Written by Drew
How Many Kids Can Hang on Dad? Inquiring Minds Want to Know
With so many media bites about abusive polygamists with child brides, it’s no wonder many people feel sorry for children in plural families. However, like so many other things we hear reported in the news, these media bites only show one very biased side of things. Peaceful Muslims don’t like being labeled as violent, radical Islamists. African American businessmen don’t like being labeled as gang bangers or dancing boys. Millennials don’t like being labeled lazy or self entitled. Yes, there are violent Muslims, gang banging men of color, and self entitled, spoiled young men and women out there. But not all. There are some terribly abusive polygamists. But not all. Most of the tens of thousands of polygamists in America are not abusive and they love their children very much. I’m one of them.
I have many polygamists friends who are just like me: they love their children and they’d defend them with their life. Sure, like other men in America, we fail in many ways: we focus too much on work, we discipline too harshly or not enough, we don’t spend enough time listening to their needs. But in the end, we love our children very dearly. My heart pangs when they’re sad. I hurt when they feel badly for failing at something. I miss them when I don’t get to see them every day. I laugh when they say cute things. My heart melts when I feel little arms wrap around my legs accompanied by the barely understandable words “I love you, daddy” coming from a toddler. And my eyes well up with carefully hidden tears when they get hurt badly. Yes, I’m the family doctor. When stitches aren’t necessary but something besides a bandaid is needed, I’m the one who takes care of it. When my son got hit by a car, I was the one who doctored his wounds when he came home from the hospital. When goose eggs happen, I’m the one putting on the ice. When we’re in the mountains and my son has a stick stuck deeply in the pad of the thumb, I’m the one pulling it out, digging out the splinters, and bandaging it up until we can get to a doctor. And I’ve been known to stay up late at night listening and counseling with teenagers who needed an extra ear. Sound familiar? Yeah – just like your dad, huh?
When I was young, I grew up a latch key kid with no siblings. Until I was nearly 17, I never met siblings who loved each other. That changed one fateful evening when I saw two Mormon sisters laughing and giggling with each other at a corner of a party where no one else could see them (I happened upon them by chance). That day changed me forever. The seed was planted. I wanted to raise children who loved each other and who weren’t so horribly lonely as I was. I had no idea I’d actually have fifteen children some day! Five or six sounded like a huge family at the time – fifteen was unfathomable. But the idea of having children happily growing up together seemed as divine as I could imagine.
Anybody who feels sorry for my children is welcome to listen to them on our show – telling the world just how it is: they’re happier all together (although “the younger ones get annoying sometimes,” says one almost teenager – just as your teenager would probably say about his/her younger siblings at times). I’ve asked each of my children individually if they’re happier living with all of their siblings or if they prefer living apart in smaller families. Not a single one of them answered that they wanted to live separately (not even the teenagers). Why? Because plural marriage is really all about blessing the children. They love having other children their age to play with. They intuitively understand that “the more the merrier” applies to children learning and playing together. Plural marriage is about raising children to desire to be the best servants in the hands of God they can be. It’s about raising a generation of good people who will be a strength to the world around them. Yes, those are lofty ideals. Yes, we fail sometimes. But we do our best. And we do it for the kids.
#1 Do my children live sheltered lives? Well, we do keep a fairly tight rein on “scary” movies or content inappropriate for the young ones. Yes, I bought my children most of the BBC Planet/World/Life series and yes, they like them. But it’s also true that they’ve probably spent more time watching the Star Wars Clone series than Planet Earth. That’s my fault. I’m a sci-fi fantasy fanboy and author. I bought the series for them. And I’ve taken several of my children to Salt Lake’s Comic Con (and FantasyCon) so I’ve made geeks out of all of them. They know who Doctor Who is, they know Batman is cooler than Superman, and they understand that the X-Men series was awesome until the continuity-worm-hole-big-bang-thing messed it up. Then again, four of my children are black belts (I didn’t quite make it before my back got badly broken but I was kicking in the dojo with them). One child has competed as a pianist at the state level a time or two. A few play several instruments. Some of them juggle. Several dance and do gymnastics. Some are working on writing books. Several draw/paint/carve. One enjoys woodworking. A few love to cook. Several are more charismatic than me and I’ve been a professional entertainer much of my life. In short, we’re as well balanced as any other family I’ve met … unless competence at video games is your standard. Your neighbor might slaughter us there: we try to keep tabs on too much time on electronics since studies have shown … never mind, I won’t preach on that one.
#2 If you believe the world is overpopulating, read more about population challenges in industrialized countries. The statistics of what America will look like demographically thirty years from now might surprise you. Perhaps people in India or China have some reason to be as concerned as many Americans are but Americans have little to worry about as far as overpopulation in America goes … unless over populated living assistance centers is what you mean – we are on the verge of having more elderly citizens needing assistance than current population growth can sustain. I don’t have time to debate these issues in the comments – I’ve seen the research – I’ll let it speak for itself. But I do have one thought: can the world have too many good people? There are continually new technologies that allow us to sustain larger and larger populations. That isn’t likely to change any time soon. Until that isn’t true anymore, I’d like to see more good people in the world. I may not be able to make your neighbor a better person but I can raise children to be good people – people you’d like to be your neighbor.