• The Right Dose

    How many children should you have? This is just one of the many troubling questions challenging our nation today. On this issue opinions are everywhere and definitive answers are scarce.

    One common notion is to “look into” or “listen to” your heart to find the answer. Unfortunately, this advice is woefully outdated. Nobody can see or hear his heart anymore as everyone’s is caked with cholesterol from overindulgence of greasy food. If our hearts are saying anything it’s a muffled cry for an angioplasty with a side order of oat bran.

    Another very common bit of advice on this matter is to have more than one child. To  have just one is cruel, some say. Those who hold this point of view are concerned that an only child will be spoiled with attention and toys from his parents and, with no siblings to play with, will be bored.

    But childhood boredom is a right of passage. All kids are bored. So what? More importantly, however, is that one child is in fact the right number for certain couples. A couple of years ago, this notion was implicitly endorsed by the actions of manufacturers of over-the-counter medications. The media spin machine didn’t quite play it this way so most people missed it. In a service to society I will review the relevant points.

    It almost goes without saying that over-the-counter drugs are a thicket of complexity and a source of tremendous confusion, especially for parents. In particular, some parents are befuddled by infant cold remedies. The confusion is twofold. First, some parents think colds can be remedied. But anyone who’s getting more than four hours of sleep per night knows there is no cure for the common cold. To be fair, some colds are uncommon and can be treated with correct application of the right remedy.

    This leads to the second source of confusion: how to apply the remedy correctly. It isn’t so simple I guess, and apparently drug manufacturers agree. Recently dozens of infant cold formulas were recalled because parents were not administering them properly. Very troubling indeed and especially so for those bewildered infants who had medicine squirted up their nose or worse. Thus a few dumb parents ruined it for the rest of us. The crux of the problem was incorrect dosing.

    “Dose” is an often misunderstood concept in parenting and for good reason. It is very puzzling and hard to get timely information. Imagine: your kid is suffering. You run to the store only to waste precious time waiting on line at the pharmacy. Back at home, dropper in one hand, screaming snot-encrusted baby in the other, you suddenly realize you need dosing information. If only someone would print it right on the box! So let’s review. The proper dose for parents in this situation is one child per lifetime. (Not to be taken with pets.) It would be dangerous and irresponsible for them to have more.

    For parents who can handle it, having two children is popular and is a common recommendation. This is likely the case because the number two has mystical appeal, inexplicable beauty, and universal symmetry. Two is the number of wings of a dove, bread slices in a sandwich, and the price in bits for a shave and haircut. There are two sides to every argument, however.

    That brings us to three. I know some people who have three children but I don’t see them much. Maybe it is so much fun to have three that the whole family just stays home all the time to enjoy their splendid three-ness. Frequently people have a third if the first two are of the same gender. They’re trying for gender diversity, which some advise. But family planning strategies of this sort can lead to large broods. Growing up I had a friend whose family had four boys and no girls. He’s a dad now and  has six girls and no boys.

    Some say it’s fun to have such a large family, the more the merrier. I suspect they’re concealing something that “fun” and “merry” don’t begin to describe.

    Finally, there is one bit of advice that everybody’s heard: money should not be a factor in deciding family size. This notion is so pervasive that the mere mention of contemplating cost is scornfully dismissed by others. Yet cost is a consideration in every other significant life decision, why not when it comes to children? That there is a constraint on resources is unavoidable, even if implicit. I might consider having three or more children if I could afford a larger house and some staff. First I’d hire someone to be in charge of drug dosing guidelines.

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    • From personal experience, and talking with others, it usually gets easier with the second child. Two kids seems like a small increase in work and time. Partially because you are better at parenting (you already know the med dose), but also because you devote a bit less time to the first. We have lots of Amish and Mennonites around here with very large families. They have the older kids helping the younger. The parents act as supervisors as much as anything.

      Steve

    • Austin, You know the answer to your question. Continue to have children up to the point where the marginal benefit no longer compensates for the addional costs 🙂
      Rex