- Children were annoying.
- I was lacking in patience to deal with annoying people.
- Having children was painful (or so I’d heard).
- Males were unreliable for partnership in parenting.
- Having children kept you from having a life.
- Having children impinged on your freedom.
- Children were expensive.
- Children were a longer-term commitment than I was comfortable with.
- Children would prevent me from continuing to pretend I didn’t care about anything, thus piercing my defenses.
- I didn’t know how to do children and, from what I could see, neither did anybody else.
All of this is laughable to me at this point because now, of course, I have four of them. In the process, I discovered that all of the above is a bunch of poppycock. Or … well, let me re-phrase that. All of that could happen if you have kids but it doesn’t have to. It all depends on the kinds of choices you make once you have them.
And what I couldn’t have known back then, in spite of my 18-year-old know-it-all-ity and because of my lack of actual experience (even vicarious experience), was that having children opens your world and your eyes and your heart in ways you never anticipate — if you let it.
One of the best things about my children is that they taught me how to play again.
What a wonderful blessing that turned out to be! I am a member of a generation whose parents didn’t play with them. For our parents, everything was all about respect and discipline and obedience, and it was considered bad parenting to play with your children because then they wouldn’t know and respect your authority. And that made sense from a generation of people who believed that children were wild animals who needed to be controlled and tamed and disciplined into productive adult citizens.
But I figured out pretty early on that I didn’t want to be that kind of parent. So, I let my children re-educate me in the fine art of play.
It has meant that I have spent a significant portion of my adult life talking to inanimate objects. All kinds of things around me turned out to have voices: toy cars and dolls and hand puppets and hands-without-the-puppets and broccoli and … you name it. And, in spite of the fact that my youngest child is a seventeen-year-old young man, I’m still doing it because it’s still fun.
It meant that when the babies decided to strip off their clothes and play in the talcum powder, I could choose to be amused instead of angry; where my mom would have reached for the belt, I reached for the camera.
It means that even now, we share Facebook posts and songs and movie clips and we laugh and laugh and laugh about all kinds of things, and sometimes we still come across things we can use to play together.
It meant that being a mom became less of a chore for me than it was for my own mother and more of a joy, because it was … well, it was fun.
Contrary to those ancient fears, my children don’t seem to have any trouble with the concept that I am in charge here. They don’t try to be “buddies” with me because I am Mom and we all know that. But, at the same time, they know that I love them and they know that I like them and they know that I like spending time with them.
And even though they are now a lot older than they used to be, we still like to play and have fun together. We laugh a lot in my house. We all have robust senses of humor and we use our separate funny bones to help us get through trying times and good times alike.
That’s the best and biggest surprise I’ve found about being a mom.
It makes me feel kind of badly for all those women who have managed to take something so joyful and turn it into something so lugubrious.
I wonder if they have any idea at all of what they’re missing?