THE WYSONG e-HEALTH LETTER 858
~Thoughts for Thinking People~
(The following article is a rough draft of a chapter in Dr. Wysong's new 107-chapter book project, titled:
Thinking Matters, volume 1: Living Life …As If Thinking Matters™.)
The Truth Behind Having Children
(Dr. W) In the beginning, having children was just a byproduct of sexual instinct. Later it was a means to increase manpower for survival (hunting the mastodon, tilling the fields). It was just a part of life, even what one aspired to. A strapping daughter was great, a robust son perhaps even better.
Having children can be an expression of love to our mate. How more intimate can two people be than to literally mix their biological (genetic) essence into a tangible package? Children also help cement the marital bond through the shared common interest. There's ego involved too. How would the world be right without our personal genetic packages continuing on, right?
But bearing children is serious business, not just a diversion from boredom or a means to satisfy our insecurities or ego fantasies. In modern civilization things are different than in the bush or on the farm. The world already has more than enough people for its resources. Children do not help families survive; rather they are an economic burden.
To not have children is to miss out on something not duplicated by any other possible experience. It is such a joy that some parents keep repeating it without a full understanding of the long-term responsibilities and consequences. Some parents love babies and toddlers so much because the experience gives so much meaning and purpose to life. So they just keep the production line running until they realize their biological machinery is nearing exhaustion. Then they have a household of teenagers and young adults not quite so dutiful, malleable and compliant and are overwhelmed by the monster they have created. Well I’ll be darned, the cute little dolls that were so fun to play with grow up. Dealing with a herd of self-willed semi-adults is not so easy as playing house.
Procreation is not recreation. The cord between child and parent is never really broken. Playing goo goo with babies is short-lived. The responsibility for young adult and adult progeny is forever.
Having and rearing children is a place for intelligence and conscience, not just fulfillment of biological or selfish urges. Certainly, would-be parents should be educated on child rearing as well as the impact population pressure has on the world. In fact, nobody should be allowed to have children without such training. It’s insane that such an important responsibility requires nothing more than capable (and always willing) genitals.
Modern sex education classes take a stab at this subject but are focused more on coitus and condoms, than conscience, social responsibility, the psychological impact of intimacy and the long term duty and meaning of bearing children. Here’s an addendum to “sex education.” Before you become Mr. or Mrs. Fecund, consider the following:
Babies grow up to be in-your-face teenagers and adults. They are not always so cuddly, cute and compliant. Yes, you will be god to them for about 12 wondrous years, but that’s it. Then you will face the rest of their life with responsibility without authority … they want you there to provide and pick up the pieces, but don’t want to follow your advice.
You will not make your children what you want them to be. They are not your toys, something to solve some ego or insecurity problem you have or a glob of clay for you to shape into your perfect view of a child (modeled after you, of course). They will not change from the first time you can recognize their personality in the crib until they die of old age. Don’t try to spank them into submission or conformity to your dream of what they should be. It will not change them but it will leave you with memories to regret. All you can do is provide a healthy and loving environment for them to be what they will be. The rest is up to them.
You will never stop feeling a sense of responsibility toward them regardless of their age. You will never stop feeling guilt that you should have done more when they were young.
Children are a dramatic departure from a single’s life and take a huge amount of energy and effort. It is no longer all about you. They require total devotion. If you have children when you are biologically ready in your teens, you will have plenty of energy to raise them, just not a whole lot of savvy to go along with that. You’re still a kid yourself and have not yet even figured out that the world does not rotate around you. They will be raised and gone while you are in your thirties. If you have children in your thirties, you will have plenty of energy to begin but will be running out of steam in your forties and fifties. You will, however, have much more life wisdom to help in their rearing. Having children when you are quite young is therefore not a good idea, having them when you are quite old isn’t either. My vote, however, is to have them when you are older (not too), smarter, less egocentric, more mellow, are not thinking bar-scene and appreciate and savor the things around you more. A child is something to savor.
You will never stop feeling as though they should listen to you (rightly so), but they will pretty much stop when they are about 12.
The more you do for your children when they are older, the more you impede their own independent progress. Love is turning them loose, not providing for their every need. Life is a series of lessons from experiencing failures and successes. Parents who insist on providing for every need thwart a child’s development and rob them of life itself. Failure, pain and mistakes are success if we let children experience it and learn from it.
Children grow faster than we can keep up. About the time we come to understand and adjust to a particular stage in their life, they have moved on. You will always be behind, thinking of them in terms of a previous molt. If we do not adjust and respect their new mature stage, but keep them in our mind where they are no longer, they will move on to friends who see them for who they really are.
Each child brought into this already overpopulated world places an enormous burden on the carrying capacity of the Earth. The Earth is finite. Reproduction is infinite … until there is environmental collapse.
Worrying about teenage hormone-driven kids – who might do what you did when you were that age – is hell.
We can have no good understanding of what we're getting into until we live the experience of having and raising children. We may think we do since we were once children ourselves, but we have no real idea of what getting behind the wheel of parenting is. Particularly is this true when children become young adults, insisting on adult freedoms but being still incapable of shouldering any of the responsibilities. It is also a mistake to think you know what having children is all about when you just have infants, toddlers or youngsters. It should be a requirement that before anyone has children they must have raised children through and into the adult years. An impossibility, of course, but nonetheless a good idea to give would-be parents true insight.
With all that said, there will never be another time in life when you feel so important and are so needed as when you are raising your family. There is also no equal affinity you can have for another than that for your child. Watching the development of children, when all things in the world are fresh and new to them, is like reliving these discoveries and joys.
But do not be deceived into thinking it lasts. It not only doesn’t, it passes so quickly you will be aghast. It is also cruel in that, although you are a constant to your child, they are an evolving creature with a series of deaths and rebirths through their various stages. You will long for the soft tender feel of their infant bodies, their sweet milky breath, their cute antics, clumsy verbiage, their first steps, their fears that only you can allay, and the awakening of their intellect. All these marvelous things pass quickly, ultimately leaving you with the empty nest syndrome and to mourn each stage of their childhood that is gone forever.
Several children later, these are the lessons I have learned. Would I like to experience rearing them all again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Did I do everything as well or as intelligently as I now perhaps could and am telling you to? No.
Such is life.
Best of health to you and yours from all of us here at Wysong.