Stephen came home from work yesterday and told me about an article he’d read (and laughed at) that debunked the most common reasons to have children. The bottom line of this completely earnest article was that having children does not reliably produce, in the short or long term, any of the following: individual happiness, personal wealth, future security. To accomplish any of these ends, an individual is better off pursuing a hobby and/or career, and putting away lots of money into savings and retirement accounts.
Well, tell me something I don’t know! Kids are inconveneient, disruptive forces to any established lifestyle. Parents endure years of interrupted sleep, annoying music in the car, limited social engagement, body fluids in all the wrong places, time and money sucked down a (usually) thankless drain.
And yet, almost everyone I know wants a child at some point, and the ones who have kids (who should know better, you’d think!) keep having more!
I’ve said before that deciding to have a second child is a completely irrational act of optimism. I was reminded of this the other night.
We’d assembled a crib and moved some furniture around in Tres’s nursery. I had plugged in a lamp for some soft ambient light, and even with no bedding or decorations, the room looked so warm and inviting that–what else? I sat in the comfy rocking chair and cried and prayed that God would please let me bring a baby home into this room.
Not three hours later, in the midst of an hours-long, knock-down-drag-out bedtime battle with Abby, I sat in the same comfy rocker and cried again. What was I thinking, hoping for another baby when I have been so completely defeated by the one I already have? The only way to explain my prayers for another baby must be complete, certifiable insanity.
Of course, things looked better in the morning, once Abby and I both finally got some sleep. And of course, the point is moot where Tres is concerned; that train has already left the station, even if I have no knowledge of or control over where the tracks will take him.
So believe me, the point of Stephen’s learned author was not lost on me. Most days would be easier, and maybe even more fun, if I wasn’t hauling around Abby and Tres. I wouldn’t have to be emotionally invested in whether or not someone else eats or sleeps. Our current and future financial situation would certainly be more comfortable. I wouldn’t have snot on my shirt before 9AM…in fact, I wouldn’t be out of my PJ’s by 9 AM. I’d have more time to read my Bible, to travel, to exercise, to pursue a career , to watch the news. So, maybe the article was right: maybe people shouldn’t have kids (and I do acknowledge, it’s not a choice that is right or even possible for everyone).
But, someone’s got to raise the next generation, and for all my blundering, I’d rather make a contribution than leave it up to strangers. But even more importantly, it’s a powerful refinery for my character to spend my days in a job that plays so consistently to my weaknesses, to look that three-year-old in the eye and apologize, to recognize my own rebellious and selfish attitudes when she puts those little hands on her hips. And there’s something unquantifiably precious in hearing Abby tenderly care for her “babies” in the next room, or helping her to sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and recite the Lord’s Prayer and knowing that I’m playing a role in teaching her to love what is good, true, and beautiful.
Because as rewarding as it is to fill your life with security, happiness, and personal fulfillment, it’s ultimately even more satisfying (and sanctifying) to pour it out for the sake of someone else. So my 401 (k) might be puny, but it doesn’t mean I’m not making thoughtful investments. And though the benefits to my job are less concrete than a paycheck and health insurance, they’re significant none the less.
So I guess I’ll keep Abby and Tres, and maybe we’ll even have a couple more. And we’ll trust in the supernatural math that takes what is insufficient and makes it more than enough…for money, for patience, for minutes in the day. And we’ll laugh at the future, knowing it was never in our hands anyway!