September 17, 2013 by lucieromarin
I’m gobsmacked. See, there are some things I just don’t expect of the blogosphere: I don’t expect to meet my spouse through blogging. I don’t expect to find myself with 8,000 followers. And I never expected anything I read by Dr Taylor Marshall to a) make me laugh, and b) force me to reconsider married people, Americans, and trads. But this has just happened!
Backstory (bear with me): I’m just a lurker on Dr Marshall’s blog, partly because I don’t need to be evangelised, and partly because my Australian contrariness can’t cope with American Catholic enthusiasm. It makes me want to cover myself with neo-pagan pentagrams. Americans say, “WOAH! Gard is so awesome!” and I, suddenly cross, want to say,”Can you not talk about Him as though He just ran off the field and signed your footy jersey?” So, the reason I lurk on his blog is this: he’s nice. He’s a trad, but he isn’t making a living by saying mean stuff about other people. I just have to go back from time to time to check if it’s really true.
I expected today’s article to teach me nothing, as it was advice about youthful parenting and large-family parenting. You can read the whole article here if you need this advice, but this was the important part:
Around Baby #5 I got really psyched out
I was 30 years old with the fifth baby in the oven. It was then that I began to graph out Joy’s potential rates of fertility in Microsoft Excel.
“Let’s see, we probably have another 20 years until Joy’s fertility ends. Okay, we’ve had babies every 1.4 years. Twins once already. So, yeah, we are on track for at about 28.6 kids. What? 28.6 kids! Why didn’t the priest mention this possibility?
After documenting my destiny in MS Excel, I poured a scotch. I’d sit in a dark room by myself while I stared into my future plight as the Catholic version of the Duggars. My negativity led me to deep discouragement.
As I looked into the procreation crystal ball, I laid out the plan…
Joy and I would eventually purchase two beat up “pre-owned” passenger vans with permanent stains on the seats. I’d drive one. Joy (wearing a homemade denim jumper) would drive the other. The children would be skinny for lack of food. I saw myself wearing a threadbare sports coat to my minimum wage teaching position as part time instructor at a homeschooling co-op.
Our extended family would laugh behind our back. They wouldn’t invite us to family parties because of “all those kids.” And we ourselves wouldn’t want to go anyway because our kids would break stuff and then we’d have to pay for it.
Our home would be a plain two bedroom house – one room for Joy and me and a few young children. The rest of the kids would be in the other room, sleeping in cabinet drawers and three to a bed. Could 28.6 children sleep in one house? We’d just have to make it work.
Okay, if you’re not used to the subculture, you’ll just think it’s weird, but I laughed at a) the excel spreadsheet, [choleric!] b) the Scotch, c) the darkened room, d) the Duggars, e) the pre-owned passenger vans, f) the homemade denim jumper, g) the homeschooling co-op, h) the two bedrooms.
Then, I thought – wait a minute? You mean married people do this, too?
You know that thing that happens sometimes, when, as a single, childless person with little or no extended family, you lie awake wondering who will notice when you start to get dementia, and who will put you in a nursing home? And you see yourself as the pathetic old crone at parish weddings, congratulating the bride who you knew when she was a girl of seven, wondering if this means you should stop praying about your vocation now and start praying instead that one of these grown-up children offers notices that you’re about to be homeless and offers you a place in the Granny Flat of Failure?
I never thought of confident married guys as doing the same thing. Aren’t they all, like, “Behold – ME! MAN! with WIFE and SONS! I’m saving the Church and raising the next generation of priests! Behold the GLORY!”? Don’t get me wrong; every unmarried Catholic is keenly aware that marriage entails sacrifice. We hear it all the time. We hear it especially when we express some kind of vocation-themed disappointment, and are quickly reminded that marriage is full of sacrifice and we shouldn’t talk as though it’s all wonderful. But they don’t usually mean what Dr Marshall means here – that the stereotype he describes, which we all recognise, is actually dreaded (even if that’s in a slightly humorous and exaggerated form) by the very members of the subculture who are supposed to rejoice in it. Because that was the other thought that struck me – you mean that not all the large Catholic families want this?
And if this is the case, why the heck don’t they say so? What’s with all the acting as though the denim jumper and minimum wage is the apotheosis of Catholic family life and sacramental glory? Does this mean that if we tell some married people how we feel, that they’ll hear us – and we them? And if he can have Scotch, can I have a Baileys? Or a small glass of Tokay?
I propose a toast: to all persons with a self-deprecating sense of humour and humility enough to share it!