Last month, Georgette and I attended a retirement party for Dr. Ed Kaizer. The party was at Bradley University, where Dr. Kaizer taught music for 45 years. We got to know Dr. Kaizer during the early 1990s, when our three oldest children — Harry, Anna, and Maria — were students at Bradley. They were all involved in the music program at Bradley and each of them had the opportunity to take piano lessons from Dr. Kaizer.
You may have heard of Dr. Kaizer and his wife, Janet, both of whom are accomplished pianists. Over the years, they performed at events in and around the Peoria area. They also performed all over the United States and Europe. Their programs included classical, ragtime, and jazz piano. It was a blessing for our children to be taught by someone as talented as Dr. Kaizer.
At Dr. Kaizer’s retirement party, I ran into a young man — I’ll call him James — who attended Bradley at the same time our children attended. When James saw me, he came over to say hello. The last time I saw him was 15 years ago. I asked how he was doing and he told me he was married and that he and his wife have two children — a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.
After James and I talked for about 10 minutes, Georgette came over and joined our conversation. Shortly thereafter, James’s wife — I’ll call her Julia — joined us and James introduced her to me and Georgette. We had never met her before.
James explained to Julia who we were and told her that we were the parents of seven children. She had previously met Harry, Anna, and Maria, but was not aware that we had four other children. She was surprised by the size of our family.
I looked at Julia and said, “Your husband told us that he would love to have more children.” Her husband had not said that. In fact, there was no discussion about whether he wanted more children.
Georgette sometimes gets frustrated with me because I frequently make unexpected or outlandish statements to people to make a point or to see how they are going to react. It’s something that I’ve done since I was a boy. Georgette thinks I do it for attention. She may be right, but I’m not willing to admit it. I just like taking people by surprise and seeing how they’re going to react to what I say.
Anyway, after I made the statement, the expression on Julia’s face changed. She looked confused. She looked at her husband and then looked back at me. After hesitating, she replied, “He said that? I’m the one who wants to have another child. He doesn’t want any more children.”
I looked at James and he had a smile on his face. I then said to both of them, “You know, I grew up in a family of 17 children. I had eight brothers and eight sisters. When Georgette and I got married, I thought that 17 children would be too many for us to handle, so I told her that I thought 12 children would be a good size family.”
They both laughed. I followed up by saying, “Georgette grew up in a family of four children. She thought 12 children would be too overwhelming, so we ended up agreeing that a family size of six to eight children would be nice.”
I continued, “In our American culture, most young couples have been conditioned to believe that the perfect size for a family is two children — a boy and a girl. In the Catholic family-oriented environment that I grew up in, a perfect family was as many children as God sent you.”
Georgette then spoke up and told them that the best gift that they could ever give to their children would be a new baby. She talked about how children in large families learn how to share, care for others, and are less selfish because they are required to sacrifice and help out around the house.
She then told them that many couples who intentionally limit the size of their families to one or two children realize when they’re in their 70s and 80s that with all the difficulties and hardships that they had to go through, their lives would not have been any harder if they had chosen to have more children.
I jumped back into the conversation and told them that it drives me crazy when I see articles that talk about how much it costs to raise a child. Some of the articles I’ve read claim that the cost to raise a child to adulthood can amount to several hundred thousand dollars. I explained to them that those claims are ridiculous and that our experience was that every time we had a new baby, God blessed our family financially, so we were able to afford the costs associated with raising the child.
I told them that when Georgette and I grow older, if we need someone to care for us, we’ll have a much better chance that one or more of our children or grandchildren will be willing to assist us. I made the obvious point that couples who intentionally limit the size of their families are at risk of spending their final years alone in a nursing home, with very few visitors.
Georgette then talked about how much fun she is having now that she is a grandmother. We both explained that children who grow up with babies around them usually have several children of their own after they get married.
While Georgette and I were talking, both James and Julia made comments about how they had never heard or considered the points we were making. They appeared to be genuinely appreciative of what we were telling them. By the end of our conversation, it appeared as though they were willing to reconsider whether they were going to have more children. Julia thanked us for sharing our experiences with them.
I frequently bring up the topic of family size with young couples because I believe that as a devout Catholic, I have an obligation to tell other people about the benefits of allowing God to play a part in determining the size of their family. After Georgette and I had seven children, we wanted more, but it wasn’t in God’s plan to send us more. To us, “the perfect family” was what God blessed us with.
There is a strong likelihood that if Georgette and I had not shared our beliefs and experiences about family size with James and Julia, they would have never heard those beliefs and experiences from anyone else.
Julia was not upset that I had tricked her into having a conversation about family size. Georgette and I had a lot of fun feeding off each other and explaining the joys and blessings of having a large family. Because of the experience we had in teaching natural family planning for 17 years (during the 1980s and 1990s), we knew exactly what to say and how to say it. We were the perfect tag team.
Our conversation with James and Julia was a reminder to me about how thankful I am that God gave me and Georgette the grace and guidance to make the right decisions concerning our marriage and family.
Food for thought as we enjoy the upcoming thanksgiving season.