Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thinking Out Loud: On Children

No matter how we try to make sense of it, having children is irrational. It defies what we conceive as logic. Something that we won't ever admit to ourselves. Especially since we almost always view childbearing and raising through such terribly rose-tinted glasses. To have someone totally dependent on you, both emotionally and physically, for their every need. For whom you shall be by turns criminal and detective, defender and prosecutor, judge, jury and accountability committee. Despite the fulfillment we find in seeing a child at peace, loved, well fed, and clothed, knowing it is our hard work that has made this possible, it is not enough to look at this (as a by-stander) and say, "Yes, I would love to have children, if only to have this feeling". The demands and the joys do not balance out as often as you thought they would and it is a while before you break-even.

If you stopped and looked at it all: the sleep deprivation, worry, anxiety, and tears; the joys, hopes, longings, and desires that you pin on your child. The pride, contentment and satisfaction. The potent emotional cocktail that you take every day you're with them. The changes that happen to you and continue to happen, and you don't know whether to resist or be swallowed whole. The struggle as you grapple with growth that leaves you outwardly unchanged but separates you from the years of your youth. Life's questions now demand certain answers. No longer can you leave contradicting facts to remain easy bedfellows; every moment, without knowing, you are choosing. Choosing the story you will tell. The narrative you will shape them with. We want to give them certainty. Security. We want them to learn the lessons without paying the price. Somehow. Or if they must suffer, let it be when our eyes are closed and our hearts are numb, and it is beyond us to feel anything.

A better way is acknowledge the having of children as a biological drive. Trying to come up with reasons for it is futile. We want to have children because the genetic material that we carry wants to live. To survive. To make as many copies as it can of itself. In a sense, it longs for immortality. And the entire procedure we have come up with for having children: find a suitable mate, make a home in which your children can be raised, and then have said children, simply enables our DNA to have a higher chance of surviving (your children growing to adulthood) and making more copies of itself. Do not attempt to rationalize, come up with reasons. To sugercoat. Acknowledge the madness of it all. The awkward balance you're trying to keep. Take it one day at a time and do your best. Mourn who you used to be and accept what you are becoming. The two go together. They both live inside you.

I will end this with a quote from Khalil Gibran's wonderful book, The Prophet:

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday..."


  1. You may have children. The opposite is there in a range of possibilities. Having chosen or landed on any spot you have to enjoy your responsibility, not as its prisoner but executor. Children are people at various stages of development entangled with parents and society...They are free and responsible on their own when they attain majority age. What goes on is part of the mosaic of human relations.

  2. It is best if both parents, as a couple, inform their children of their decision to obtain a divorce, and that neither parent is at fault.