Tuesday, 10 April 2012
The Thing About Kids
I had never really thought much about having kids. They seemed awfully time consuming. I'd have to lose a lot of my freedom and energy to raise them, and the whole thing just never really flickered on my radar. And then I met Joy, and Joy loved kids and was astonishingly gifted around them. And part of being with Joy meant accepting that at some point along life's highway children would be on the agenda. On reflection, staring back and having been a father for over ten years, whenever somebody asks me how I find the experience I provide a two word answer that is often greeted with a blank expression. "Inexplicably worthwhile," I tell them. It takes a few seconds to get the measure of that statement, but when it sinks in people usually venture a smile. It's true. For all the work (and there's lots of it), and for all the time they consume (which is, if you intend to do it properly, a lot) the raising of kids can be a quite beautiful, albeit chaotic experience. From the moment your darling wife propels the new arrival from her uterus into the bright glare of reality, your life has to, and indeed should change. Your world will both contract and expand at the same time. Contract because you've less time, and expand because you will experience things that turn you into a different person than the one you were before. The thing with kids is that they are purpose built to suck every last ounce of selfishness from your mortal soul, which of course is a really good thing. Not that it always feels like it. Heck no, often there are days when you just want breathing space, the chance to step back from it all, do something for yourself without having to think about someone else. But here's the rub. If you've ever held your own newborn you know, at the very core of your being, that you've done something utterly incredible. Whatever else you fail or succeed at in life, you have given another life their shot. This blank canvas that you hold, if cared for and encouraged, has the capacity to do things that can turn the world on its head. If you doubt this think of the most famous, most capable person you know. Imagine them in all their brilliance, and then remind yourself that once upon a time their mother held them to their breast, did everything for them. You want to talk about privilege? Then know that you may one day, if you have not already done so, have the privilege of giving another human being a platform. With your guidance they can grow, and if we just refrain from dumping too much of our foibles on them and give them the room to develop you will, I assure you, see and learn things that will blow you away. My girls are aged 7 and 10 years respectively, and I say without hesitation that I learn from them daily. More than that, for all my personal faults (God where to begin?) I know that I can go to my grave having achieved something wonderful, perhaps even transcendent. It's not for everyone, but for those of like mind, enjoy the ride, and do hold on to your hats.