Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Kids Not Having Kids

This is not about teen pregnancy.  That teenagers should not have babies is obvious.  What this blog is about is my particular kids and the fact that they are beginning to say out loud that they are not sure that they want to have any kids, at all, ever.  My 21-year old son has told me that he and his girlfriend (who he is planning to marry) have pretty much decided that they don't want to have any kids.  My youngest daughter, now sixteen, has also said that she is not sure she ever wants to have any kids.  Ariel isn't positive either.

So my first reaction was a reaction, as though it was a reflection on me and the home they were raised in that they didn't want to have kids.  And hey, it could be.  I have had five kids, and that's a lot of kids.  We have one of those houses which are almost always crowded and you have to fight for the bathroom and somebody is as likely or not to have drunk the last of the milk while you were sleeping.  And finances have been tight and each kid has not always gotten as much as he or she might have wished at Christmas, you know?

And of course, I had to wonder if what happened to Michaela might have played into these inclinations to perhaps go through life childless.  It is a certainty that my children have witnessed the absolutely horrifying depth of pain and grief you can experience as a parent.  And I hope that this hasn't influenced them.  I hope that they do not fear to love anybody, any time, anything, any way, just because it might hurt one day.  That is probably my greatest fear for my children, given the lives we have led here and all they have witnessed.

But I really don't think that's it.

Although I didn't purposely set out to have so many kids, I am not stupid, so it's not like I couldn't have prevented each and every one of them.  But I am an only child, and not just an only child in my immediate nuclear family.  I am the only child in the entire known generation of my family.  At this point in my life, I have only one living relative, and that is my aunt in England.  To top that off, I grew up in a military family, so up until the age of sixteen I never lived in the same place long enough to form any attachments.  Before graduating from high school I had managed to attend thirteen different schools.  I think that a large part of the subconscious motivation behind my large family was just simply a desire for family, and for roots.

My kids, on the other hand, have grown up in a house with lots of people.  Family, they've got.  It's solitude and privacy that are at a premium for them.

I have thought sometimes about what life would have been like if I hadn't had kids.  It would have been much easier, less complicated.  I'd have had a lot more money and freedom to do things. If I could go back and take with me everything I know now, would I make any different choices?  I don't know.  If I'd never had kids, life might have been easier.  It would have been a whole lot less painful (I think).  But look at all the wonderful stuff I'd have missed.  I really wanted to have kids in the first place, and I don't know that I could ever have chosen differently, even knowing what I know now.  Even thinking I should have had fewer, which ones would I send back?  They have all enriched my life so much!

But it's okay if my kids choose not to have kids.  It's okay if they choose that kind of freedom in their lives, as long as they still choose to love.  For my son, I think this decision will stick.  He and his girlfriend are training to be youth pastors, and have been working as leaders in a large youth group for several years.  Even though they are now only in their early twenties, there are already a few hundred teenagers they consider to be "their" kids, and they want to be able to devote themselves wholeheartedly to this calling.  The girls, who knows?  Right now they have their own dreams to follow, and I hope they do that.  They may change their minds one day, but I think it's good that they consider having children to be a matter of choice, rather than something that is inevitable.

No choice is guaranteed to bring you happiness.  You just have to make the ones that are right for you, and let others make those choices for themselves as well.  The absolute center of my life is my children, and it has been for as long as I can remember.  There is a fifteen year gap between when I had my first child and when I had my youngest!  My career, my needs and wants and desires, and my own relationships have taken a far back seat to my kids.  Now they are growing up, and here at this late stage I am actually facing making a life of my own.  It's an internal struggle for sure, and yet it is kind of exciting also.

Life is full of possibilities.

6 comments:

  1. I like this post. I was one of those people who said I was NEVER EVER EVER having kids. Ever. EVERRRRRRRRRRRRR. Then I was talking about adopting. I still want to adopt, but now I'm having dreams where I'm pregnant! Life is very full of possibilities and I can tell you that my mind (and life) has changed much quicker then I ever thought it would. :) Wherever God takes us, there we'll be.

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  2. This is true, Mrs D! Never limit your future. You can turn a corner one day and discover the entire world has suddenly changed and you have opportunities (and desires!) you'd never imagined.

    But just to remind you, dreams about being pregnant can also indicate you are about to give birth to something new in your life, but it doesn't have to be a baby.

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  3. Sharon, I have 5 kids and all say the same thing. My eldest is turning 19, and she is adament she does not want children. Partly, because she doesn't think she would be a good parent....not sure why. However, the majority of their reason is that they think the world is becoming way too complicated and unsure. They feel they would be bringing children into a mess. I have mixed emotions on their thoughts, but I will respect what ever they decide. Also, I have one that is autistic, so they fear they will have a special needs child, and that they won't have the ability to raise the child or they fear how bad it would be or if they would pass it on.

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  4. I know some people that have said they never want kids and as life progresses they change their minds. For a long time Ron said he never wanted kids, now we have one and he wants another. There are some people in this world who do want kids and others that don't. I think that is a completely normal thing. Not everyone wants the same things as someone else. That's what makes the world go round. I am sure it has more to do with what they want out of life than what their life has been.
    Life was easier for us without Lauren but with her it seems like the little things seem so much more fufilling. It used to be about the fun of going out, being carefree, and not thinking too hard about an expensive purchase. Now days we can't do those things as frequently but it is still possible every so often. Now the good times are still good just different. Building a fort, playing play dough, reading a bedtme story or making popcorn and watching a kid movie are just as fun if not more fun than all the other stuff we did before.
    God has a plan for all of us, and if we follow our heart it will take us in the right direction. From what I can tell you have raised wonderful loving children. They will follow their heart and He will lead them, that is all that matters.

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  5. My husband and I - together 29 years, happily (mostly!!!) married 22 of them - chose not to have children. Though we considered it more than once, we'd just grown too used to our freedom (selfish? maybe.) and just enjoyed each other so much that we decided that we didn't want to take the chance of ruining what we had (I don't think any parent would suggest that having children doesn't change everything!)

    Of course, there's also the "this world is going to he!! in a hand basket" thing and we weren't sure we wanted to bring children into that.

    We have lots of nieces and nephews and they're starting to have their own babies now and I love to watch them all grow in their unique ways. I'm just not sure I would have ever wanted to actually have to be responsible for one of them (I don't even like having to be responsible for me!!!)

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  6. Hi Sharon,
    I found this blog because I always hold out hope that these Bay Area girls will be found or the mystery of their disappearance is solved. I remember those kidnappings really well because I kind of obsessed over them since I was 11. So, as an adult, I'm still engrossed in missing persons.

    I am the oldest of 10 kids and we grew up in a 3 BDR and 1 BATH house-talk about crowded. However, I can see how it shaped my personality and how it taught me to be flexible. As an adult, I have grown closer to my adult sibs and relish the time we spend (with their spouses and kis)-we all get along and it's been such a blessing to have this many in the family. Your kids may someday want this but since your kids are in their early 20s (excluding Michaela), they may change their minds.

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