My middle son has said that he does not want children. He is quite emphatic about his decision and I have to admit he seems to have thought his position through. In fact, he has probably contemplated this subject more than his brothers, both of whom have stated that they plan on having children.
I understand his arguments for remaining child-free better than he probably thinks I do; it would be hard for me not to since I have been parenting for quite a while and know the challenges first-hand. I do find his feelings a bit ironic because my son happens to have an incredible way with children; he’s like the pied piper. Kids light up when he is around and he in turn finds them endlessly amusing. When he babysits for children in the neighborhood he doesn’t seem at all annoyed by their antics; in fact, he generally comes home with a smile on his face and tells me funny things they have said or done during his time with them.
He has been an incredibly patient and nurturing older brother to my youngest son; always including him when he’s with friends and setting a good example. I do realize that just because you’re good with children, doesn’t mean you should have your own. However, there are a few things I would like my son to know about this business of having kids.
First of all, and I do not mean this to sound condescending, you may change your mind. I don’t say that because I want to be a grandmother (although I admit I really do). Luckily, you’re not my only shot at someday holding that title. Just think back to how much you have changed in the few years since you started college. Now that you are a college junior, I know you look at the freshman and think they are so young. You are only twenty now—imagine how different you will be at thirty or forty. Allow for the possibility that you may not always feel the same as you do right now and don’t spend too much time worrying about the future. You don’t have to decide your entire life right now and I’m not just talking about this one issue.
Second, you are correct when you say that having children is really hard. And time-consuming. And expensive. You guys are all those things. But I cannot imagine my life without any of you. There is nothing I want to own, and nothing I want to do that means more to me than you and your brothers. And yeah, it’s difficult and the three of you have tested me in ways I could not have possibly imagined. But the rewards have been worth it. And I do not say that lightly.
Third, you have mentioned that you are concerned you could have a special needs child and that scares you. Again, I appreciate the fact that you have considered all the risks involved in having children. It’s true that when you decide to have children you have no idea what you are signing up for. Most people go into it blissfully unaware. You have considered all the angles and that’s smart and responsible. But I would not allow fear to stop you should you decide you want children. Many things in life are a leap of faith, although I admit that having children is an especially permanent decision. But I guarantee that if you do have a child who has special needs you will love them with all your heart because you are kind and sensitive and because they will be yours. All children come with different problems and different pleasures.
You have said that the world has too many people. That is true, but maybe your child will be the one to help make the world a better place. And if you are concerned about the planet’s population problem you can always adopt; I know from personal experience that adoption is a wonderful way to grow a family.
Lastly, I did not have you or your brothers to see my image reflected back. I did not have you to take care of me in my old age. I wanted you and your brothers because I felt I was not complete without you. I wanted children to teach and guide and enjoy and I feel blessed to have been able to do that. Even through the hardest moments, there has not been one second have I regretted any of you. (Okay, maybe that one time when… just kidding!)
Having said all that, if you remain steadfast in your decision not to have children, I will understand and appreciate that you did not come to your decision lightly. You have stated that you would love to be the “fun uncle” and that is a job at which I know you would excel. Being a parent is certainly not for everyone. In fact, I have known people who probably should not have had children. I just want you to know that I will support and love you no matter what you decide to do and that goes beyond this specific issue; it’s an all-encompassing reminder that I will always be in your corner.
Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire, blogger and college essay editor. She attended Brandeis University, from which she graduated cum laude with a degree in literature. In addition to Grown and Flown, her work has been featured on CollegiateParent, Parent Co., Kveller, Her View From Home, Beyond Your Blog, MockMom, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Better After 50, and The SITS Girls.
You can read more of Marlene’s work on her site, Thoughts From Aisle 4