What could have been a city

Yesterday, I shared this news with great enthusiasm. A couple welcoming their 100th grandchild is surely reason to celebrate; may God continue to bless this amazing family.

And yet, the longer I thought about it, the more I started to wonder that the numbers were a little off.

Think through this with me, if you would.

The grandmother commented that the family was large enough to comprise a town, and indeed, the original parents, 12 children, 53 grandchildren, 46 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild, adds up to 114 before counting spouses; that is in fact larger than many towns.

But let’s examine the numbers a little more for the sake of argument.

The original parents have been married 59 years and had 12 children. For the sake of this argument, we will say they had them over 15 years, allowing for 1 a year, with a couple years off in between. Thus if they had the first after their 1st year of marriage, the oldest is roughly 57, and the youngest is 42.

Thus all the children are past the normal ages for having children. That means the 12 children had 53 children of their own, or roughly 4.42 each.

That means each child had roughly 1/3 the number of children their parents had.
Let’s apply that ratio to the great-grandchildren. If each has 1/3 the number of children their parents did, that is 1.47 per household, the total number of great-grandchildren will be 77.91 (remember that some of the great-grandchildren are likely still fairly young and have not reached adulthood yet).

Based on the same math of each great-grandchild having 1/3 the number of children their parents had, the average per home is now .49. Which means some will not have children at all.

Why do I bring this up?

When I saw this story, I thought to myself that it was an immense blessing for this family to have so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. And truly it is.

But then my inquisitive nature took over and did some math; do you see what happened? Each generation had fewer than the previous.

This shocked me because I used to think children from large families would in turn have equally large families (though some would consider 4 children a huge family). That is not the case here. Just as it is not the case anywhere in society; on the average, no one is having very many kids, hence the US birthrate is barley holding at 2 children per household.

I wonder how many children each of the Dugger children (of 19 Kids and Counting) will have. I wonder how many children from other large families will have.

Consider what the numbers would be if each of the original 12 children had 12 children each, and they each had 12 children each; that is 144 grandchildren and 1728 great-grandchildren. That alone would comprise a good size town, and we have not yet accounted for any of the great-great-grandchildren.

I am not suggesting that this should have happened, but rather to shine a light on the declining size of families, and what that looks like in real numbers.

Which leads us to the final aspect of this: the grandparents. As a pastor, I have observed and heard on many occasions the saying ‘that if I had known grandkids were this much fun I would have had them first.’ I certainly believe this quotation, and have seen the excitement of their faces as they watch their grandchildren grow up.

This family certainly knows that blessing of grandchildren, even if I have rained on the parade of the gaudy numbers. But what about that newly born great-great-grandchild? What happens in 60-70 years when he looks back on the newspaper clipping of his birth as the 100th grandchild in a family?

Will he wonder how those great-great-grandparents were able to keep everybody accounted for, especially on birthdays and at Christmas? Did he marvel at the line in the article about the 50 pounds of ham or 10 turkeys needed to feed everyone?

Or will he wonder what it is like to have a single grandchild, let alone 100? For what once would have been a small town, now comfortably fits around a single kitchen table.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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