Friday, January 10, 2014

Having children teaches you lessons

A friend recently emailed me, "Having children taught me lessons I don't think I could have learned any other way." I've heard this sentiment many times and I believe it's true, but there are also lessons you learn from ice climbing that you can't learn any other way and I'll take a pass on those, too.


Andria Anderson said...

You brought a grin to my morning, Regina!

Anonymous said...

That's right - "Child-Free!"

It's not that I don't have children (always a 'yet' implied), but that I'm child-free. Like how soda without sugar added is sugar-free. Its something that isn't wanted in the first place.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Andria - I'm happy to hear that.
Anonymous - Yes, I'm child-free by choice. Some people who are heavily pro-motherhood still seem to think I might change my mind about wanting kids in my life. I'm 47 and a half years old. How old do I have to be before people realize I have no desire to have kids, at ALL?

Rayfield A. Waller said...

Wow. This really hit me hard--though not for the reasons some people might expect from a father. I love your point here, and despite being a father, having a daughter I love dearly, I don't think ANY parent is being HONEST if he or she says the experience of parenting was so loving and so rewarding and enlarging (it is all of those things, yes) that the terror, the worry, the confusion, the tension, the feelings of utter inadequacy a parent sometimes feels, not to mention the nagging guilt over mistakes not even the child can remember took place but that still gnaw at you years later, that all of that is made unimportant by the good parts.

I always warn people who actually PLAN to have children to think HARD about it (reality check, fellow parents reading this: a large percentage of births that can and do lead to beloved and well nurtured children like ours are actually accidents, are unplanned, and chances are we didn't plan our first child--I'm a firstborn and guess what, my parents did NOT plan on me popping up).

Being a parent can afford you bragging rights and points toward sainthood, and the right to nag the twenty year olds in line at Starbucks if they are out in frigid weather with no hat and gloves and scarf, right? I said be honest. Yes, I’m nagging you. I still feel justified in emailing my daughter way off in another city to remind her to dress warm when the weather report says her town is going to have frigid temperatures. BE HONEST.

Why do we feel so justified to nag them even into adulthood? Because being a parent you lose a large part of yourself that frankly you will never get back, and if my generation in particular is truly honest about it we'll admit that many of our parents underwent severe disappointments in their lives and gave up many of their own aspirations--particularly our mothers--in order to raise and support us.

Mine is the ‘baby-boom echo’ generation whose parents came stumbling out of the painful years of the fifties, having survived segregation, and racism and sexism of an intensity that made the TV show everybody claims to be a brilliant expose of the fifties and early sixties--"Madmen", look like exactly what it is, just a TV SHOW that only weakly, faintly suggests just how terrible and soul crushing that period of American culture REALLY was for everybody. A TV show can't even begin to depict how horrific that social milieu was for Black parents like mine.

We Black and/or working class 60's babies literally fed off our parents' spirits and life's blood, which frankly is just what children are meant to do--it's our heritage from the rest of the mammals we’ve descended from.

Plus, I look at my daughter and have to accept that I'm not allowed to expect anything back from her for all I've given, except love, which I'm lucky she is giving to me freely. Some parents don't get even that. Some fail at parenting so miserably that they don't deserve it.

So yeah, I hope she doesn't have children, so she CAN go ice climbing, sky diving, and go into space on Virgin Spacelines and fulfill herself. Amelia Earhart had parents (Amelia Otis Earhart and Samuel Stanton Earhart), but she didn't have children. She met her fate as a free woman, which is what my daughter hopefully will have the courage and the strength to be--to be a woman like you, Regina.

“Being alone is scary, but not as scary as feeling alone in a relationship.”
― Amelia Earhart

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Ray, thank you for being honest about your experience as a parent. I'm very glad to hear that you aren't holding your breath for your one and only offspring to yield grandchildren. (I remember when I first realized that my parents' experience of the 50's was COMPLETELY different from the 50's Coke advertisements and tv shows. It was a jarring moment.)

Margaret Grant said...

Ha! Made me laugh out loud!