I was listening to Relevant Radio a few of days ago (I think it was a rerun of a show from a much earlier date) and Marcel LeJeune said something that really hit me between the eyes. He proposed (I paraphrase) that our society has taken the gift of fertility and turned it into a curse; preventing fertility is now the desired “gift”. And he is exactly right! Not so long ago, societally we viewed pregnancy and having children as a blessing. Large families were normal, not the fodder of ridicule and gossip. When did that belief change? In the 60’s when “love” became less about relationships and marriage and more about “love the one you’re with”, thanks to the pill? In the 70’s when abortion became the norm? Or the 80’s when selfishness replaced the idea of sacrifice, disguised by the politically correct jargon of “affording children” or “being able to give kids the best college education” or “giving kids the all the best of the everything”?.
Some of my best childhood memories were holidays spent at my grandparents. Both sides of the family were large; my parents had 14 siblings between the two of them. So there were tons of cousins to play with, sharing the joy of just being kids. At Thanksgiving, we all brought food and their homes smelled of turkey and pies. My paternal grandmother was an amazing seamstress. Many years she would sew every girl a Christmas gift. I still have my Raggedy Ann doll, a small doll quilt and some Barbie clothes. When I received them, I was so excited. Now I appreciate them even more because I understand the work and love that went into making these gifts. And also because my grandmother has been gone for years now. My maternal grandmother made yummy cookies and had a way of making us feel special. She was Catholic, so there was always a crèche and midnight mass.
Those big family traditions are far and few between now. Scattered across the country, or even across the globe, families, including ours, see each other much less often – sometimes years go by without a visit. Most of us have a couple of kids, who hardly know their cousins, aunts, uncles or even grandparents. A book that records the voice of a loved one replaces their actual presence. It makes me sad.
Then I see commercials that get me riled up and angry. You’ve probably seen them. One depicts women who look so put together walking through what appears to be a department store. But instead of purchasing normal items, they pick up things from baskets marked “grad school”, “significant other”, “trip to Paris” and “Buy a House”. Of course, in the midst of this important shopping spree, a stork with a special package catches the attention of one woman, but on second thought she shakes her head “no” and waves off the stork. Or the one where a woman is in a grocery store with her children and fruit is bumped to the floor. Fast forward to her arriving home, only to find more mischief (a water balloon dropped from the stairs). Her exasperation is evidenced in her interior dialog about whether she can handle additional children. Contraception to the rescue! Next scene: she is playing in a pile of fall leaves with her little ones, children having fun washing their dog, then sneaking up on their dad….she ponders “only two…..well maybe”? What a message for our girls in middle school, high school and even college. Who needs kids right now when all these other options are so tempting? What will this next decade be remembered for in the realm of family, marriage and children? Scary thought!