I would have had more kids

Had I known it was this much fun, I would’ve started sooner. I was barely out of college when Ginger arrived. Well, “barely” is stretching it a bit. I graduated in ’95 and Ginger was born in ’97. and I had been married for just over a year. Talk about scared! I was working at a university, not earning a lot of money, and living across the street from a drug dealer in a vine-covered shotgun house. Stubbornly, I wanted to stay in the neighborhood, but, of course, wouldn’t stand for that. So, we moved across the river. I was still scared, but now life was coming at me fast. I changed jobs and we had a second, and, later, a third child. The third one was “easy”. I’d become accustomed to the demands my children put on my time. Of course, I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do, but now I had a great excuse: I had three kids. And, I began to enjoy them. As they grew out of the “lay there, scream, and look cute” stage, I began to enjoy and even value the time I spent with them. The rewards are sometimes subtle, but they are there. For example, I gave my oldest daughter a very rudimentary understanding of multiplication. This past summer, she was learning addition and i tried some things like “what do you get when you had two tens? How about three sevens?” Now, a few months later, she surprises me by telling me different multiplication facts. In school, they’re still learning addition. It’s great fun to see that she has a real interest in learning — and that she isn’t getting worn out by repetative multiplication tables. Its things like this that make me believe this story:

He had everything, I thought. He was the father of three children, and he was happily married. When he turned sixty, I asked him what he would do differently in his life if he could do it again. What would he become or have? His response overwhelmed me, since it had little to do with wealth or fame. He said, “I would have had more children, even if we had to adopt them. My children have been my greatest joy and fulfillment in life.”

Nowadays, more and more people are choosing to be “child-free” and more power to them. Still, I can’t help but think, like this father who thinks back over fatherhood, that my children “made my mistakes moot.” This goes back to what I wrote about New Orleans: children are the celebration of humanity. They are an admission of imperfection. They are a hope for something better, but an acceptance that life is not totally in our control. Conventional wisdom says that men feel more imprisioned by their kids than liberated by the experience of fatherhood, but I’m beginning to find fellow fathers who don’t just want to be around their children — they fight for them. Not all men feel this way, of course. Not all fathers have taken a chance to get to know their kids. But, those that have love their children dearly. Not only that, but I would venture to say that, of the fathers who become involved, they would surprise their pre-child self. I know I would. 10 years ago I had no clue what it meant to be a father. Probably because I was just growing out of being an angry son, I couldn’t understand the frustration, joy, amazement and humilty that my own father must have felt. Children teach us our limits, but that is freedom, not oppression.

2 thoughts on “I would have had more kids”

  1. Humbling

    Your mention of me is humbling… it makes me want to live up to it. It’s true that my kids are my greatest joy, the (only?) two things I “got right”, but it still takes a lot of self-awareness to make sure that I’m not leaving them to their own devices most of the time. Our culture is so task oriented and goal driven and fast paced, while parenting is really more about just being present and available, not just to wipe noses and brush teeth, but to be present personally in seriousness and silliness. Time can go very slowly for a dad if he is worried about getting things done. It’s kind of like being a life-guard.

    But what better thing is there after a difficult, increasingly solipsistic day than to pick up my daughters, see their smiles or tears and answer all their half-nonsense-word questions and realize that, yes, there is more going on in this life than just what’s inside and around me.

    1. Re: Humbling

      I’m a perfectionist and, at my core, I’ve bought into the task-oriented, goal-driven “lifestyle”. So, most of this is preaching to myself, reminding myself that “Hey, your house isn’t perfect… so what?”

      When they demand my time, I’m reminded that what I wanted to do with my time wasn’t that important. Loving them is.

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