“I said to people [after having a certain number], ‘I’m retired.’ I got one to do the laundry, one the baking; they rotate their duties.”
Mrs. Dippolito realized quickly that many members in the family does not mean simply more work to do, but more to do the work. It also means more to give love. As she explains, “When number nineteen came, the family gave him love. He got so much love from the family. If he was an only child, he would never have gotten so much love! The mother can only give so much love. When you have a large family, the children are getting all kinds of love from all their brothers and sisters. There’s nothing more joyful than a baby.”
It is not size in itself, of course, that brings virtue to a family. It's how the family members see their relationship with each other, and with their daily tasks. The Dippolito family knew the Christian value of work, and how work shapes the human person. Mrs. Dippolito told me, “Each child had a responsibility. We butchered our meat; we had a dairy cow. It was a mini-farm on ten acres. A priest friend used to ask us: ‘Is there anything in this house that is not homemade?’ [They made their own butter, and altar candles.] Some of the talents they have they learned from their grandparents. I sew, but now my kids make my clothes for me. I gave to them, but look what I got back!”
This attitude stands in sharp contrast to the “give your children all they want” mentality, for which Mrs. Dippolito has some strong words: “No. That’s the worst thing that you could do! Just providing everything their heart desires that’s absolutely wrong. They need to develop their talents. Doing is learning. They have to be doers. This was the law of the family: by doing they were learning. By working for something they respect it. The more you give, there’s your happiness; that’s what you have to teach your children.”
Mrs. Dippolito speaks of the joy she has in her children: “Watching them grow, seeing the things that they give back. Seeing them become good citizens. My daughter is a nurse and has helped bring people back to life. Look at the great joys! You watch them take their first step, say their first word – these are things that money can’t buy! The blessings far outweigh the hardships. The world dwells on the hardships. Everything has pain and joy with it. You have to take the bitter with the sweet. We aren’t in heaven yet!”
The next time you hear someone say, “Two children are more than enough,” pass along the story of Mrs. Dippolito.
Fr. Pavone is the Founding Director of Priests for Life. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.priestsforlife.org.