So I was speaking to a GM of a large hotel chain about his new post out in a remote area. Polite conversation brings us to the fact that he and his wife have decided not to have children. He immediately and almost apologetically begins to justify their decision to me. This got me thinking, as I always tend to do.
Isn’t it funny how our social programming dictates how we should live our lives?
Getting a job – may pay the bills but working for yourself should be the only advice we give to our children.Get married – now at this point I would like to say that I love my wife dearly and wouldn’t have it any other way – however, when Paul McCartney divorced Heather Mills the settlement was a staggering R731 000 000. Sir Paul could have had a high-class hooker on every day that he was married and still saved 75% of what he paid out. He also would never have heard any of these words: “No, headache, I don’t feel like it, not now, I don’t feel well, I’m too fat, I don’t feel connected, you’re ugly, you smell, it’s too late, it’s too early, I’ve just done my hair and make-up, but we just did it two months ago”. He would always be a hunk, a great lover and never have to cuddle for a half an hour afterwards. Just saying!
Have a few children – Again at this point I would like to state that I love my children more than anything in the world, literally, and I would not change having them for anything. However, if I knew then what I know now, I most definitely would have thought about going in another direction. Children are blessings, they really are, and they teach you more about yourself than you will ever teach them, but there are certain things they don’t put in the brochure.
Firstly, finding out that she is pregnant is a shock to the system and fear and doubt sets in. Then there are the scans and the doctors’ visits, constantly worrying whether everything is going to be safe. To explain the fear and helplessness of being at the birth would be futile. Let’s face it; it’s not really your gig, it’s all about mom and the doctors and you’re just there to pay the bills, be abused, threatened and blamed because you – and only you – are the cause of all of her pain and that if you ever come near her again, she will do physical harm to sensitive parts of your body. You take the abuse and stand around looking a bit lost, much like a constitutional court ruling in South Africa.
Not so fast!!Baby has yellow jaundice and needs to stay in a “tanning bed” with teeny glasses on for another 2 or 3 days. The bills and the stress send your blood pressure through the roof and now it’s home time. So you get all the traffic reports and leave the hospital on the quietest back roads with baby fully strapped into her new car seat with bubble wrap with mom sitting alongside in the back seat, just in case.
Following the scariest and most nerve wracking drive of your life, you get your little bundle of joy home (actually all they do at this point are the three c’s – cry, consume and cr4p) and it’s only now that you realize you are alone with this little human and you’re fully responsible for keeping it alive. And this is just the beginning, because unless you have kids of your own, I cannot explain what you are about to experience!
Sleepless nights, colic, colds & flu, falls (they “accidentally” roll off beds – I took my eyes off her for a second), trips to the chemist at midnight, trips to the doctor, nappy rash, changing nappies full of a green and brown gunk (I kid you not its actually green), teething, sleeping in relays, eating in relays, being a referee between mom and mother-in-law, and then they turn one.Once they start walking (which you foolishly encouraged) your life is never the same. You have to baby proof your entire house, moving everything above waist height, blocking all plugs, barricading the staircase, fencing in the pool and chasing after them everywhere as you begin to do everything in shifts. There are “friends’” baby parties every weekend where you are blackmailed into attending, and you purchase gifts for children you don’t even know in the hope that when it is your turn they will reciprocate.
Then there’s finding preschools and enrolling in preschools; finding a primary school and pre-booking (and paying for) said school. It’s now a life of fundraisers and teachers meetings; socializing with people you don’t know and in most cases wouldn’t want to know; know-it-all dads and some hot moms. You have to become a code breaker with deciphering paintings and noodle artwork stuck on the fridge, and doing the dad wheelbarrow race. Then just when you thought your bank doesn’t care about you, your bank manager constantly calls and emails because he’s tired of funding the consequences of your carnal experiments.
You would imagine at this point any sane person would say, “one is enough, we are closing the factory!” But who said anything about being sane? Let’s have another and still another and all of the above triplicates. That’s right – multiply all of this by 3.
Apart from all the medical scares, dental bills, orthodontic appointments, schools, clothing, parties and gifts for other kids, you also have to become a deceitful liar. You have to perpetuate the expensive and time consuming urban legends that are Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. You spend hours watching Barney and the Teletubbies, and then try to explain to your daughter why you have a “tail” when she sees you in the shower.
Now don’t get me started on schools! But, if you are lucky enough to get your children into a good school you will find and finally meet “the mafia”. Institutions owned mostly by churches (the let’s indoctrinate them while they’re young theory) and run by people who have never really left school. They do however know that they are the only decent game in town, and because decent schooling is a high priority, a scarce commodity, they charge what they want and dictate policies and procedures that suit only them. So you spend your days boxing, arguing, writing emails, paying bills and occasionally rather biting your tongue.
You have to coach your kids through disappointment, hurt, anger, and loss of friendships, breakups, and hormones that are ever-changing, ever-growing and ever challenging. It’s about holidays, clothes, gadgets, fetching and carrying, and freezing your plumbs off next to a soccer field at 7 o’clock on a Sunday morning. Functions, parties, plays and recitals, and also staying up for late-night collections. You basically become an Uber without the money at the end of the trip. If you love your children it’s about worry, fear and arguing, about being a referee between mom and teenage daughters, or mom and the teenage boy.
Its subject choices, worrying about their future, doing homework, paying for extra lessons and after school activities. It’s a battle of wills – knowing when to let it go and when to reel it in. It’s being the bad guy when they are naughty, the fun guy when they are sad and always being the brave super dad when they all run into the house screaming “snake, snake” as if I’m frikken Bear Grylls all of the sudden.
Then there’s the first date, the matric dance, prelims and finals, driving lessons and then off to varsity.
You do all of this out of love and the expectation that one-day they will look into your eyes and say, “I love you dad!”
But you only have them (if you’re lucky) until about 15 or 16 and then they don’t want to be around you, or know you, because they have their own lives to live. And if you have done it right, you would have raised strong, independent, productive, caring people who want nothing to do with you because they have their own lives to live. They want to grow up, get a job, get married and have a few kids.
I am not saying don’t have children. On the contrary, if you are blessed and can have them, have them. But go in it with your eyes wide open and know that having children is not about you and it is not about what you will get or achieve. Having children is a selfless, giving endeavor. It’s a life sentence. If you do it well you may get parole after 21 or 22 years. If you fail as a parent they will still be bumming money off you at 45 and living above the garage.
Research has shown that people who do not have children are on average happier than people who have them. Oh and they are richer as well! I believe having children is a calling and not for the faint of heart. Having children should require a license and at least 2 years of study and a 2-year apprenticeship at an orphanage.
Do you realize that children are the most misunderstood, commodities mass-produced by unskilled and unthinking labour? It is a massive responsibility and a roller coaster ride you cannot explain. In the end you will only remember the good things and maybe if you are very, very lucky you will live old enough to see your grandchildren meet out your revenge.
I LOVE YOU KIDS!