Saturday, October 18, 2014

Open to Life

What does it mean to raise children to be open to life? Honestly it is not something I have given a lot of thought. We just live our life and our life happens to include more than the standard issue of children. Sometimes, though, I get a peak into how our way of life radically impacts the worldview of our children.

One of the neighbor girls ate lunch at our house today. She is around eight years old and has a baby sister who is around 6 months old. Grace matter-of-factly asked her today if she wanted the next baby to be a brother or a sister. The girl answered that one baby gave her mother enough trouble. Grace responded that of course the baby was a lot of work for her mother, but what did *she* want if they had another baby. The girl wrinkled her nose and shook her head no. Grace tried to make sense of this answer by saying, "Oh, you just want to get used to having one baby before you think about the next one." This is the entirety of the exchange.

In Grace's world, it is perfectly normal for there to be another baby at some point and for that baby to be A Good Thing. She is sometimes so glib about her expectation of having more siblings, I have to remind her that children are not just mail-order delivered.

My children are not abnormal. They fight amongst themselves, but they also don't view their siblings as threats or people to be avoided. We do not pit them against each other and we are all encouraged to be understanding of the developmental level of each member of the family. The baby cries and needs to be comforted. The toddler grabs and needs to learn to share. The older ones all need a turn to be the leader of the game. Sometimes the parents need to be left alone. It is everyone's responsibility to help provide what other family members need. I forget that other families just don't function this way.

Grace doesn't know how to avoid adoring the baby even when the baby sometimes drives her crazy. She doesn't understand that some families focus on the sacrifices that babies require and never get around to embracing the joy. She does not live where the normal demands of babies are met with the language of resentment, negativity, and anger. She doesn't recognize that the likelihood of the neighbor having another sibling is probably low. She would be horrified if she ever realized that her friend is glad the probability is low.

According to Grace, there is no reason why you wouldn't want another baby. And this is how I know we are raising our children to be open to life.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

"According to Grace, there is no reason why you wouldn't want another baby. And this is how I know we are raising our children to be open to life." Beautiful. It's amazing how what our children absorb most is not the words we preach at them but the example we set by our lives and our unspoken attitudes.

Our pro-life conversation tonight was about Baby Francis, the baby I miscarried between Bella and Sophie. We pray for Francis every night at our family bedtime prayers. Tonight Anthony asked, "Who is Francis?" and the other kids chimed in saying, "Your big brother or sister who is in heaven." And then we talked about how big Francis was: As big as Lucy? No, much smaller. Oh like when Lucy was newborn? No, much, much, much smaller. And we held our fingers very close together. And so they know without a doubt, without even thinking about it, that unborn babies are people too, that size doesn't matter. And that losing a baby isn't the worst thing that can happen because our baby isn't "lost" but continues to be a part of our family and will be waiting to greet them when they get to heaven someday.

The Sojourner said...

I have a little sister who is 8 and a little brother who is 3. Shortly after Matthew came along, Teresa informed Mom that they should get another baby and it should be a girl. Mom said that she thought one baby at a time was enough. Teresa said, "Two babies would not be too much work for me!"

Right now we are still rather in the phase of getting used to having one baby before we think about the next one (even though the "baby" is now 11 months old!) but I hope that eventually he ends up the first of many and has the expectation that babies are just something that happens.

The Sojourner said...

That story just about made me tear up, Melanie. I love that Anthony learned about Francis not from people who actually remember, but from the other children who have heard the story and integrated it into their lives and are now passing it down.

Jenny said...

I definitely recommend getting used to the current baby before thinking about the next one. No reason to have baby after baby as quickly as possible unless that's what you want to do or is what happens in real life. You shouldn't feel like that is the expectation for you to be "doing it right."

For myself, the earliest I would want be pregnant with the next baby has never been before the current baby was 18m old. And I am fairly lucky in that my fertility works in a way that spacing at least that far apart is not too much hassle.

The Sojourner said...

Why on earth does Blogger keep eating my comments?

Anyway, my emotional readiness is irrelevant at the moment thanks to finances (stupid finances) so it's likely that at minimum Current Baby will be 2 years old before we have another. Right now I cannot imagine taking care of both him and another child, but there is a vast difference between an 11-month-old and 2-year-old, and besides there's no guarantee I'd become pregnant as soon as we start trying anyhow. (And I change my opinions every time I see an actual newborn. TINY SQUISHY BABY SO CUTE MUST HAVE ONE.)

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Me too. It really feels like Francis is a part of our living family story. I have to thank my sister-in-law for the model of how to deal with miscarried babies. She'd had a couple of miscarriages before Dom and I were married and they pray for their babies every night at family prayers. Dom and I sometimes joined them for prayers when we were dating and engaged and of course after they were married if we happened to be visiting near bedtime. Dom's sister and her husband are a constant inspiration to me when it comes to living the faith with kids.