Ob-la-di, ob-la-da that goes on, bra, la-la, how the life goes on
In a couple of years they have built a home sweet home
With a couple of kids running in the yard...
With all the bad news swirling around, it’s nice to talk about some good news. Babies. Babies are always good news. They come into the world fresh, and remind us of all the good things. Having babies is an act of faith in the future. It’s all good. Really.
My wife was on the phone this AM cooing with that singsong high tone I generally call her dog voice. Usually she’s infantilizing a dog, who stares at her, perplexed at all the attention. In this case however it’s an actual infant, her latest grand niece born to her sister’s daughter. There is a lot of back and forth, remembering how her niece used to look, how our babies used to be, how they slept, who had a full head of hair, who they were named after, and what their personalities were like. This infant is named after Saint Rita, patron saint of the impossible and it might be a good name for our times because my wife’s culture just keeps bumping out babies despite the times. Here in Canada we have a lesser birth rate. We have not figured out that babies are the future.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s fertility rate is 1.66 children per women, which is just below the average of 1.74, and well below the population replacement rate. We are not even replacing ourselves, hence the noticeable change in demographics. If we are not willing to have kids, somebody else will take our place - literally. I have always kind of scratched my head over those who don’t like kids, or who have decided to go childless. I know there are some hellions out there, but they are missing out. I’ve liked pretty much everything about having kids, and I can’t imagine life without them.
Part of the disinclination for having kids is economic. An infant’s early years ties up women, and puts a bit more pressure on men to bring home the bacon. Later on when you are paying for university, you will realize this arrangement isn’t going away any time soon. While it’s true that kids cost money, they pay in other ways.
A friend’s mother used to rail against abortion, when it was first pushed as progressive policy. My friend would cluck at his mom, stubborn and old-fashioned as she was. When she died, he was shocked to discover she had once been forced to abort a baby she could not provide for and her entire life was tainted with that private grief. It made him think about the whole issue differently.
When I was a kid, we were a large family in a not-so-big house. Hence, we shared rooms with bunk beds which really wasn’t all that bad. Sharing and conflict resolution are those kind of life skill best learned early on. Lots of families back then had at least four kids, a number which would be considered large today. Then, affordability didn’t seem to matter much, at least not enough to stop people from having kids. Most kids in my time were reared in bungalows, the kind of domicile nobody wants anymore.
Anyway, kids are fun. They make you rediscover life all over again just when you have become a bit jaded and frayed at the edges. Old people need younger people, and young people need that valuable counsel of age that is largely missing from Canadian culture. I have seen how this affects my wife. We only have her mother now, and she is far away. So we have “borrowed” a few older people meanwhile that we consider valuable friends. They give us perspective.
Kennedy Hall has written a recent book about family and COVID called “Family be Damned”. It’s a fictional conversation between demons after the manner of CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, which examines the hit the family unit has taken during the pandemic. His point is that the Devil does not like the family and COVID is just another salvo in a cosmic battle.
Coincidentally, the government also does not like families which might put them in company with the party previously mentioned. Families come with a-priori blood ties, loyalties that are hard for the government to break up. Government LOVES to stand in locus parentis even if it means opposing parents. It’s how we get the nanny state, where government is all in all.
We find ourselves on unnatural terms when governments gets too involved with nature. The cure of course, is nature. The good news of the pandemic is that there is a bit of a baby boom coming out of all that time at home together. There also is I think, a new appreciation for the nurture of loved ones. People want to make that more permanent going forward.
The story in the Bible where Jesus delivers the demoniac has an interesting ending. The man wants to come and follow Jesus, who instead tells him to go back home and live with his family. Family IS the cure. It always was, and it always will be the first port in a storm. Those with no family or broken family will cede the truth in this. The family unit is a mirror of the eternal which always tilts toward healing and wholeness.
There is that part in Genesis where God made man, and then sat back and said to himself: It’s not GOOD for man to be alone. Hence he created family. God made babies so that people could get some good news within the regular scope of things. They would just have to let life happen.