart to which Teresa links gives typical use effectiveness ratings (it’s not specified on the page but it looks to be measured in terms of pregnancies per hundred users) for all methods. Pregnancy rates for the fertility-acceptance methods allowed by the Church are actually lower than they are for barrier contraceptives–quite a bit lower if you exclude the now disused calendar rhythm method.

    These methods do demand a high degree of self-discipline, which many couples are unwilling to impose on themselves.

  • Alex..again…abstaining when the wife is fertile teaches sexual control, which is essential and the reason why couples who utilize NFP don’t divorce or stray.

  • The problem I see with NFP is not the theoretical admissibility of the practice, but with the widespread disregard of the Church’s requirement that such mean be used only for grave reasons.

    Now customarily one does not simply judge his own case– he submits the matter to an independent person. Hence, those having recourse to these methods should be doing so only after consultation with an orthodox spiritual advisor, who can judge the facts of a couple’s situation and determine if there truly is a grave cause for avoiding cooperation in the creation of new life.

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  • Sorry, for my delay in responding back. Thank all of you for the comments. We have looked into this method further and also reading Gregory K. Popcak’s “Holy Sex!” is the ultimate guide to a fulfilling, happy, yet virtuous sexual life.” I have to recommend this book because it does lay out what NFP is in detail and makes it sound so.. much more loving … read the book if anyone was like me… Thanks