I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on the subject, but ever since I became a parent myself, I’ve found it fascinating to think about how the size of the quote unquote “average” American family has changed over the years.
For example, from 1800 to 1900 the size of the average American family declined from 7 children to 3.5 children…and by 1923 it was down to 2.3 children.
During the so-called Baby Boom years from 1940 to 1957, the American family peaked in size at an average of 3.7 children per family.
And from 1972 to the present day, we’ve leveled off at an average of about 2.0 children per family.
I suppose this isn’t a tremendous shock when you consider that after accounting for food, shelter, clothing, education and other necessities….like Pokemon cards and Barbie dolls and stuff…..a child born in 1999 will cost between 117 and 233 thousand dollars to raise to the age of 18.
Staring down the barrel of those kinds of numbers, I suppose it’s a miracle we have children at all anymore.
As I may have mentioned before, I have just one brother….my Dad is one of 6 kids, and my Mom is one of 4….so I guess they decided to start their own family, they must’ve decided that there were significant upsides to NOT being outnumbered by your children.
My wife Anne is one of 10 kids. Clearly her parents said “Well…if the average family has 2.0 kids….let’s see if we can BEAT that average by a multiple of say….5……we don’t want anyone thinking we’re average now do we?”
And my Grandfather on my Dad’s side? He was one of 17 kids. 17. And believe it or not…they weren’t even Catholic…..or Mormon……they were Lutheran. Go figure……
I myself am at a loss to explain the kind of….uh….persistence involved in having 17 children….but since my Grandfather grew up on a farm in the sticks of Western Pennsylvania…..before the dawn of radio and television…..I have to figure that after the sun went down at night, entertainment options were mighty mighty slim…..and I always have a strange picture of my Great Grandfather saying to my Great Grandmother….”Well….we could darn the socks….or we could play canasta….or we could…..y’know….”
Judging by the numbers, I’m guessing they didn’t play a lot of canasta.
Anne and I have 3 kids…since they have us outnumbered we’ve had to switch from man to man defense to zone….and as any sports fan can tell you…..there are always holes to be found in even the best zone defense.
Maybe about 6 months ago, there was this brief nano-second when the planets were in some strange kind of alignment…..
All 3 of the kids were playing nicely together on the floor…..no fighting…no arguing…no tattle taleing….
Even the house was fairly organized….no week old bagels under the couch….no magic marker on the walls……and no diaper pail stench that could stop a herd of oxen dead in their tracks at 50 paces….
And at that moment of grand delusion, I thought…well….we seem to be handling this 3 kid thing pretty well…..why not have a fourth? I mean, after all….4 is only ONE more than 3….right?
When I subtly suggested the idea to Anne she said…”Come in the bathroom with me…I want to show you something..”
When we got in there she pointed to the sink and said “You see that tooth brush holder? How many slots are in it?”
I said, “Uh…..4…”
And she said, “And how many TOOTHBRUSHES are in those slots?”
She said, “You see…this is God’s way..and Pottery Barn’s way of telling us we already have enough children….”
And then she walked out of the bathroom.
No arguing with that logic I suppose.
Fortunately, we’re both excellent canasta players.