Love or Dogs?

A few years ago, my sister and her family were taking a “staycation.” At the time she had only four children and she invited me with my two (at the time) to come enjoy the resort pool for a day. As we were walking back to their suite, six kids in tow, we passed a couple of women who literally gasped at us. “They aren’t all yours?” One asked my sister, almost sounding a little panicked. “No,” I spoke up, “some are mine.” “Oh, thank God!!!” the woman said, full of relief,  as we walked on.

Since then, both my sister and I have added, through the grace and blessing of God, to our respective broods. Now that I’m the one hauling around four kids (one still in utero) I find the same kind of comments directed at me. From “Oh, you have your hands full,” to “Aren’t you going to get your husband fixed?” In fact the nicest thing people seem to be able to come up with is “Oh, you’ll be even,” meaning that now we have two boys and two girls.

It’s a little strange that in a culture that places so much emphasis on moral relativism that the choice my husband and I have made to have more than two children is unwelcome. Perhaps people feel as though we are forcing our morals on them by not diving head first into the contraceptive culture after our second child was born. Yet while reflecting on this nearly universal reaction, I have noticed a strange phenomenon—people do not have the same reactions to dogs. Dog “parents,” it seems, are just as acceptable these days as real parents. What I mean is that you never hear anyone criticized for taking on a third dog. For example, at one point my in-laws had four dogs and no one ever asked them if they knew what causes puppies.

Culturally, we even go so far as to praise people the more dogs they have, especially if they adopt them. Recently, there was a headliner article on MSN.com about a couple who, after adopting their seventh dog (they had no children), had to have a custom double-king-sized bed frame made to hold two king matteress. You see, they were losing sleep because there was not enough room in their bed for them and all seven dogs. Spending lots of money on your dog, well that is all well and good. But kids are just too expensive to have more than one or two.

Now, I like my dog; I don’t even mind when my son’s uber-annoying puppy jumps up into bed with me at night. Dogs can do some amazing things. My brother’s new roommate has epilepsy and just aquired a service dog who is trained to detect a seizure before it happens, allowing his roommate to take medication to stop it. It’s quite remarkable. Yet with all the incredible ways dogs can help us, they aren’t our children or our grandchildren. They are just dogs. They have no immortal souls. They are not made in the image of God.

Our children are. The future of our country depends upon us re-learning this fact. Human children have an intrinsic value simply because they are human. Sure, dogs are more trainable than kids (they don’t have reason or free will), but too many of us are taking the easy path of “dog children” instead of real children. For those of us that do, we are missing out. Dogs, while they can be loyal to us humans, cannot actually love. Children can and do. What is more, children will grow up and learn to love other people. St. Teresa of Calcutta was someone’s child who grew up to devote herself to the poor of India, not a well-trained therapy dog.

I wish I had more time with the people who comment on the size of my family. I wish I could show them how each of my children is a unique and unrepeatable gift. If only they would take a few minutes they might realize that our children are the fruit of my husband’s love for me and my love for him. Every child born changes the world in some way. Each has the potential for sainthood, each is meant for sainthood. Every child is meant for love, to give it as well as to receive it, and that is reason enough to have one more.

Rebecca Roberts