“Has the desire to buy something for our loved ones, suppressed our desire to give them something that does not depend on money, but on ourselves?"
Translated by Kimberly Gleason
When you talk to adults about children and ask them why they did not raise more than one child, they often say:
“We fear that we will not be able to give them much. Life is very expensive now. We can buy almost everything for only one son or daughter, but if we have more children, there are no guarantees that we will be able to."
Let's pay attention to what they are saying. The married couple says, “We can’t give”, but what they really mean is, “We can’t buy.” After all, when a couple makes this statement, a list of material values usually follows.
If there are many children, a large living space is needed, but there is no opportunity to purchase a new apartment. A two-room apartment, received from a program for housing military personnel, is only big enough to have one child. In addition, there is not enough money to go the sea on vacation with more than one child. The list goes on. The list may be more modest, or more impressive, but there is a common thread — parents put the material security of themselves and of their child first.
And here another question arises: “Has the desire to buy something for our loved ones, suppressed our desire to give them something that does not depend on money, but on ourselves?"
There are many examples. A significant number of people will not give their children enough attention. The son wants to tell Dad about a hard problem he was given in a mathematical contest. The father, taking on the appearance of a busy person, says: “Once I come back from the garage, I need to check the car ...”, and leaves to drink beer with his friends. The daughter tries to persuade her mother to do a school project with her. “Not now!” she says. The 199th episode of her favorite melodrama is on TV. Couldn't the parents pay attention to their kids? Obviously, no money is necessary for this either.
For some reason, fathers and mothers don't worry about the lack of love and attention. They were too lazy, they didn't take the time to teach their children the basics of some crafts or handiwork, they didn't give the child a feeling of joy from working together, they didn't read the child a bedtime story, they forgot to teach him compassion and mercy — that's what the child wants, but for some reason that escapes the parents' attention.
Those closest to us wait for care from us, and we pay them off. “Dad, let's go to the park to make snowmen," the son pleads, but Dad is too lazy, and he replies: “Let's buy you ice cream, even two or three, if you want.” The daughter asks: “Mom, could we bake a cake on my birthday for the guests? We can do it together, I also want to learn how." But Mom goes to the store and buys a finished cake on the pretext that it is more beautiful than the one that they would have made on their own.
Will the child remember the ice cream and cake from the store after a while? It is unlikely. But the snowman that was sculpted with Dad, or the fragrant pie baked for the first time under her mother's guidance, will be remembered throughout the child's life.
Often adults have expensive celebrations for their children. Why? Parents "buy" a ready-made holiday: they rent a special room, pay for its decoration, order ready-made dishes, and so on. Is it necessary? After all, preparing for a meaningful day is no less exciting than celebrating it.
Together with his parents, the child invents a script, rehearses the songs and dances, and thereby develops creative abilities. In the process of preparing for the celebration, adults communicate with the children a lot and cook delicious dishes together, teaching them what is sure to come in handy in life. How many skills a child gets if he creates the celebration with his father and mother, instead of merely 'acquiring' it!
People are afraid that with the birth of the next child their material well-being will worsen, although they don't know what future incomes, prices and opportunities will arise. The father and mother think in advance about tutors, but their sons and daughters might not need them. It may be necessary to live more modestly with one child, and on the contrary, there may be enough money to feed and raise seven children.
I grew up in the post-war time with three brothers. Of course, raising four boys is more difficult than raising an only child, but much depends on the ability of parents to responsibly deal with money and plan a budget. Having been children and having already matured, we would never exchange a brother for a better life. With a most modest income, our parents successfully raised all their children. Although at first we lived in a 16-square-meter (160 square foot) apartment, and we were happy. They were able to give us immeasurably more than material wealth — this is, first of all, their love and faith in Christ.
We are too afraid to be unable to buy something, even though it really doesn't depend on us. We forget to teach children to trust in God, to selflessly love, and to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of loved ones. Sometimes these ideals are only perceived by the son or daughter in the words of their parents, but from the other side they see how the people closest to them live for personal well-being, denying the lives of their other children.
In order to provide the family with wealth, the spouses rely entirely on their own strength, making plans for the years ahead. The Lord, speaking to each of us, says: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He tells us not to care about material things above measure, since the Heavenly Father knows the need of each person (Matt. 6:32).
In conversations with his spiritual children, the venerable St. Paisius of the Holy Mountain told how a poor father with many children came to him and asked for the holy one's prayers. For the umpteenth time apartment owners drove the family out into the street, fearing that the children might break something. The man took up any work he could find, but the money was barely enough to live on.
A few months later this man came again to the elder, thanking God. Somehow the father of the large family was sitting at the bus stop, and a needy man approached him, selling lottery tickets. The man wanted to help him by buying one of the tickets, and as a result he himself won a large sum of money. He gave part of it to a poor man, part of it he spent to buy a house, and there was still money left to raise the children.
St. Paisius cited this case so that spouses would learn to trust the Divine will more, not to be afraid of material difficulties, and not to put them in the way of one of the main tasks of family life — to raise a new generation in Christ. The saint said that God cares for all children, since He is their Creator, who gives the main part — the soul — while the spouses give the child a body. “Consequently,” Elder Paisius concludes, “God takes care of your children better than you do.” We love children, because children are a gift from God. The birth of a child is a great mystery; it is the beginning of a new life.