Like the why of marriage, the why of kids is something I ponder now and then. Both marriage and kids are something that society, particularly Indian society, just assumes that people should want – preferably in that order. I have never been convinced.
Especially on the kids front. Maybe because unlike many people, particularly women I know, I allow myself to think thoughts that most people would think I shouldn’t be thinking. Like “playing with this kid is boring” or “why should I colour this green because you say so and you’re little” or “that baby is really ugly”. Especially the latter. I realised that when I cooed over babies, most often I was faking it.
Faking anything has never been good for my psyche – I feel all cold and clammy inside and then end up wildly rebelling against the fakery one inopportune day – so mostly I don’t. Quite early in life, I stopped cooing over babies. I also made it clear I didn’t like kids. This proved to be a good thing because people stopped expecting me to entertain their kids. I could pick the odd kid I wanted entertain myself with.
Paradoxically, by the time I was more mature and thought things out calmly after discounting my addiction to rebellion, I came to the conclusion that I would probably get married (maybe I’d watched too many romantic-comedies, also partner-for-life idea seemed appealing) and if I did, I would like to have children. I would not like to be a single parent because I don’t think I can raise a child alone.
The reasons I concluded I would like to have children are vague. Initially, it was something on the lines of – it’s a highly recommended experience, why not experience it? (I felt this way about marijuana and bungee jumping too.) Later, it was something more primal. I began to smile at babies. I began to feel a little urge. Then my husband pounced.
Now that I have a child, I know why I am happy I had him. Nothing in my life has ever made me smile like he has. Even in my shittiest moments, I only have to think of my son and I smile. Having your own personal smile-turnoner, that’s precious.
Because I am one of those people that cross-questions everything, I wonder if I say this because I have no choice. Because it would be truly horrendous to say, “I would have been happier without”. I can’t ever guarantee that I won’t say it. But right now, I know, it was worth it.
(It probably helps that I never idealized children or the process of raising them. I expected it to be hard, and it has been harder. But I have also not regretted it. I also admit I have great help. I wonder if I would feel the same if, like my mom, I had to deal with two small children all on my own. I think I would have gone crazy. I am not single parent material.)
This sounds as vague as my initial reason for having children. But suddenly I found a way to make it more concrete.
Like great art, children have a way of ‘making it new’.
At a very basic level, by creating a child, the parents have made something, something with the genetics mix of both of them. At a very egoistic level, there is a thrill to that, like playing God. Thus, the exhilaration of seeing your biological child in all its newness and thinking ‘wow, I made that’. Then, there’s the moulding of the child into a person – another act of creation – of shaping its innate qualities into something beautiful. This is the parent as poet, creating.
But the parent is also the reader. Like great poetry must make the world new for us, so does a child. That jolt of experiencing something for the first time that poetry gives, so also do children. That is what people mean when they more prosaically say “they keep us young”.
And that is where the pleasure of having children lies – in being both poet and reader, in living, just once again (ok twice) with wide-eyed innocence.
Now go read this article. And this one.