To have or not to have, that is the question. Why, kids, of course.
Knowing that I (myself) have 2 children, I recently had a conversation with someone who shared with me -- out of the blue and without preamble -- that they feel "having kids is a waste of time". At first, I was so taken back by what this person said that I was startled. I didn't say anything at all. Honestly, I was trying to determine if that's even actually what they said. Had I misheard?
But then they repeated themself: "Kids just ... take so much from you. You have to have so much patience." and later "Just think of all the books you could read if you didn't have kids."
I was ... unprepared. I wasn't insulted exactly because this person wasn't telling me that I was wrong for having them. Just expressing his own opinion, but still, I felt a little challenged. My life choices clearly aren't the same as their life choices. Fine.
He went on to say that a friend of his had carefully examined the issue and wrote a book about it. His treatise, ultimately, argued that it was categorically unethical to bring a child into this world, with all its many problems. The book was, by all accounts, well written and received critical praise from philosophers, etc.
I didn't ask the name of the book, or its author.
Even still, I wasn't insulted. This person wasn't attacking me for choosing to have them -- merely expressing a differing opinion and life choice.
I wasn't quite sure what to say, and honestly, don't remember my full response (again, I was too caught off guard at the moment to think clearly). I know that I shared that while not having kids is not a life choice that I personally understand, I do respect those that know their limits. I think it's worse when people bring children to the world, but then don't actively parent them. So, if you can't be a parent, then by all means, please don't. Children shouldn't raise themselves.
Obviously, I have kids. 2 of my own, 2 stepsons. And I would love more than anything to have more. Sadly, I know this is where I have to stop. Even so and clearly, this puts me squarely in CAMP PARENT. More people than not have families, so you would think that I don't understand what it means to make a life choice "against the grain".
I don't know about that. I actually feel something of a pariah in society myself -- or at least in my community. Of my friends, most of them have decided that they don't want to bear children. It's more than a growing trend -- it's the norm for my circle of friends. I am the exception, rather than the rule. Either because I had children earlier than most do these days, either because I was a single mom for so long, perhaps because I have moved around so frequently all my life that I don't know the same people for more than a few years (at most), the point is that I have always been somewhat ... out on my own and odd man out. I have my family and I have a few friends -- but, for some reason, the twain don't really interact very often. Granted, there are a few exceptions, but these few special friends that accept my kids like they accept me are the exception, not the rule.
When I hear (more and more of) my friends emphasizing thier choice not to have kids, it makes me personally a little sad. I try not to judge them. I don't like them any less and I don't think that they are making wrong choices for their life. Again, if you can't be a parent, please don't be.
It is not that I feel that being a parent is the only thing to ever be in life. It's not that I feel that those who are childless have less ... anything in their life.
I will not tell you that having children is completely wonderful and enjoyable. Just this morning, I am pretty sure I wanted to rip the lips off my older child and hog tie my younger one. That isn't exactly my definition of joy.
Childless adults may say "and who wants to deal with that in their lives? I can have what I want when I want it. Why wouldn't I chose that?" Or even just "Hey, think of all the books you can read when you aren't being bothered by crazy children who make you want to rip their lips off and hog time them."
But I know love greater, because of my kids.
Those that choose to be childless have their opinions, and I have mine.
Here it is: I believe, I honestly believe, that loving a child, even if not your own, teaches you more about what love truly is more than almost any other experience possible in this life. When you love a child, it is unconditional. You give and you give and you give. You don't get from them what you give to them. You likely never will and somehow, that's okay. Because so long as you get to love them, that's enough.
And you love a child in a nonpossessive way so that it can leave you. Would you accept love like that from a spouse? I think not. Imagine a wedding where you pledge only 18 to 20 years, giving everything to them and providing them structure FULLY ENDORSING and MAKING POSSIBLE that they can then ... leave you? No. We expect our spouses to love us in return. Faithfully and to us alone and for forever. But we don't love our kids like this. We love our kids while they love other things and themselves more. We love kids even as they outgrow us. We continue to love them and rather than holding a grudge that they somehow outgrew us and thought we were morons, we welcome them back to our lives when they realize that we maybe aren't REALLY there just to ruin their lives.
Having kids isn't easy. My everyday isn't a rosy bowl of cherries with bliss exploding everywhere. I don't always get to do what I want. They keep me in the house when I want to roam the world. I have to have patience to refrain from actually ripping their lips off. They make lots of noise. They bounce all over my house. They question me. They drive me crazy.
But I have gotten so much from it that it doesn't always feel so difficult. Because I love them. My instinct is that I want for everyone to experience this great thing as I have. I want everyone to have what I have .. and I have to work to recognize that there ther are other ways of learning love. This is just how I was blessed to learn it.
I believe that if we all know better love, if we all love our neighbor in a greater capacity, we really could make a difference in our world.
Love is never a waste a time.
To have or not to have. To be (a parent) or not to be. In the end, all is okay so long as we have love and grace enough ... however you come by it, and even more importanly, give it.