Many people – not all, it must be said, but certainly many – receive the news of a coming baby with joy and welcome. From my non-psychologist psychological perspective, I figure it’s about as close to a life-reset as an individual is going to get – everyone has scars, luggage, and hang-ups, but a brand new life is, at least for a brief period, free of these. It’s one of the few events in a person’s life that can truly be called life-changing, meant here not only in its positive connotation: put your life in a shoebox, shake it violently, throw the contents out, and there it is. Your life!
When it was known that our own children were on their way, my wife and I shared in the same sentiment of joy and welcome. However, on my end at least, there was another feeling. It was a feeling born from a notion of parenthood that, it seems, is not often pondered on and much less mentioned since it might come off as too taboo to say. I’ll say it here, though:
Having children is an act of selfishness.
No one asks to be born. We are forced into this world without our permission, without being asked what kind of parents we’d like, what neighborhood we’d prefer to live in, what country, religion, or schools we’d like to be raised in or avoid. We come here strictly through the private act of two individuals we didn’t get a chance to interview and without any guarantee that they’ll be around in the way we’d like for them to be around. Chances are, these two individuals will probably depart this world before their children will, leaving them with questions still unanswered, worries still unpacified, fears and uncertainties that will go on until the day they too will die.
When our first child was still developing in the womb, I had private conversations with many expected emotions, ranging from joy to “what shit storm did I just get myself into?!?”. I never anticipated, however, that one of the emotions I had to grapple with would be a sense of guilt and even apology.
No doubt we’d make as pleasant a home as possible: prepared a room with a crib and pink frosty walls, cheery and trouble-free plush toys, more blankets and onesies than they will ultimately need. But the thoughts remained. I was about to bring a person into the world. This world. A world that holds immeasurable beauty and wonder and an abundance of general awesomeness: terrific stories and off-colored jokes; hot Summer Saturdays with 7-Eleven Slurpees; cold and lazy Winter Break Sundays, blanket-wrapped in the living room for an all-day movie marathon; grass under bare feet; shared cotton candy; long rides on bicycles; art and music.
But it’s also a world where there would be no escape from pain, lies, and deceit. I would be bringing a person to a place where people do the most atrocious things to one another, where violence to the mind and body is never far away, where no one escapes without disillusionment and a broken heart.
…and I made the willing choice to bring someone here to experience that. All of that.
As a soon-to-be parent, this thought weighed on me. Tried as I might to reason it away – to tell myself that all of the awfulness must be taken with the above-mentioned good, that the dark ultimately helps to define the light, that life will always be a mixture of pleasure and pain – the fact didn’t change that they would indeed experience the dark side of life along with the pleasurable. And for that, I felt sorry.
They’re still young enough now where childhood, for the most part, shields them from the ills and pains of the world. The day will come soon enough, however, when that veil will be removed. With the years, I’ve made as good a peace with that fact as I possibly could and I offer as much of the pleasant and the wonder that life has while I still can. Creating an illusion, perhaps – a protective bubble made from love and responsibility, perpetually reinforced daily. So be it. There will plenty of time for disillusion later.