My youngest boy briefly opens his eyes and confronts the ceiling. There is no one there. A gas bubble rips through his body, like a confused hurricane, exiting with much fanfare and discomfort. It's time to launch a blood-curdling cry. My wife and I both shoot up from the bed, startled from our already strange dreams which change every hour or so thanks to the little one waking up all night long. He is like a remote control for our unconscious minds. After an hour of rocking and rolling and hungrily scrutinizing the smallest twitches of his angelic face for signs that he is finally, gloriously asleep, now that it's four in the morning, we lovingly acknowledge each other's pain with grunts as if to say "see you at the next gas bubble" and pass out immediately, in positions that will surely produce memorable back and neck suffering very shortly down the line. And despite all this, when the morning comes, I can shout even without a slightest doubt -- I love having children! Ok maybe I won't shout as it might make my headache worse.
As I get a distinct flashback of my parents packing lunches for me decades ago, while I pack the school lunch for my oldest boy, I love having children. As I teach him the history of the world, feeling so wise and knowledgeable, and as I hear him answer that he does in fact remember that ancient Sumerians invented the wheel -- I love having children. When I feel the youngest one grasp my hand with his little fingers and give me his first smile, and I know he is really looking at me, not just enjoying his latest peeing adventure, that's when I love having children.
And of course I could go on and on with such a list. As most parents can. Because having a child makes you into someone you never knew could exist. Sure, the person you become when you turn into a parent has some significant traces of who you were before. You still have many of the same habits, ambitions and urges. But you are also completely changed. It's truly something impossible to explain fully and best left to experience. For all who choose to not have children in your life, I can understand you. But just make sure you are not preventing yourself from having what to me is the most transformative and meaningful experience in life for reasons that are not mired in idealizing your own ego, over-intellectualizing and overworking. You might think you cherish your freedom but how can there be a stronger expression of freedom than taking on the responsibility of raising a new human being to the best of your ability and heart? That's when you can really define who you are. As you giddily high five your partner when the little one makes a satisfying explosion in his diaper signifying the end of hour-long huffing and puffing, you will love having children. That might sound absurd but trust me -- you just have to be there.