Two months ago, The Telegraph of London announced the results of a survey that claimed the key to a happy home life is having precisely two daughters, with the unhappiest of all possible combinations of children being four daughters.
The authors of the survey polled 2,116 parents of children age 16 and under. They found that having two girls made for the "most harmonious family life as they are unlikely to fight, will play nicely and are generally a pleasure to be around . . . they rarely annoy their parents, make limited noise, often confide in their parents and are unlikely to wind each other up or ignore each other."
On the other hand, a four-girl combo produces the most tension among parents because of the girls' collective tendency to squabble and wind each other up. Parents of four girls supposedly find their children impossible to deal with when the children are ill and they spend the most time helping the girls try to get along.
"The mums and dads we polled obviously dearly love their children," said Faye Mingo, spokeswoman for the parenting website Bounty.com, "but those with bigger families find it much harder to keep the peace on a daily basis."
The premise of the article is interesting, if not a bit amusing. My defensive nature initially wants to go to bat on behalf of my family of four girls to let the world know that we don't consider ourselves to be the unhappiest lot around; rather, we actually enjoy having four daughters. So there!
I recognize that some of the findings may seem true of my family (though I would argue the same can be said of all families, regardless of size or gender combos). But the study is flawed not because of what it "found" but because of what it presupposed-that happiness should be the primary goal in planning a family.
I'm not trying to debunk the desire for happiness in the family. I appreciate peace and laughter and pleasant times just as much as everyone else. I'm just questioning the idea of happiness as the pinnacle to which a family should aspire.
My husband and I didn't have children because we thought they would make us happy; we had children because the Scriptures teach that children are a blessing from the Lord and one of the most significant ways He teaches us about Himself and the process of sanctification.
The key to happiness is not found in the number of children one has, it isn't found in the boy/girl ratio of children, and it shouldn't be looked for in a magical perfect family combo. It's true that my family of four girls, two dogs, one mom, and one dad know how to argue with each other and push each other's buttons. But we also know how to ask forgiveness of each other and seek to restore our relationships. These periods of restoration are sweet times indeed.
Happy times, even.