July-August 1997

The Large Family: A Blessing and a Challenge.  By Eugene F. Diamond, M.D. Ignatius. 165 pages. $9.95.

What was once considered deviant in our culture is now touted as just another “lifestyle choice,” and sometimes a preferable one. The prevalence of unwed motherhood, divorce, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, marijuana use, agnosticism, and abortion indicate a fundamental shift in values. It’s no coincidence that accompanying this shift have come a rise in drug addiction, violent crime, and prison populations, and a decline in family values.

Dr. Diamond argues that the root of these problems is fatherless homes. The ever-increasing incidence of children growing up without a father has led to a “decline of personal responsibility, a poverty of values, and an absence of hope.” He explains that, “when the family foundation cracks, civilization falls apart and political surrogates can’t repair the damage.”

In order to rescue our communities, the value of intact families must be understood and restored. There is no better way to do this than through example. This is why Diamond’s experiences as a father of 13 children are relevant to all.

In The Large Family Diamond doesn’t attempt to convince the reader to become the parent of a large family, but he reveals the joys of and dispels the myths about large families, and shares the lessons he has learned.

Diamond believes that large families are a sign of optimism. But more importantly, they demonstrate our faith in God. When asked, “Why have a large family?” Diamond responds, “To cooperate in God’s plan by accepting children as gifts.”

However, bearing or fathering children is only the beginning. Parents must be ever-present in their children’s lives, instilling in them a love for God, a reverence for life, and in general building in them a strong moral character. This cannot be done merely through words, but must be shown through actions — a way of life.

This is a daunting task, and any parent, regardless of family size, should recognize the unique opportunity of learning from a father who successfully raised 13 children, all of whom went to graduate school, and most of whom are now married with children of their own.

Diamond doesn’t minimize the difficulties involved. He explains that being a parent goes hand-in-hand with self-sacrifice. Money and success cannot be the goals of a good parent. “When agreed upon levels of income and savings are reached, the dividends should accrue to family life.” A father and mother “must accept duties that aren’t self-fulfilling and may even be career-destroying.” Diamond nevertheless points out that the benefits and rewards of family life are far greater than any job or sum of money can provide. Diamond gives good reasons for having a large family, and gives courage to those considering having one. He extends an invitation, but doesn’t belittle those who don’t accept.

When it comes to social problems, the most important thing about your family is that it remain intact. The intact family is the optimal moral educator of children. When it breaks apart, the all-too-frequent results can be easily seen by turning on the six o’clock news.

- Maria V. Briggs





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