The Slow-Cooked Sentence

More is merrier

Rachael Conlin Levy

It’s nice to read a book that let’s me off the hook as a parent, a book that encourages me to loosen up and enjoy my kids knowing that their health, intelligence, happiness, success, character and values are largely determined by behavioural genetics and not parental effort. (I read the list again, then smile and sigh.)

“If you imagine that your children’s future is in your hands, and single-mindedly do ‘whatever is best for your kids,’ then one child is more than enough to ruin your life,” Bryan Caplan writes in “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.” “But once you accept that your children’s future is largely up to them and remember that your happiness counts, too, an unplanned set of twins is no big deal.”

I should know this because I’ve been conducting my own unplanned twin experiment for 10 years, yet I still benefit from the reminder. Why? Caplan said it’s the illusion of control, and I think he’s right based on my own odd couple. It makes no difference whether I cajole, command or censure, one son stays sloppy. And no matter how much I rebuke or remind, the other son holds grudges. If I mashed the two of them together I’d come up with a perfect and boring kid, but why manipulate, mold and mangle my kids when research has proven that nature, and not nurture, is the main reason people turn out the way they do? I shouldn’t feel guilty that my 3-year-old has cavities and I shouldn’t push academics on my brainy 13-year-old. After all, I don’t try to change my friends and I can’t change my husband (although I’ve tried once or twice), so why not just let my kids be?

“If you push yourself, you might be a first-rate tutor, coach, driver and cheering section for two children. With four kids, there aren’t enough hours in the day to wear every hat well,” Caplan writes.

The more the merrier

The other half of Caplan’s book addresses why we should have more kids:

“We may feel sure that the pursuit of happiness and kids (or at least more kids) are incompatible, but it is the average person’s enlightened self-interest to have more kids,” he writes. “That’s right – people are not having enough children for their own good.  Prospective parents need to take another look before they decide not to leap.  Current parents need to take another look before they decide not to leap again.”

He gives four big reasons for having more, but, in my case, he was preaching to the choir, since my small army is often more than I can handle.  I put down the book and came up with a few reasons why I love my fantastic four: They entertain themselves (and me). They are cheap labor so long as my standards for cleanliness are low. We contain a wow-factor when out in public together. And they are efficient berry-pickers, although I must work quickly if I want to make jam.

10 responses to “More is merrier”

  1. anno says:

    There’s a lot to Caplan’s arguments, not the least of which is one he doesn’t mention: that cultivating an attitude that sees all things as gifts probably helps bring more peace than the feeling that your happiness is dependent on getting the things you think you want. Seems like that’s a challenge for all people … having children, though, kind of forces a person to face the issue.

  2. Rachael says:

    Wise words, Anno.

  3. gracia says:

    “And they are efficient berry-pickers, although I must work quickly if I want to make jam.”

    I like this visual full stop to this post. Made me smile.

  4. Rachael says:

    Generating smiles makes me happy.

  5. Andrea says:

    Hmm, maybe I should “try for a girl” like everyone tells me (though more likely I’d produce triplet boys).

  6. Rachael says:

    If there’s any mama who could handle four, you’d be it!

  7. Ben Raskin says:


    Great post. I like how seemless your writing is. It must be difficult to find time to post and still raise a menagerie of children. As for the mojitos, make sure Marcel puts his back into it. There’s nothing worse than having a poorly muddled drink.

    All the best, Benny

  8. Lifewithoutmathematics says:

    Lovely! I think the nurture/ nature argument is blown into the weeds once we actually have our own children. In disposition and physiology ours are chalk and cheese for Number One and Two, and just different again for Number Three. I think they are who they are, with the giftings they have or don’t have. Nurture is all important for emotional health, but for the rest of who they are….it’s up to them!

  9. Are the fantastic four available for rent?

  10. Rachael says:

    Ben, I will pass along the advice to Marcel.

    Lifewithoutmathematics, I love the chalk and cheese comparison.

    Denise, only at a fantastic price!

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