I found this post in my "Drafts" folder. The statement which sparked it was given to me the summer of 2013. We were sweating out a hot, humid holiday gathering at our church. I was noticeably pregnant, the kids were obviously tired, and we were attempting to get everyone's things gathered up and into the car.
Why comments like these come at times like that I have no idea. Sometimes I wonder if a pregnant belly comes with a sign that reads, "Please make rude, unwanted, or just plain weird comments, especially when I am hot, sweaty, and ready to have the kids in the car."
And that is why I don't leave the house except on Sundays. :) Just kidding! Kind of...I mean, I don't leave the house except on Sundays but it's not actually because of these types of comments.
Now, on to the post.
"So, have you got enough kids?" the gentleman asked me.
I fumbled through the few lame responses that I know are tucked away somewhere in my head, but came up short. All I could do was smile, look in front of me at all four of my children, and smile again. Updated to add: Now I would just laugh and say, "Apparently not, because God is giving us another!"
Where the question came from I can only guess. Perhaps he was just curious about us. Maybe he felt like he needed to say something and that was the first thing that came out. Or maybe he can't quite imagine family life outside of the American norm - 2.01 kids, a dog, a cat, and a white picket fence.
Something in the delivery of that question, however, made me wonder if he has some ideas about family planning. If so, I'm guessing that we have not followed any plans that would be deemed wise. Apparently we have been foolish in this matter of having children - something that has been told to us before and that was when we only had one child and one on the way.
This man's question has been on my mind for the last few days. So far I've constructed a simple response that I will file away in an easily accessible memory file. I'm pretty sure our family will have more comments like this one, so I want to be ready. That response is to smile, look at my children, and say, "I can't imagine life without any one of them."
Beyond finding an appropriate response to future statements, I have some issues with this idea of having "enough" kids. To me the question implies that children are a commodity, an accessory to our lives. We decide how many we want and when. We set a limit on what is "enough".
The first is to do with contentment. If we haven't had the number of children we desire, we are unhappy and potentially jealous of others who have the size of family we have planned for ourselves. We may not be able to take joy in the life God has given us. That might mean wasting away some special years as a single, with our spouse, or with our first (and maybe only) child.
If we find ourselves crossing our self-imposed line of what we can handle, then we run the risk of becoming bitter and resentful toward others - even toward our own children. We may say something like this, "I wish I had stopped after just one. Two is more than I can handle." And do we think that our kids don't pick up on those attitudes? They know that they are the "mistake" or the "oops" child that nearly sent Mom into panic and despair upon finding out she was pregnant again.
The second problem I have with the "enough" mentality is that by reducing children to a commodity of which we can have too little or too much, we are devaluing their very existence. When it comes down to it, the value of a child is subjected to our current feelings on the matter. If I've wanted a child for 10 years and finally conceived and birthed a healthy baby, that child is valued greatly. On the other hand, if I find myself pregnant before my wedding day rolls around that child may not be as warmly received or as highly valued by me or by others.
God values children. He doesn't think of them as a nuisance. Neither does He place them on a pedestal. He loves children because He is love. And He loves people of all ages and stages just the same.
In Psalm 127 children are described as a "heritage from the Lord". I know that many people who have convictions about not using birth control use this verse as a way of saying that everyone should live as they do. I'm not here to make such conclusions.
What I do want to point out is that throughout Psalm 127, the value of children is made clear. They are important. They are a gift from God. That value does not and should not change just because something falls outside of our "enough" boundaries.
If we truly value children, then we should find no trace of discontent or bitterness in regard to our family size.
Whether God has allowed our family planning to be executed precisely on our schedule, we find ourselves mourning through loss of pregnancy after pregnancy, or we are reading that little plus sign just weeks after our wedding or when we already have an infant in the house, we would do well to be content with the way in which God has chosen to bless us.