Thursday, June 24, 2010

Children

How interesting to live for a week with two boys—one a year old, and the other almost four.

I remember my initial hesitation in having children myself... that they'd be a lot of trouble and what did they have to do with art, anyway? But my wife wanted to do it... so, why not?

One would think that with such an attitude I'd end up with a couple of pills as kids... but somehow, in spite of my initial hesitation, they are champs. And in the process we gained a stupendous daughter-in-law and grandkids, so this post is not about regret for choosing to have kids, but to praise parents who make the incredibly tough commitment to raise kids into responsible and loving adults.

I remember the school nurse telling me that she'd tell young men to take some condoms from the basket on her desk, reminding them that a few minutes of fun brings 18 years of responsibility. I'm not sure where she got this information, but I think it's must be more like 40 years that children need family support and guidance. First of all, it is not a few minutes or even hours a day for 18 years. It is 24/7 for 18 years. Or maybe 25/8 for 18 years. Or... And then there is the problem with setting the cut off point so short. Really it is 18000 years... first because whatever you do gets played out for generations to come, and then, they don't really go away come their 18th birthday.

"Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, ...." says the four year old when he is trying to enter a conversation. It works. Since it is impossible to maintain a train of thought, one needs to pause and regroup, at which point he dives in, excitedly telling what he's interested in.

And there are the precious moments intertwined with the moments that you'd rather not happen, like when he grabs something from his adorable little brother, making him cry a bucket of tears.

I'm always surprised at the drive people have to start a family. It seems they were having a perfectly good time, sleeping in on Sunday morning and able to have a conversation without interruption. And yet, as the insatiable consumers that they are, they reproduce and give up their freedom for a pile of huge responsibility. And expense. And great joy when their kids do well, and great sadness when they walk down bad roads.

It would be one thing if all parents had to do was to raise kids. But, unfortunately, most have a number of additional jobs, some dedicated by passion, some by the need to earn a living, and some by both. Any job, done well, takes 200% of one's energy. And, unfortunately, there are some in every field that expend that amount of energy (and more), sometimes in place of a balanced life. So this "good parent" is also competing with the other guy or gal who doesn't have a life. And he or she might have two or three careers going beyond parenting. And what about being married? No wonder marriages often fizzle out. How can a marriage be nurtured when there are two kids and a number of careers? I have very little responsibilities (comparatively) in my life, and it is hard to give proper attention to the few that I have.

We read about the feats of Ulysses, but do we realize that the typical parents have challenges far more difficult and far-reaching? And so little skill and preparation. They operate, for the most part, from the seat of their pants. And when seeing and reading about the child-rearing epics of those who are so-called experts we learn that perhaps not having any idea how to parent is much more a benefit than a liability.

If I appear to be anything but in total awe and respect for anyone who takes on this 18000 commitment then I apologize. It is a job critical to the continuation of our species and our planet. It is a feat of Ulysses ten-fold. We really need to wonder why some CEOs are paid millions when others who have such critical and difficult careers can barely make ends meet. But that's the subject for another post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My friend speaks wisdom! H.