Catholic Answers and Having Number 3
My wife Flannery and I are expecting our third (and who knows, perhaps our fourth) child. I’m sure this is the case in many places, but in downtown Toronto you need a good reason for having a third child, an excuse almost.
For some reason, many people have the impression that two children is a reasonable, even a defensible, number of children to have. It seems to have something to do with the replacement rate (and since it is difficult to have 2.1 children, two will have to do. ) Though why we would want to replace ourselves exactly has not been explained to me. Is roughly 7 billion the optimal number of people for our planet? Certainly 30 million and change is not optimal for Canada. It’s quite low in fact.
In any case, in Toronto you need an excuse to have more than two children. Fortunately for us, we have one. You see, our first two children happen to have the same gender. And a family with two little boys can be excused for having a third because they are obviously, as we are constantly asked, “Hoping/trying for a girl?”
Now, there are a lot of books I haven’t read about this, but I also don’t read much astrology, and it seems to me that one can’t really “try” for a girl. We tried for a child.
So, when people ask, “Hoping for a girl?” I give my best Catholic answer:
“That’s one of two very good options We’d love if this one was a girl. We’d certainly like a daughter at some point.”
“You mean,” they gasp, “you want more?”
I love giving these kinds of Catholic answers. It (gently) makes people stop and think about what they’re saying and presuming. Most people, in my experience, actually come away impressed rather than scandalized by a Catholic vision of family life.
This recent experience reminds me of when I had first met Flannery. As I’m sure is common among young Catholics everywhere, one of the things people talk about, while scoping the group for possible mates, is how many children each person wants.
There are those who are cautious: “Well, I’d certainly like a big family, but I’m not sure how many I could handle.”
There are those who are a little defiant: “I don’t care what anyone thinks. Two and I’m done!”
There are those who talk a big game: “At least a dozen!”
Flannery didn’t play that game. When she was asked how many children she would like, she gave the most Catholic, and the most reasonable, answer I’d ever heard:
“All of them.”
Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of three (so far) and husband of one. He is the co-author of How Far Can We Go? A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating.