First comes love, then comes marriage…
You know what comes after. Children, lots of children.
Like some of my peers, I opted for one.
The One Child sat me up and told me in the most serious tone that she could muster, “I want a sister.” I sat there, uncomprehending. She tried again. “Or a brother…” I thought I detected a note of desperation on that one.
Why? My voice was incredulous.
“So I have someone to play with.” Now, that one’s easy. I told her she has her friends, her classmates. She said, “No, at night, when you are not yet here. Yoyow bites (she’s our Maltese) and Yaya always has to finish something…”
What do I say to that except that as an only child, she did not want for anything. We went on fancy vacations, she had shoes when she needed shoes, she went to the best school, did not have to go mano y mano for a toy, or food, or her parents’ affections.
She does not know what she is asking for.
Or maybe she knows what she is asking for.
There was a time thousands of years ago when man was compelled to make his descendants innumerable as the stars in heaven. The top honors went to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev of Shuya, Russia who gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets between 1725 and 1765 in a total of 27 confinements – that’s 69 children in all! This was the highest officially recorded number of children born to one woman.
Yes – having a big family – this one I know. I had a big family too.
My Grandma D and Granda E had 10 and 6 children, respectively. Their children, in turn, had 3 or 4 each.
So I had some 30 or so cousins and we were quite a gang. We were fearless – we rode on the back of a truck together at top speed without any form of protection, and would even howl in enjoyment when the tires would meet a speed bump, wind on our faces, and on our countenances, pure joy. We would go cavorting to the fair together and overwhelm the ferris wheel operator with our sheer number, or go swimming, or see a procession, candles dripping, and heckle whomever we wanted to. We went to vacations riding a jeepney that had a wooden plank in the middle so all of us will fit because it is unthinkable for us to be apart. We told stories as we ate, any and all stories, and slept side by side on makeshift beds.
Actually, I do not remember anything bad about having too many of us. Somehow, it was okay. Somehow, we always had enough.
And then the world shifted and children were no longer the rage – economies were flailing, China had the one-child policy and women, no longer relegated to the role of mere child-bearers and rearers, became partner in making ends meet. This meant that they had less time to have children, less time for children, less inclination to add to their families another mouth to feed.
Being practical was the norm.
And so my daughter ended up with no sibling and a total of 6 cousins who live hours and continents from her.
It was a financially sound plan. It was a practical plan. But I did not count on sadness.
It made me think too.
Yes, having many children could be expensive. Yes, they mean additional expenses – for food, transportation, clothing, healthcare, yaya-care, education and higher education. Or a lifetime of having someone tug at your skirts.
But, in focusing on the economics, have we forgone what could be, in our life, a lot more of them little miracles?
I look at the One Child and realize that yes, yes, I do want another one. Like her.
And so I call her, smiling, and tell her maybe next year. There was a loud, joyous cry followed by a tight hug.
Yeah, I can get used to having more of this.
Article by Issa. Art by D. Copyright 2009.
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