The vast majority of people consider their being parents one of the big milestones of life, that their decision to have children is an integral part of who they are, and who they want to be.
But the interesting thing in this is that no one really knew what it was they were deciding, in getting pregnant, or in planting the seed. Of course a certain percentage did not even make such decision, they just found themselves on the route, say by inebriation, partying, youth games, libido being what it is in the teenagers, both then and now.
You might say that of course we knew what parenthood was, ahead of it: by babysitting, by observation of other people’s interactions w their own, at the park, at school, parties, etc. By looking backward to one’s own parents, with you, and your siblings. But the truth is it is a chiaroscuro look, to use an art term: like looking at it through a glass darkly.
Until you have been in it post delivery, taking tyke home, raising him or her, and getting through all those years of caregiving, which you willingly undertook, and then figuring the hard work was over, at age 22, or college graduation milestone, and tyke is now able to earn his or her own keep…well, the truth is your assumptions have been upended.
At no point did you anticipate all the peaks and valleys of this role. That your role does not end, ever. Even in the horrible case of a child dying, you will always find that they changed who you are, and who you will go on being, even without their presence. But the majority will not have this happen to them, fortunately. Did you know that the role included a major leap of faith, that your thoughts and expectations will not match up with the reality??
Did you know that while your children do reflect you somewhat, they are not a rubber stamp? They will be who they are and who they want to be, or who they may be limited to being, by virtue of disabilities, that you didn’t figure on. They will encompass both you and your chosen mate, by the environment you create together, as well as how your genetics stack up, together. The personality is at least 60% of your genetic traits, so choose wisely.
For those who have chosen the adoption route, that is a kind deed, but of course when the child grows up, with the given love, he or she will not reflect you exactly, because of the aforementioned link of personality with the genetic makeup. There will be significant differences. I have a cousin by adoption, whose father told me how horrified he was that a daughter he had, when grown, decided to bear 5 of her own children, with a mate, but that the money situation was going to be beyond her ability to care adequately for all of them. And then he added that he raised her to only take on what you can carry yourself, to not expect from the parents, to be a burden. But she went on her own road, and the father was bitterly disappointed in her decision, because he was not going to be Daddy Warbucks. Some of the children had special needs as well.
This father was certain that it played out this way because of personality differences and a sense of entitlement, despite teaching to the contrary. And 5 children makes it rough to go out and have your own career as well, and what of a family car or a need for a big house, or the endless laundry, keeping track of doctor’s appointments, meals, all of it, times 30 years, and longer…because it’s never ending. He thought that his adopting a child was going to be different than how it turned out.
But that is what I am getting at here, in this treatise. No one really knew what they were taking home in a car seat and a blanket swaddle. How it would turn out. Who would this little person become, beyond the squalling that is their communication of need? I hope your adventure turned out well for at least most of you, but you made a very big life decision in becoming this parent. And you did so blindly, effectively. You had no real idea what the result would be, and by virtue of neglect, abuse and other societal ills that are still prevalent, the clay you shaped in this child could be a gift to the world, or a mass murderer. I am often fond of you get what you put in, and that karma rules, so do your best. The observations you made of others were merely a dress rehearsal for your own adventure, of little Jane or Henry, who is not you, but is partly so, and who will be your greatest work in this life.
The only thing you can do is to choose very well who is going to be your mate, in this enterprise, because there is no escape after the fertilization, and later birth. This child will reflect the other parent as well, at least somewhat. And to those who are only having a child in order to increase their status in the world, and to pat themselves on the back, taking others to raise those kids, with no concern for their welfare, well, do the world a favor, and recognize there are already too many narcissists out there, who beget chaos upon the world. Every child deserves two parents who are committed to him/her.
Those who abandoned the pregnant women, or who raped them, or committed incest, well, you can figure what I’d say to these miscreants: repent and do good, or the damage done will come back to you. And the penalty will be at least tenfold. Parents, teach your sons how to conduct themselves! And parents of girls, don’t put the entire burden on your daughters, which is unfair. They deserve their freedom too.
Picture Note: Me with my mom, and newborn baby Magnus, in San Francisco, CA. Child of a close friend.