It's been 11 years since Christina fiercely traversed us through that right of passage and earned us the title of parents. Although I always knew I wanted kids, it wasn't a conversation we had until after we were married. We had both been indifferent to the idea during our first year of marriage.
It wasn't until we were on the other side of Canada, visiting a friend at a tree planting camp in Pictou, Nova Scotia, that we were inspired by another couple.
It was a memorable night as we watched the two camp cooks. They were a pair that worked as a team and took turns carrying their baby on their backs while they worked.
They were doing it. They had clearly decided that their child would adapt to their lifestyle rather than making sure they had a baby room, crib, and change table awaiting their newborn.
There is a notion that to have kids you must have stable careers, a home, an established life, and a routine in place to 'properly' usher a child into a life of established comforts.
And while this may be 'comfortable', we saw first hand that it doesn't necessarily make it the only right way. In fact, it is very much just another western cultural norm many of us have unconsciously adopted as correct.
Another incident that had a profound impact on me had been even a few years prior, while living in Rossland, BC. For those that don't know much about ski towns in the Kootenay mountains, they usually include a transient group of youngsters that like to spend their days skiing or snowboarding and their nights partying and socializing. At the time, Christina and I were part of this demographic. It was a night when I had been partying and had eaten some magic mushrooms. I landed up walking through the quiet streets late that night downtown on my trip. Although I had a grin from ear to ear that I couldn't wipe off my face, I decided to venture into "Ronnie's", a convenience store owned by a (locally famous) middle-aged Chinese immigrant. Somehow, I landed up having a lengthy conversation with him where he mapped out a diagram on a napkin of how well it pays to have children early in life.
Side note: if a convenience store owner ever draws a family planning diagram for you on a napkin, don't throw it out. As I am writing this I have added throwing out this keepsake to my list of life regrets.
Those are two life-defining moments that I look back on when people ask me about how crazy it is having five kids. To those questions, my answer is simple, "Pretty crazy." I'm 34 and have five children under the age of 11. We learn something new every day. The days we don't, are simply steps backward.
In the intimate and deep relationships of family, there is no stagnation. It is either moving forward or backward, so we try our best to push forward.
Struggle offers an excellent backdrop for comfort, that is, without contrasting pain, health cannot ever be fully appreciated. For me, life would be extremely boring without kids. More relaxed? Yes. Easier? Totally.
Challenges, even when failed, result in growth. Before having children I understood so little about my capacity to love unconditionally. There have been many days where I wish I could have gotten more sleep, more time to myself, and perhaps had another bite from a devoured bag of chips or chocolate bar. But these are small sacrifices that are made in return for a world of rich experiences.
Deciding to have a child, (or five) boils down to taking a hard look at your future life and choosing what kind of daily interactions you wish to have. Each path in life presents it's own set of battles and difficulties to overcome. Being intentional and proactive is everything. Setting goals and a vision of who you want to be, either as a single or collectively as a family and then taking active steps to accomplish those goals is crucial.
I would like to end this post with a list of the pros and cons of having children that I would have never considered before experiencing them.
The bad stuff:
-Poo. A lot of it. Especially if you have more than one toddler at a time. I cannot even begin to describe the catastrophic scenes I have witnessed and cleaned. These experiences range from baths, carpets, vehicles, walls, ceilings... and that occasional surprise turd in the toy box. *Tip on cleaning: never use hot water to clean poo out of the bath, the steam amplifies the stench.
-Lack of sleep. Nights when children are feverish, puking, crying from a nightmare, and in turn waking up the other kids. Make sure you know your limits and have a partner that is 100% on board with parental shift work.
-Personal items you care about need extreme protection or they WILL be ruined. Don't bother spending money on fancy dishes. Plan to repaint your walls yearly. Get used to the idea of going to the thrift store for everything until they are all over the age of 10.
-If you love eating out regularly, you'll have to say goodbye to that too.
-Having thoughts constantly interrupted.
-Having to really plan time for the things you want to do. No plan, no alone time, it's just that simple.
-Waking up with a child beside you and a wet mattress under you.
-Needing to type this entire post with one hand. (see pic)
The good stuff:
-Laughter. As a family, we've adopted this not only as a response to jokes and zingers but as a coping mechanism when some of the bad stuff happens. Especially the poo stuff, this is done a lot easier when the couple is working as a team. No blaming. Shit happens.
-Watching my children share and look out for one another.
-Love. As I said earlier, with each child we've had the privilege of parenting we have experienced an immeasurable growth in our ability to love. We could not imagine life without any of them.
-Beauty. Looking into the eyes of your newborn and starting to earn their trust. I am unable to describe the fullness of the beauty of that feeling.
-Self-growth. Nothing quite like having a life depend on your ability to navigate difficult situations to propel self-growth and awareness.
So there you have it, folks. Is having children worth it? Admittedly, it's a question we on occasion have to ask our future selves as grandparents. It's not for everyone, (as a painter I was in countless homes that should never have had kids). However, if you are willing and excited to experience all of these things, do it, have kids, it's awesome.
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