My kid turned 10 years old last week -- double digits. One of the many milestones in a child's life, and their parents' lives as well. It is during these times that one reflects on where they came from and where they are going. Or just, how the (*bad word*) they got here. In elementary school, while all of the other little girls were wishing for their future husbands, big houses with white picket fences, lots of children, and fancy cars, I was fantasizing about a little apartment in the city, with a dog, and a pick-up truck. Never once did I ever think about or yearn for children. Once I figured out I was gay, I thought "phew, I dodged that bullet."
If I am being honest -- and I really have no reason not to be -- I don't really like kids, never did (think Samantha Jones from Sex and the City). Before my own daughter was born, I had never really held a baby, except for the one time my twin sister and I had a very short stint as babysitters. Every time the baby needed something we were annoyed. I mean really, what were we it's parents? My wife keeps telling me to stop saying these things out loud, but if I didn't have a kid of my own I really would be one of those anti-kids-in-public-places people. And even now, I kind of agree (except for my kid of course, she is an angel!).
When my wife and I decided to have a kid I think everyone we knew were shocked; not because we were gay, but because they knew my distain for children as a group. They are really kind of gross, needy, self-obsessed little petrie dishes. At this point you are probably wondering why I ever agreed to have a kid, as it surely wasn't an accident. And that would be a valid question, because even crazier, it was my idea! But for the life of me, I can't remember what prompted it. I never wanted to grow and raise another human, and neither did my wife. Between the two of us we didn't posses a single maternal bone in our bodies, or so I thought.
When the time came, my wife stepped up and carried our kid, because there was no way I was ever going to have anything growing inside of me. Besides, I would definitely have been one of those people who died during childbirth, I am just not that hearty. Those 10 months were excruciating, and I wasn't even the one pregnant! And then, from what I can only liken to being hit by a Mack truck, our lives, like those of the millions of others before us, changed forever in an instant. Our daughter was born 10 days late, setting us up for the rest of our lives together...on her schedule...her way.
There are however no words to describe how our lives changed. Unless you have kids you can't really understand (I'm sorry but it's true...and no your cat or dog is not the same thing), but it did change, dramatically, for good and for bad. My kid, she is the funniest, smartest, sweetest, most compassionate, amazing little person I have ever met (better than most adults, and that is not an overstatement). I call her my little Buddha. She is reasonable on a level I can't even aspire to. She cares so much and so deeply about others it is heartbreaking. She also loves us so much it keeps her up at night -- and of course that love is reciprocal. I couldn't love this kid any more, like the Elmyra character from Animaniacs, I want to hug her and squeeze her and never let her go. But then there are other times, well you know the expression...they make them cute for a reason!
My family and I were on a road trip to the Adirondacks recently and we were listening to the NPR show Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. They were discussing a new study that revealed that the vast majority of parents stated that having kids ruined their lives (no, I was not a subject in that study). Without missing a beat, my kid asked "do you feel that way?" Also without missing a beat, my wife answered "no". I however missed the beat but not for the reason you think.
As a researcher myself, I believe they asked the wrong question. I don't think having a kid ruined my life, on the contrary, I am a better person because of my daughter; she makes me a better person almost daily. But being a parent, and not just a parent, but trying to be a good parent, that has ruined my life. Parenting is hard! It's (*expletive*) hard. Anyone who tells you differently is lying or a bad parent. It is really easy to be a bad parent (believe me I know, I have my days). It is really, really hard to be (or even trying to be) a good parent. For the most part, my wife and I are good parents -- or at least my wife is, I am just ok -- and not just because studies have shown that lesbians raise better kids; sorry people, you can't dispute science!
Now, I am not one of those parents who thinks their kids walk on water. I am the first to correct my kid when needed, I am the first to hold her to the highest of standards, when appropriate, and I am the first to push her out of her comfort zone, within reason. My kid, she is really stubborn, and really hard on herself. At times she can give up too easily. She has a massive amount of non-stop, bounding, inquisitive energy. This last thing makes it really difficult to "good" parent. I recently described her as a border collie, she needs a task. Give her a task and she will be good. Without a task, she will try to herd anything and everything in her path relentlessly. She is a born leader in that sense, but she can also be considered by others, including her peers, as "bossy" -- a word we do not use and do not condone ever to describe her! Though I can see why some of her friends and others might consider that adjective. We do not consider her energy and leadership skills a bad thing, in fact, this will only help her in her pursuit of world domination when she gets older. It is an inherited trait for sure, from a long line of strong-willed xx chromosomes. There is the nature aspect and then there is also the nurture aspect. I am not her biological xx chromosome, but she definitely picked up a lot of traits from me, including having strong, passionate opinions, herding anything in her path, and not letting anything stand in the way of her dreams...we call it being driven.
Yes, science supports the fact that people without kids are happier, and has also found that having kids makes you more unhappy than someone who just experienced the death of a partner. In case you missed that I will repeat, having a kid makes you more unhappy than if your significant other died, generally the worst experience someone can have! But then, if you didn't have a kid, you would miss out on all the good things, the little things, because it is the kid, not the parenting, that makes it all worthwhile. Just the other day, my daughter was telling me a story and she was trying to describe all of the people in the world, and that it seemed like the number of people went on forever. So, being my kid, she described Pi, you know the number that goes on for infinity (3.14159265359...)! In case you don't read my posts on a regular basis, I am a science-geek, and so the fact that my kid used Pi to describe something, well, my head exploded with parental pride. It is in those instances, those tiny, amazing moments, when parenting is totally worth it. And that is one of the 3.14159265359... reasons I am so glad I did not dodge that bullet, but got hit directly in the heart!