Sunday, December 6, 2009


Mrs. Optimist and our optimistic children visited some friends this past weekend. Our friends have 8 children and 1 on the way. Both parents have their PhDs, which means the large brood is not the product of a lack of education. This is usually the second assumption of anyone who hears you have a large family. The first assumption is that you are Catholic. Which in this case is correct.

Big church. Big families.

Big families are kind of rare these days, if you haven't noticed. In our own case, we have only 5 children. We feel like lightweights when talking with our friends who have 8, or our other friends who have 10. Nevertheless, we are part of the fraternity, although we are clearly not top dogs.

Over the years Mrs. EO and I have been fascinated with the level of intimacy people adopt when they find out you have a large family. One of the first questions is usually "are you done yet?" Another question that gets asked is "haven't you heard of birth control? Ha Ha Ha." To which I normally respond "yes" and just stare. That's usually a conversation stopper. And this is fine by me.


I have a theory about the intrusive questions. I think people are both fascinated and repelled by the idea of having lots of children. A large family forces a whole panoply of uncomfortable issues to the forefront of people's minds - birth control, abortion, and tough economic decisions, like staying home from work.

And maybe all those children force you to confront the immense difficulties that attend child-rearing itself, and one's own sense of inadequacy. When somebody else has 2 or 3 times more children than you do, it tends to engender instant angst, especially if the children in the bigger family are relatively well-behaved and happy, and your own darlings are currently morose brats. Hence the goofy "questions" that are more like commentary.

Americans of my generation generally have done a worse job as parents than their own moms and dads. This cannot be easy on people's minds. The thing was, we had the best self esteem of any generation in history. We were certainly the smartest and the most morally enlightened generation ever; we said so constantly, during the '60s and '70s. We were obviously several levels of consciousness above our parents' generation, which consisted of corrupt, racist war-mongers (just for starters).

Talkin' 'bout my my generation.

For various reasons, things haven't gone so well lately. We have had far fewer children than my parents' generation. Sadly, we have raised more criminals, people with mental illness, suicides, and bums than my parents' generation did. Our divorce rate has all but guaranteed that our children will have more parent-generated problems than we did.

The difficulties don't end there. For the first time in American history, our children may be worse off financially than we were. Somehow, we have taken the richest country in the world and run it off the rails financially. A trillion here, a trillion there; it has started to add up to real money.

So, I would say the case for our "suckiness" as parents is strong. What makes it tougher still is that our immediate predecessors were the "Greatest Generation," who overcame the Depression (despite FDR), won WWII,

Quick, find Jane Fonda.

shed the Jim Crow laws handed down to them by their own parents, and created the most powerful and prosperous nation in the history of the world.

Curiously, they managed to stay married and raise big families, too.

Greatest generation liked big families.

My theory is this: when we hit our teens and twenties and wanted to rebel, the only options we had were bad ones. So instead of saving the world from totalitarianism, we worshipped Chairman Mao,

Killed a hundred million. What a guy.

smoked dope,invented AIDS,

legalized abortion, and institutionalized divorce and bankruptcy as secular sacraments.

Well played.

On the other hand, we also invented the internet, Caddyshack, blogging and YouTube. So we got that going for us.

Cinderella Story.


  1. Ouch! Think you tweaked a nerve there buddy.

  2. Very sad and empty generation though all think are so happy and individualistic.
    You gotta serve somebody and the 60's gen decided it would be themselves and have passed it on down the line. Thank God from rescuing me from that spirit. (let me add for all who need to see it: of ocurse I don't think I am better than others) Where sin abounds grace does abound much more. God can still move and open the eyes of these sad and empty people.
    Love big fams. My pastor and wife have seven..all wonderful. Mrs Bossy came from a big fam and she is awesome!

  3. Thank god your gen made all those mistakes and lives in the real world, i would hate to still be stuck in the 1950s era of conformity, the State and worst of all Religion.

  4. The trouble is that my generation did not learn from its mistakes. They just kept making them. Now they've passed them on to their kids, as a kind of new religion. They worship at the feet of their own folly.

    By "real world" I take it you mean the world of abortion, STDs, illegitimacy, drug abuse, kiddie porn, snuff films, violent crime, 15% unemployment, and video games? That one?