so why is it that people seem to feel free to tell me how I ought to live it?
Gabe and I took Jonathan to the pool this evening. Another family was already there, splashing away. I know the mother slightly, having passed and talked a bit on walks with our kids. Her husband was there too, reading a paper. I ended up sitting next to him, since I wasn’t swimming (my bathing suit doesn’t fit anymore, and besides, I was tired!) :) He was a nice man, and once finished with his paper he struck up a conversation with me. That was fine with me until we got to this part:
“So do you guys want to have more kids?”
“Oh? How many?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I laughed, “lots. We’ll see what God sends us.” (I should mention that I knew that this was a Christian family, from my interactions with the mother. So I didn’t think that this answer would be considered too bizarre.)
“I disagree with you.”
I laughed and said, “well, most people do.” And as far as I was concerned, the conversation could have ended there. Scratch that - it should have ended there. Only he didn’t let it drop. He told me all about how hard it is financially to have lots of kids. He told me about how much work it is to throw birthday parties for kids. He told me about his friends at church who have been sterilized so they can’t have any more kids. He told me about how his wife works part time and volunteers at church and wouldn’t have time to do all these important things if she had more kids. And I nodded my head and said inane things like, “yeah, I see your point.” The last thing I wanted was an argument – in fact I really just wanted to end the conversation and go home, only I couldn’t figure out how to do it nicely.
There was a pause for a moment and I thought he was finished. But then he opened it up again by asking, “So do you think it is a sin to use birth control?”
Good grief! This is a man I met fifteen minutes ago!!!
I said something about how no, I didn’t think it was a sin, I just believed that God had told us to have lots of children.
Thankfully, right about then I was saved by outside events that required us to head home right away. But the exchange stuck with me and made me think. Why did my answer to his question cause such a discussion (dare I say: lecture?) to ensue? Why does a perfect stranger feel he has the right (and perhaps obligation) to set me straight on the glories of birth control?
My best guess is this: I think that people feel threatened by my belief in this area. Let me give another example. Have you ever observed a conversation between a homeschool mom and a public school mom? Here is what often happens:
PSM: So where do your kids go to school?
HSM: Actually, we homeschool.
PSM: Lots of stuff about why public school is good for kids and is perfect for their family and really actually necessary.
HSM: Um, ok. (thinking: ok, but we homeschool!)
It felt a lot like that today. For some reason, no matter the intent behind the statement, people seem to think that having lots of babies implies judgement on those who choose not to. Just like people who don’t homeschool tend to think that those who do imply judgement on them. And the fact is that neither is true – but I don’t know how to get around the assumption. Gabe and I want lots of children, and we believe God has called us to do so. This by no means requires that we think everyone who doesn’t share our belief is a “sinner”! Gabe and I want to homeschool, and we believe that is the best we can do for our children. This does not require that we think everyone who disagrees is a horrible person.
But the fact is that I only know one or two people on the “other side” of those issues who don’t misunderstand us. I wish there were an easy, non-combative way to disabuse people of the notion that my belief for myself means I’m judging them. But I don’t know what it is.
Next time, I think I’ll just tell the stranger “oh no, we’re going to have 1.5 kids and a dog. Any more than that is just insane, don’t you think?”