Because We Like Them
My pal V has 10 kids. Go ahead, let it sink in. But while it's sinking, pay attention to your reactions to that. I know that not too many years ago in my past, I would have been horrified and scornful. But having cycled through Susan Griffin's question,
"I have been asked if I had the choice again, would I have a child? This is an absurd question. I am not the same person I was before I had a child. That young woman would not understand me."...I know that that young woman would not understand me. Because pretty much the heavens opened up for me, when I asked V the same question everyone else asks her. "Why?" I asked her. "Why 10?" "Because we like them," she replies. Four little words. And within them lies the entire Kingdom of Parenting. "We," she says. She and her husband both. It's an equality thing. They both think the kids are really, really neat. And they are a team. Maybe not always a unified front, maybe not always totally on the same page, but at base, mutually committed to the idea that everyone's got to pull together, and that family is worth it. "Like," she says. Can you imagine it, liking kids? Well, yes, everyone gives lip service to liking them. But it's entirely another thing when faced with the daily Toddler Stampede and all the extreme provocation therein, to remember that you will spend far more time with them as an adult than you will as a parent-child dyad, and that when all is said and done, it's all so much easier if at base, you like each other. I find this to be a form of mindfulness, especially useful at those moments when Captain Defiant has unleashed "No!" to what is to my mind a simple request. If I basically like them, then I have to stop and look at it from their eyes, and try to understand it, from a place of respect. And it's astonishing how many things I am humbled and horrified to realize were only conflicts because I chose to see them as power struggles rather than as natural conflicts of perception. "Them," she says. Who they are. Their inherent beings. Children are born with personalities complete, and anyone who challenges this just isn't looking, in my opinion. Both of my children were complete people, at birth, and no denying it. I can refer to both my children's birthdays as "the day I met you on the outside", because it's only a tiny stretch to the idea of having met them when they were in utero as well (in retrospect, both of them were expressing themselves in there as well as they could, in their very different ways). Last night, in order to avoid horrendous traffic, instead of hopping in the car and driving home from where we were, we walked to the nearest restaurant. It happened to be a fairly swanky, not particularly child-friendly place. We were seated, we ordered our meal, we were just busy being us. And I was a bit startled when a woman's hand appeared on my shoulder, and I found myself being addressed by a Matron, whose universe this clearly was. I tensed. "You," she intoned, "have done an absolutely wonderful job with those children. You should be proud." She then patted Rowan on the head, and left the restaurant. Just a few minutes later, our waitress (clearly a college girl) made a similar comment. "What are you used to?" I asked her. "Oh, we get a range in here. But I will tell you that your children are the best behaved I've ever seen. They almost make me think I want my own. " I smiled, remembering where my head was at with regards to children when I was her age. "Well," I told her, pulling all my motherly mantle about me, "it's pretty easy. You just have to remember that you have them because you like them, and then go forward based on that." She looked stunned. This was obviously a very new concept to her. She walked away. And as we were leaving, she returned to the table. "I think you've just restored my faith in the idea of being a parent," she says. Blinked a few tears from her eyes, and walked off. Thanks, V, for giving me the answer, in four short words. Because we like them. Of course.