WHY I WANT CHILDREN (5-26-05)
November 1st. That date or a day in its immediate vicinity is the moment when my life will change irrevocably, according to a doctor who seems to know a great deal about these things. It's a lot to think about, and even more to plan about. As with other elements of my life thus far, some plans will be made beforehand, and some will come about on the spot, but come Halloween (appropriate, that), it is no longer in the realm of theory. It is fact.
From the mouth of my roommate, deanpence--as he watches Seinfeld, the most single and childless show on television--comes the obvious question: "Why in the hell are you having children?"
Which is actually a very good question.
I had heard before from fairly reliable sources that the decision to have children doesn't tend to come logically, but rather emotionally. It turns out that, at least in our case, this is true. We were just ready. It was time. But that's a bit too airy-fairy, and not the whole truth. Here are some of the more concrete, arguable reasons why I want to have a child.
After 31 years of seeing the world through these eyes, I would like the opportunity to see them through a fresh pair. Children see things in different ways, in different contexts, and from different historical perspectives than adults, and I'm very curious about that.
I would like to teach someone about the world. I'm no good at teaching large groups of children--that's why I'm not a teacher--but I am very good at sharing ideas one-on-one. And in that sharing, I want to find out if I know as much about life as I think I do. And as I find out, I would like to learn the things I don't know, helped by questions that I myself wouldn't have thought to ask.
I want to play. As adults, we often get caught up in our adult lives and never spare time to do what I believe is one of the most natural human activities: Playing. For at least a little while, I will get to play with someone who really wants to, really knows how, and has no qualms about it whatsoever.
I love my wife enough to want her to experience all of these things as well.
Okay, that's the floaty hippie stuff. While all of that is on the top of my list, here, with full disclosure, is the elitist and potentially offensive part.
I believe that the world is populated with emotionally maladjusted people. I'd put it as high as 75% of the population. Don't blame me, it's just the facts. These people tend to have more children than those who are more emotionally healthy, perpetuating the problem and the population imbalance. If there's a chance that I can put at least one more mentally healthy person into the world, I think it's worth 18 to 22 years of sacrifice. It's a crapshoot, of course, but I think the odds are at least decent.
I hold the same statistic to be true about free thinkers. There are far too many people walking around believing that what is simply is and should always be, no questions asked. Despite the pain and suffering I'm sure it will cause me starting about 13 years from now, I would like to bring someone into the world who is under the impression that all assumptions should be questioned.
Now, those of you with children, don't get out your blowdarts with the Elephant Tranquilizer Of Reality just yet. I know it's a roll of the dice. I don't know the temperament of this kid, nor do I know what events will shape their personality over the time that they're in my care or afterwards. I know that the best laid plans often end up obscured by the best laid piles of life's poo, ever issuing, ever vigilant. I know this because I've been a child myself, and have had life poop on me enough in 31 years that I know the smell by now. (Still looking for a way to plug that cosmic anus...)
But despite the problems, pain, and disappointment I've encountered, I find that I'm still happy I was born. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to experience this world, breathe its air, hear its music, and catch glimpses beyond its horizons into whatever it is we're all a part of.
Despite my darkest observations on the current state of this country and much of the world, I believe we are living in the most hopeful time thus far in human history. Boundaries between cultures are being permeated daily, despite preventative attempts by those who fear change. Air travel, television, and the internet have made the world much smaller, and yet much larger than it ever has been before. Our understanding of the universe has grown by leaps and bounds even since my birth in 1974. Imagine how much more we will understand by 2023, when my child will reach adulthood.
In those dark moments I experience upon reading headlines of the direction our government is heading, I do hold a fear of my child growing up in a twisted, prejudiced, murderous mess of a society with as little regard for its own citizens as for those who happen to be born elsewhere in the world. But then I remember that I was a Watergate baby, a child of the Vietnam War, a Cold War target on a Soviet map. How many times have my coordinates been slated for destruction or sacrifice? Nations have done wrong before, and they will continue to do so. Throughout history, children have been brought into existence to find themselves in the middle of conflicts that they themselves did not start.
But what hope can we have for the future of the human race if not hope for the next generation? The blessing of our society is that human life ends, and new life takes its place. With each death and new birth comes the opportunity for change, for replacing hardened and unquestioned worldviews with fresh perspectives and unbridled hope. If just one of my child's dreams comes true, I hope they will be glad that they were born. Their life is something only my wife and I can bring about, and in that lies an opportunity that I don't want to miss out on.
So all of that, with flowery flag held high, roughly covers my reasons for wanting to have children. You may agree with them or not, and frankly, I don't care. Everyone must do what they feel is right in their own lives, and this feels as right as anything has for me since I decided to baffle everyone by breaking my lifelong ban on getting married 7 years ago.
Once more unto the baffling...