Marry Young (and Well), Have Many Children Early (But Responsibly)
I have been mulling this post for awhile. What I am going to say will likely cause quite a few folks to bristle, but here it goes: I honestly hope my kids marry (well) young and have many kids early.
I realize that is something of an anathema statement even to modern conservatives. But I truly feel that if the culture is to survive, we need to restore the inter-generational continuity of a half century ago.
I drank the post-sexual revolution Kool-Aid in college. I am as guilty of the mistake of waiting as anyone. I married at 30. I'm now 44 and I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old. I love them both more than words can express. I would have loved to have had more, but the waiting has now made that impossible for my wife for health reasons. We're considering adoption, but I am appalled at what a bizarre racket it is.
There are three things that make late child bearing/rearing out of sync (in my experience/opinion). First, kids demand a huge amount of energy and patience. I can't speak for others, but I know I now have less of both than I did in my twenties. I'll be pushing 60 when my first child gets out of high school, and over 60 when my youngest does.
Granted, 60 is much younger than it used to be (though the genetics of male longevity are not good for me), but the point stands. The arcs of life -- from childhood to young adulthood, and from adulthood to middle age -- are both still ascendant. Waiting until middle age to be a parent puts you and your children's arcs of life on different trajectories. Instead of both rising, one is rising as the other declines.
And don't have a small family. Have a large one, responsibly (i.e., don't exceed means, but don't put material wealth above sanguine wealth). Siblings prevent kids from becoming narcissists. We are creating children with wildly unrealistic perceptions of how much focus and attention they can expect in life. I firmly believe this sets them up for great disappointment, and potential failure later. We are also creating a barely replacement-level population if we limit ourselves to two children. We should have faith to invest in the human capital of the future.
The final dysfunction of the prevailing "wait to have kids" model is the diminishing overlap with grandparents' lives. My kids will never know my father (he died two years before my first was born). There is not a day that goes by that I do not lament that fact. Aaron Miller's recent post reinforces that this phenomenon is not unique to me.
I know the arguments against early marriage and child rearing -- go to school, get yourself financially established, etc. I fell for them too. Frankly, I think they are ridiculous. The vast majority of the world raises far larger families than we do on a fraction of our GDP. It is only materialist selfishness that made the prevailing ideology the norm. In fact, I find that worldview to be unabashedly liberal, not conservative. Delaying responsibility has only extended the infantile adolescence we all criticize. You want an adult civic populace? Give them adult responsibilities. There is no greater responsibility than having kids.
Now, I caveat all this with admonition that you must marry well. Both husband and wife must enter into the marriage contract with mutually-agreed visions, goals and beliefs. Deep and abiding faith (as distinct from going-through-the-motions denominational affiliation) is the most proven method for achieving this. If that is done, the gates of hell cannot prevail against what the couple and God will establish.
Here endeth the lesson.