Wonderful book! The Catholic Family Handbook
The large family provides many distinct advantages for both parents and children.
Before marrying, many young couples decide how many children they will have–a decision which often reveals that they are more concerned with how few children they will have rather than how many.
Thus they begin their marriage with intentions of limiting the number of offspring. In this respect they reflect the birth-control frame of mind so prevalent today–a frame of mind which regards children as a liability rather than a blessing.
Although the first purpose of marriage is the procreation of children,
Catholic couples will not necessarily have offspring. There may be many reasons why they cannot have babies or why they are limited to one or two.
Some wives have difficulty in carrying a fetus to full term and have many miscarriages. Sometimes the husband or wife may be sterile–unable to do his or her part in conceiving a new life. There may be mental, eugenic, economic or social reasons which make it justifiable to practice the rhythm method. The fact that a Catholic couple has no children, therefore, is no reason for concluding that they are guilty of any moral lapse.
In most marriages, however, there probably are no physical hindrances to births or justifiable reasons to limit them beyond those limitations which nature herself and unchangeable circumstance impose. Hence the typical Catholic family will have many more children than are found in the average family of other beliefs.
The large family provides many distinct advantages for both parents and children. For instance, it brings the mother and father closer together, giving them a joint source of love, and they achieve a closer sense of unity in planning for their children’s welfare. Their love for each child extends their love for each other, and in each child they can see qualities which they love in their mates.
Children help parents to develop the virtues of self-sacrifice and consideration for others. The childless husband and wife must consciously cultivate these qualities, for the very nature of their life tends to make them think first of their own interests.
In contrast, a father and mother who might have innate tendencies toward selfishness learn that they must subjugate their own interests for the good of their children, and they develop a spirit of self-denial and a higher degree of sanctity than might normally be possible.
The fact that children help to increase harmony in marriage has been proved in many ways. The sociologist Harold A. Phelps, in his book “Contemporary Social Problems,” reports that 57 per cent of the divorcees in one large group had no children and another 20 per cent had only one child. Other researchers have established that the percentage of divorces and broken homes decreases as the number of children in the family increases.
Large families also teach children to live harmoniously with others. They must adjust to the wishes of those older and younger than themselves, and of their own and the other sex.
In learning to work, play and, above all, share with others, the child in a large family discovers that he must often sacrifice his own interests and desires for the common good. For this reason, the “spoiled child” who always insists on having his own way is rare in the large family, if he can be found there at all. For the child who will not co-operate with others has a lesson forcibly taught to him when others refuse to co-operate with him.
In the typical large family, one often sees a sense of protectiveness in one child for another that is the embodiment of the Christian spirit.
Children learn to help each other–to hold each other’s hands when crossing the street, to sympathize with each other in times of sadness or hurt, and to give each other the acceptance which we all need to develop as mature human beings.
This willingness to help one another is often strikingly evident in schoolwork: the oldest child instructs his younger brother in algebra, while the latter helps a still younger one in history.
Another advantage of large families is that they teach each child to accept responsibility for his own actions. Unlike the mother with one or two children, the mother of a large family usually lacks the time and energy to concern herself with every little problem of her children.
She must observe sensible precautions with her children, of course, but she is not guilty of supervising her child’s life to such an extent that he has no chance to develop his own resources.
Precisely because she cannot devote her full time to him, he must make decisions for himself. Moreover, he acquires a better understanding of the rules by which the family is run. He sees his brothers and sisters punished for various breaches of conduct and learns what he himself may and may not do.
And as he watches the progress of older children, he learns what privileges he may expect as he too advances in age. This knowledge gives him a greater sense of security.
Another reward for members of the large family, to which those who are now adults can testify, is that it gives the children close relatives upon whom they can depend all their lives. Occasionally, of course, brothers and sisters cannot agree as adults and break off relations completely.
More often, however, they retain a close bond of kinship with each other and the reunions and family get-togethers on occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter form one of the great joys of their lives.
In most cases, the child brought up in a large family never feels utterly alone, regardless of adversities which may strike in adulthood.
If he is troubled or bereaved, in desperate need of financial help or sympathetic advice, he usually can depend upon brothers and sisters to help. Forlorn indeed is the man or woman who, in time of stress, has no close and loving relatives to tell his problems to.
A final, but by no means least important, advantage is that they virtually insure the parents against loneliness, which has often been called the curse of the aged.
How often do the father and mother of a large family remain young at heart because of the love they give to, and draw from, their grandchildren?
In fact, many say that old age is their happiest time of life because they can enjoy to the fullest the love of the children and grandchildren without the accompanying responsibility.
On the other hand, how lonely and miserable are the typical old people who have no children or grandchildren to love them?
One should not overlook the fact that there are some disadvantages to both parent and child in the large family. However, an objective review of these disadvantages would surely establish that they are outweighed by the advantages.
For example, the large family may require the parents to make great financial sacrifices. They may be unable to afford as comfortable a home, own as new an automobile, or dress as well as can the husband and wife with a small family.
But they have sources of lasting joy in the love, warmth and affection of their children–a joy that money cannot buy. The children of a large family may also be required to make sacrifices.
Their parents may be unable to pay their way in college. But this need not mean that they will be denied educational opportunities.
Thanks to scholarships, loan programs, and opportunities for student employment, the bright boy and girl who truly desires a college education can find the financial resources to obtain one.
And having to earn at least a part of their own way will make them better students. Researchers have established that students who drop out of college most frequently have had all their expenses paid for them and have never learned the true value of an education.
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