I had an interesting conversation with my brother this weekend. He’s been talking to some folks at work who have passionate opinions on who should be allowed to “breed”. Apparently, the criteria goes something like this. You should be able to provide your children with “every opportunity”. You need training to be sure you’re capable of raising kids. Must have financial stability. Must be able to prove you are mature enough. On and on and on.
I have known plenty of people who have a similar take on being “allowed” to procreate. The funny thing is, most people who hold these views don’t have kids of their own. As such, they’ve got zero clue what having kids really means. I actually used to think along these same lines when it came to having kids. My oh my, how having some of your own changes your perspective.
First, the argument that you should provide your kids with “every opportunity”. It kind of goes hand in hand with the “financially stable” point. The basic principle here is fine – obviously every parent wants their kids to have the best shot at success in life. Good schools, the chance to excel at whatever gifting the child has (sports, art, music, drama, science, math…whatever), college if they so desire – and all that takes money. But the underlying problem with this argument is that it assumes some check-point in life when you’ll know you have the capability to provide your kids with these opportunities. Let’s be real here. If you decide to have kids today, it will be 4-6 years before your first child is ready to start exploring all the options life affords. How on earth do you know you’ll be in the same position that far into the future? If there’s anything to be learned from the financial turmoil of the past couple years, it’s that nothing is safe. There’s no guarantees. But, to me, the larger issue with these arguments is that it propagates the notion that somehow the most important things to provide for your children are things.
Yes, material things are important. But the basic necessities in life do not cost much – and just about any Joe (or Jane) with a job can provide food, clothing and shelter. All the other stuff is just that…stuff. There are far more important issues with kids than what “things” you can give them. Success does not equal money. I’d love to see parents become concerned with providing their kids opportunities to learn to be kind, giving, selfless, considerate, and polite – rather than opportunities to have the latest video game console, designer clothes and fancy cell-phones. Even more, how about showing children emotional stability over the financial kind? Too many children grow up in homes with every newest, latest and greatest – but never see their parents because they’re too busy earning all that money. No amount of stuff can make up for the loss of family. The time that flies by while trying to establish financial stability can’t be bought back. No matter how much cash you accumulate.
Now, how bout’ proving you’re mature enough to handle kids before getting to have them. Here’s a news flash for you – when I’m 75, I’ll let you know if I feel that I’ve matured enough to deal with kids on a daily basis. Nobody is grown up enough for kids. I don’t care what people tell you. When they place that baby in your arms for the first time, the second thought you have (right after the “He/she is the most perfect thing on earth”) is “Oh holy crap…I’m a parent. I’m not ready for this.” It is possible – if you are one of those uber-mature folks who waited until you were ready for kids to have them, that thought might not hit you until the first day you have the baby at home. I thought I was ready for kids. My husband and I had been married 5 years. We had a house and our cars were paid off. We’d made all our plans. Nothing prepares you for how much life changes after kids. Those of you reading this without kids – I know these words are pointless. You’ll get it when you have one.
I now have a two and a half year old and an infant. I’m almost thirty. Surely I should be mature enough now. However, there are days when I want to dissolve into a tantrum right along side my daughter. I’m sure when she’s a teenager we’ll have mommy/daughter cry-for-no-reason-at-all times. I have lost the expectation that I’ll ever feel prepared for life raising children. Parenting is a baptism by fire, on the job training kind of gig. Sometimes I realize that while I’m teaching my daughter about life, I’m re-learning what I thought life was about. Then I get all freaked out about learning from a two year old and need to take a little break.
Lastly, the ever popular “you should have to complete training before being allowed to breed”. Really? What would that class look like? I used to be a trainer…and would LOVE to see someone try and teach a bunch of childless people what kids are really like. Here are just some of the things my daughter and son have trained me on in the past three years – I’d like to hear how any class could have given me these lessons.
1. Poop does come out of just about any fabric.
2. What love really looks like.
3. A child never thinks their nose needs blowing.
4. Add 20 minutes to whatever time you think you need to leave.
5. My mom was right. About everything.
6. The new definition of a clean house.
7. Trying to get it done faster usually just complicates things.
8. The beauty of silence.
9. Twenty-four hours is not long enough to do it all – so pick the most important thing, and do it well.
10. Sleep is something you actually can function without.
11. There are no sick days for parents.
12. How to use my imagination.
13. The simplest things are often the best.
14. I can’t do it alone.
15. Why? Doesn’t really mean they want a reason.
17. I am stronger and weaker than I thought.
18. Pregnancy only feels like forever.
19. How God must feel about me.
20. How my parents must feel about me.
Bottom line. There’s no training that would ever be sufficient. No stability that is stable enough. Kids are an amazing blessing that cannot be compared to anything else in life. They will change your life forever – and you’ll realize how much you don’t know within the first 10 seconds of parenthood.