Friday, January 8, 2016

Reproductivity, Family Trees, and Stupidity

My family tree is far more convoluted than is this piteous stock illustration.


My newest cousin has a name, Kensington Malia, though the name won't be considered "official" until the child is blessed in the Church. If her father screws it up in the blessing ceremony, the name will have to be changed on the birth certificate. Don't scoff, as it's happened before. Kensington Malia. I'll leave readers guessing as to whether "Kensington" is one of the few real cousin names I've posted, or if, as in a case of most of the cousins I've listed, it's a para-wording of the actual name.

It seems that I wrote prematurely, or at least incorrectly, when I suggested that Kensington was likely to be my final first cousin. Another aunt is pregnant again. I won't even go to the pretense of suggesting that this cousin-to-be is the final installment in this generation of the family. God only knows how many more babies my rabbit-like aunts will squeeze out, and I'm not sure even God knows. He (or She) is probably throwing  His (or Her) hands in the air in disbelief even as I type these words.

I tallied my cousins just because I needed something to occupy my mind for a moment while a professor was lecturing abut something that was making me queasy. On my mom's side I have a total of nineteen cousins. On my dad's side, I currently have sixty-five cousins. (One cousin, William, was born after I compiled the list of cousins on my dad's side.) If nature proceeds as planned, although I highly doubt this blessed event was ever planned, the grand total will expand to sixty-six. (Eighty-five will be the collective total of first first cousins for me.) Only time will tell in regard to the finality of this number. For the record, the next generation is moving along in oyster-like fashion. (Oysters are among the most prolific of breeders of complex organisms, even more so than rabbits.)

Last night my brother was pondering aloud concerning the reasons for my fathers' siblings fecundity. The possible reasons may vary from one couple to the next. My father is one of ten surviving offspring, so he and his siblings have a head start in terms of filling up an entire republican caucus with just their own seed. Four of the ten had only two surviving children each, but the remaining six more than made up for their siblings' reproductive slacking. The reasons I have so many cousins on my dad's side, according to my brother -- and for once he's not totally out in right field and actually has a bit of a grasp of the reality of the circumstances -- are varied. 

Some of my aunts and uncles have large families because they feel that it's what God and the Church expect of them. Birth control has never been officially banned for Mormons, although some members of the LDS faith have interpreted various words of caution from church leaders against limiting family size as a de facto prohibition of artificial methods of birth control. Even among those who don't consider birth control to be against the Church's teachings, the prevailing belief is that God wants LDS couples to have as many children as they can support without risking the health of the mother. (Risking the health of the mother is a subjectively-defined term. To the most ignorant LDS adherents, if conception alone doesn't risk the mother's life, it's considered a safe undertking.) Among some members of the faith and certainly in some branches of my family, children are seen as empirical data supporting evidence of their parents' righteousness. 

It seems worth noting that the reigning LDS Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Thomas S. Monson, and his late wife Frances, had only three children. My best guess without actually being privy to any inside information would be that the late Mrs. Monson probably delivered her children via Caesarean section in the days of lengthy vertical incisions, when three was usually the highest number of such deliveries recommended most doctors.

Others of my aunts and uncles may like sex. Some may be too inept to use birth control effectively. In other cases, they may be too lazy to use birth control effectively. Regardless of the underlying cause for the failure to implement birth control, the effect is the same: too many offspring.

Matthew threw this last possible reason for having a large number of children for entirely theoretical or academic purposes. Some people have many children because they genuinely enjoy children. There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that it applies in the instances of my father's siblings who have large numbers of children. The only members of my father's family (other than his mother) who actually like children are the ones who had only two children. It's possible that this phenomenon -- the actual liking of children by those who have only two children -- may actually be an effect rather than a cause. Such certainly makes sense, as it's easier to enjoy children if one doesn't have to clear a path or risk stepping on half a dozen of them every time one needs to use the bathroom.

Matthew shared something in class today about the birth of our sixty-fifth cousin on my dad's side. This led to an extensive discussion (irritating me somewhat, because I'm paying for my education, and I don't need to waste lecture time for which I've paid by talking about how many cousins I have). No one in the cohort has as many cousins as Matthew and I do. I know sixty-five is not a world, national, or even local record. With high birth rate being prevalent among Mormons,  there would likely be numerous LDS families who would edge past our family in terms of sheer numbers. For one thing, there were four reproductive slouches in my dad's family of ten children. Sometimes the original families have zero slouches. 

Most of my cousins on my dad's side have even more cousins than I do. Most of them are LDS on both sides, and while the numbers of cousins on the other sides of their families don't necessarily reach the sixties, they do quite possibly reach the forties. They have fewer cousins on my side than I do, because some of those large nuclear families I count as cousins are siblings to them. Still, their overall numbers of cousins may be close to or even in excess of one hundred.

Then again, my number of cousins is probably close to the 99th percentile ranking. If you look at a family such as the Duggars, it wouldn't take very many families of nineteen to overtake my dad's family. I don't think either Jim Bob's or Michelle's siblings have contributed enough collective spawn to their litters of cousins to overtake us. Most likely Jim Bob's children will reproduce enough offspring to best my generation of cousins in the population war, as will their friends the Bates family and some of the other Quiverfull Movement fundies.

Several times my large number of cousins has come up in discussions. Usually people just scratch their heads at the insanity of it. Once in awhile someone will insist in response that they have at least as many cousins as I do. (In some of these cases, people are counting step-siblings and live-in pseudo-siblings from several different relationships. It's not the same thing. If someone was neither born nor legally adopted into a family, they don't count in the total of cousins. Furthermore, it's not a contest any intelligent person would desire to win. Sometimes less is more.) In some cases the ones professing to have more first cousins than I are people I actually know, and I know their estimated numbers to be wildly inaccurate. I could ask  them to actually count their cousins, but I let it go. If they really want to believe that their extended family is even more stupid than mine is, they are free to bask in their mistaken ignorance with my blessing.

12 comments:

  1. I always expected to have a bunch of kids. You plan, God laughs, right?

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  2. Both of my parents say they always assumed they'd have children, but they both said they wanted a small number pf kids. My mom says she wanted four (which would be a small number small for either of my parents since they were one of ten and one of seven), but I wonder if she says that so that Matthew and I wouldn't assume we would never have been born if the first twins had made it.

    My grandma told me my dad was always very good with babies. he was the oldest in his huge family. My grandma said that my dd started saying after one of his sisters died of SIDS when he was twelve that he wasn't going to have any children. He says he was very grief-stricken when his younger sister died. I suppose I'm lucky that he changed his mind.

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  3. Even though it is against the law to have more than one wife, it is not against the law to have a wife and other woman who live with you and bear you children! So I saw in a magazine a picture of a LDS guy and his 64 children and read the story.

    I do not consider it wrong but it is different and that is why it was in a magazine. Alexis, how many children do you want? I realize you may hate me for some reason but I do not hold it against you. I love your writing and that is why I read your blog. Also there are people in Hollywood who loved each other and got divorced and hated each other. Then they got married to each other again. I am sorry if I am doing something that annoys you, but I know not what it is. If you give me hint, maybe I can figure it out.

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  4. My stepdad had 5 in his previous marriage. His 6th grandchild is due in the spring. I am amazed by the symmetry ... out of the 6 children he's fathered, 3 boys and 3 girls, he has 3 grandsons and 3 granddaughters as well. From the aunt and uncle who have 8, there are 2 boys and 6 girls. The uncle has a sister who also has 8 children ... 2 boys and 6 girls. It's way more amusing to me than it should be.

    I may venture to guess that Kensington is the real name. It sounds incredibly Mormon to me.

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    1. The symmetry thing is odd to me, too.

      I have know idea what made them think of it, except that another relative lives on Kensington Drive or Kensington Avenue or Kinsington Court or something like that. I'm too lazy to look it up.

      I wonder if they'll actually call her Kensington.

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    2. I think it's mainly Mormon in that Mormons have so many children that they run out of normal names to give their kids and have to give the ones at the end of the line really stupid names.

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    3. I think it's mainly Mormon in that Mormons have so many children that they run out of normal names to give their kids and have to give the ones at the end of the line really stupid names.

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    4. The symmetry thing is odd to me, too.

      I have know idea what made them think of it, except that another relative lives on Kensington Drive or Kensington Avenue or Kinsington Court or something like that. I'm too lazy to look it up.

      I wonder if they'll actually call her Kensington.

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  5. I have a nephew named Teancum. I can't bring myself to call him that (I call him Mr. T.) We have a common last name so they do go to some effort to be clever. La Perla

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    1. Teancum. Wow. I'm almost surprised one of my dad's sisters have used that name for any of their sons. I don't blame you for using a nickname for the poor guy.

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