It’s official: Koch baby No. 8 is coming soon to a hospital near you. Glad though the tidings be, I’m sorry to say the news almost finished off my dear old dad. A pragmatist of the first order, my father looks at my family and sees a finite amount of financial resources versus a growing (I won’t quite say infinite) number of mouths consuming those resources. He loves all the mouths—er, I mean children—but I think he sees our situation sort of like the problem with Social Security—the math just ain’t working out. And unlike Social Security, the Feds won’t print money for the Koch family if we get in a pinch.
It all causes Dad a lot of hand wringing, which turns into lectures for me on the law of supply and demand, college tuition, etc. It’s a bit like the strange interrogation my wife Cheryl experiences at the OB’s office these days. Twice now, with two different doctors, they gestured to her growing belly and asked, “Are you aware of birth control options?” I pleaded with her to play dumb and exclaim, “Birth control? Why of all the newfangled things! What will they think of next?” But Cheryl just smiled and thanked them kindly for explaining the birds and the bees to her once again.
So the doctors and my dad (and most of the country) agree that we must either be ignorant or mentally ill to have such a large family. As a result, I was not eager to announce another pregnancy and was tempted to see if we could slip the new baby into the mix without much notice.
But eventually I mustered some courage and sat down with my dad and gently said, “I’ve got some news. …” He immediately gasped, “Oh no, she’s pregnant!”
“Cheer up, Pop,” I consoled him, pointing out some other ways to view the situation.
In the first place, feeding another little mouth isn’t a big deal—another scoop of oatmeal ought to do the trick. Also, not everyone has the same nutritional requirements. Ten-year-old Kaleb, for example, probably chows his way through three-quarters of the food budget. The rest of us accept that and make do.
Of course, limited resources mean there is always a runt in the litter, and for us it’s 4-year-old Claire. But she’s a happy runt. Always with a smile beaming on her face, she’s first in line to hug her brothers and sisters. Recently I caught Claire as she gazed lovingly at baby brother Daniel, and after a minute of reflection, she turned to the rest of us and declared, “Daniel is a lump of gold!”
Claire hit on something important—a reason why we might want to hold off viewing children merely as resource-intensive carbon-emitters. Consider Benjamin Franklin, for example—another eighth child. To him we credit the stove, the lightning rod, and bifocals. He also started the first hospital, fire department, library, post office, and insurance company. Oh, and we should also mention he was a Founding Father and architect of the United States of America. How many lives were saved or improved by that eighth child?
Now, I’m not saying we all need to have tons of children, although getting beyond our knee-jerk fear of procreation would be nice. And a child does not have to be Ben Franklin to bring value. For our part, Baby Koch will do just fine. He will grow and will have needs, and those needs will help support the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. And as a bearer of God’s image, he’s likely to bring about a lot of love and beauty besides. It’s this last benefit that probably inspired Mother Theresa to quip, “How can you say, ‘There are too many children?’ That’s like saying there are too many flowers.”