Monday, February 12, 2007

Heir and a Spare, a Barbie Doll and an...

Accident. Nope, just kidding! My wife and I actually did want 4 kids. I always wanted a large family because I enjoyed playing with and taking care of kids. I think being one of the older cousins in my family contributed to that since we older ones had to take care of the younger ones at family gatherings. My wife was the opposite, she was on the younger end of her cousin chain so she didn’t have much experience. In fact, I used to rib her lack of babysitting skills.

Somehow I must have rubbed off on her because she decided on a big family too. She told me one day while she was waiting to pick me up at the airport she saw a family with 4 kids. The sight of each child, their heads step laddering down in height from oldest to youngest was too cute. That did it for her, 4 was the magic number so our plan was 2 boys and 2 girls.

I admit I was relieved that the first was a boy (the “Heir”), if just to placate the more traditional elements in our families. So we were ready for number 2 to be a girl but the ancestors must have been pleased to have another boy (the “Spare”). Now we really wanted a girl so much that my wife got some book on strategies for gender selection and it must have worked because my wife finally got her “Barbie Doll” to play with. But ancestors got the last laugh because we got lazy on #4 and another bouncing baby boy arrived.

Am I crazy for wanting 4? I don’t think I am. I mean, most Asian families used to have many kids, my Ma-Ma (paternal grandmother) was youngest of 13. When I grow old and look back on things, am I going to regret not spending more hours at work or having the family we always wanted? So I just smile and tell people 4 is just a small family.

I admit it drives me crazy when people discuss having children as a material tradeoff. Sure I can understand if it is about lack of time, but most people seem to view kids as a cost forcing them to lose out on a better car, a fancier house, etc. (I remember one person who basically said they bought a new house so they can’t afford another kid and because they wanted a lot of upgrades…) Ugh, kids are not UPGRADES to attach price tags to! If you and your spouse really want “X” number of kids, I say just do it. Affordability is all relative; look I am just as poor with four kids as I was with one! And your child won’t miss a few less toys when the best toy he/she could ever have is a sibling. But the person that really drives me crazy about this is…

my very own mother!

She is absolutely obsessed about the costs of raising our kids (and she raised 3). How could we afford this or that she would constantly ask. And how could we pay for 4 college educations? (To me, it isn’t about raising the funds for good colleges, it’s about raising good kids.) While she thinks of herself as very traditional (and once wanted 10 grandchildren) what’s with the Material Girl routine now? Seems she isn’t alone, Asian families across the world are shrinking in size despite greater prosperity.

I have a suspicion that whereas my grandparents generation prided themselves on large families and would expect their children to care for them, my mother has decided that the almighty dollar is more reliable. I remember since I was little she would keep asking me (and my siblings) if I would care for her in her old age over and over again, which I thought was silly but maybe that is just her insecurity. And yet she really enjoys the grandkids immensely.

I guess I subscribe to the traditional view that family is wealth. We seem to having a good time and I don't miss the better car or fancy house.


Mommy de Gallo said...

I had a friend once who told me his mother's theory on child bearing.
The frst is because you want to.
The second is to see if you can do it again.
The third is just pain crazy.
And the fourth is...oops!

He of course was a 4th child.
Not that this view reflects at all on your situation, I just thought that it was a funny way of looking at it.
I hear where you are coming from too, as our family gets alot of flack for NOT having more children. We are prefectly happy with one child, and that is the way we are going to stay. I think that as long as you can provide a happy home, and home life for all your children (no sressing out because the kids are making you crazy kind of thing), the have as many as you want!
They're asian, so you know they'll get scholarships anyway.(just kidding!)

dnd said...

While I agree that children are not an upgrade, cost unfortunately is a real issue. I was #4 of five and money, or lack thereof, was always an issue in our house. And believe me when it was time to go to college, there just wasn't any money left for me. So I took student loans, worked throughout and obtained both an undergrad and grad degree at my own expense. It was tough going and those loans won't be paid off until my 3 y.o. is a sophmore in college himself! But I am proud of what I have accomplished and no one can take my edcuation from me. I applaud your can do attitude and perhaps as parents, you won't make money an issue to your kids the way mine did. But I have seen families fall apart due to financial stress as a result of too many children. What is "too many" is different for every family. But as much as you want people to back off on your decision to have four, we must respect those who decide that one or two is all that they can manage. I would love four children, but for now, with #2 on the way, we may be least for a while.

Monster Daddy said...

dnd, I respect every parents' decision on their family size. The purpose of my post was to offer a perspective on costs and you hit the issue on the nail on college tuition.

To me that cost is 18 years away and I am of the opinion that the costs need not be borne by the parents alone (or at all). I think having the children bear the costs of their college tuition will help them understand that the choices they make will have a direct influence on their post college life.

For example, I have too relatives who had their parents pay for artsy majors who then further burdened their parents post college because they couldn't do anything with them in the job market.

It's really sad because their parents gave up a lot to squirrel away so much money. Maybe these experiences is what changed my mother so much. TBH, a blank check for college is an invitation for abuse. (Basically, would you trust a teenager to spend $100,000 as he/she wished?)

Of course there is an issue of fairness, why pay for the older ones college and not the others. In my case it will be easy, we don't have money so all the kids will wind up paying for their college. We're investing in them upfront with a good private academy for Pre-K to 2nd grade only.

Financial stress is a real issue so perhaps I am fortunate my wife and I agree on the above. So perhaps this is a changing of Asian American attitudes because every family member in my mom's generation would have busted their balls trying to save up for collge for each kid. In essence, they enslaved themselves to the college and lost focus on the kids.