Kids Make For A Lousy Hobby

I was sitting in a diner at lunchtime a while ago when I overheard a bit of animated conversation behind me. Two middle-aged women sat in a booth, talking over coffee. One of the woman turned the conversation towards the subject of children. Pretty uninteresting stuff, this, but the second woman's reply caught my ear, suddenly.

"We lived in the northwest of Massachusetts back then," said the second lady, "My husband worked and I was home alone all day long. My gosh, maybe that was it: Maybe having a family gave me something to DO!"

Both woman laughed merrily. The second one continued. "But you know what? I was young and foolish, back then. I've learned, the hard way, the errors of my ways. I should have spent more time in the garden; kids make for a lousy hobby..."

More laughter and, admittedly, a smile from my own lips, too. I know a bit about that subject, myself: My wife and I have had six children, ourselves.

Yes, kids make for a lousy hobby; how well we learned that lesson. Mind you, we wanted a family, and very early on, though perhaps not for the best of reasons. Both my wife and I came from severely fractured families; when we fell in love and decided to spend our lives together; creating and succeeding at something our own families had failed so miserably at was a huge motivation for us.

Our own children were, by no means, a hobby: The world is full of easier, cheaper, and less stress-inducing hobbies than THAT one (skydiving without a parachute comes immediately to mind). But the conversation reminded me of those early days. We learned a lot, Ann and I, back then and in a hurry: we had to. We were incredibly young and niave, but our first child , Patricia, didn't know that, of course. She hit us with every trial, every tribulation, and every bizarre child-raising situation you could possibly think of, and all within the first two years of her life.

One of my earliest memories of this period is also one of the ones that inspired me very early on with the incredible strength, compassion, and determination of my wife. My daughter Patricia was only a few days old and was suffering from colic. I woke up, one night, early in the morning to find that she was in bed with us, cradled in my wife's arms. Ann was rocking her gently back and forth, trying to sing her to sleep. Patty was howling from her illness. Ann was weeping, too; unable to calm her newborn daughter.

"Go to sleep, Patricia", this sweet but very young girl would whisper to her child, between kisses, "Please, go to sleep; please be well..."

My daughter was weeping. My wife was weeping. Pretty soon, I was weeping as well: it was a rough night for us, and a rude awakening. But thankfully, there were very few repeats of that evening: Our daughter meant the world to us, and knowing that we were attempting the impossible, we set out to remedy the inexperience caused by our youth and our lack of training as quickly as possible.

We grew up in a hurry, back then...

For the record: My eldest daughter is full grown now and has turned into a very remarkable, capable adult in her own right: We made a lot of mistakes, in our times, but somehow it all worked out in the end, not just for her but for all our children, as well. We were blessed then, and are still blessed now for the experience.

The point of this piece: it wasn't easy, by any stretch of the imagination. It wasn't cheap, either: Kids are wickedly expensive. Buy a CAR if you need something to occupy your time, Parents: They're cheaper than children and a heck of a lot easier on the bank statement!

My musings at the diner gave me pause to think, that evening. Why do people decide to have children? That evening, I asked a few trusted friends that question, in preparation for this article.

One woman gave me a somewhat predictable answer : "I was lonely for Love, so I had children to fill that need..."

This woman is near certifiable, of course: Having children for Love is downright silly. Don't get me wrong, I've loved my children (and still do) every day of their lives, but you just HAVE to know something: a little baby is a poor substitute for Love. They need their Mom and Dad, there's no denying that, but they don't come to fully appreciate a true relationship until much later in their lives.

Don't confuse NEED with LOVE. Heck, I know some adults who still make that mistake in their lives, daily, both online and off.

Another friend told me "I wanted to have children so I'd have someone to give hugs to, and to help foster great family memories..."

Forgive me, dear friend; please don't take this the wrong way, but you have to know something: if it's hugs and memories you want, DOGS are a safer, simpler solution to that problem and they make a heck of a lot less MESS in the early going then children do!

Still another wrote "I spent a lot of time babysitting before I was married. That was easy, fun work, so why not? I wanted children, thinking it would be just as easy. Now? I'm realizing that my child has turned into a 'mini-me' version of myself with the same attitude and temper that I always had. A word to the wise: fix your own errors before you have children so they won't reappear later on in the face of your offspring..."

A noble thought, that, but I suspect that genetics doesn't work quite that quickly! She does raise a good point, though: Raising your own children will never be quite the same as baby sitting the offspring of others. For starters, you can't go home to get away from them, when they're your own! Plus, the experience of raising your own children doesn't pay, either. It costs, and costs big time.

The bottom line? Raising a family can be a wonderful and very fulfilling endeavor, there's no doubt about that. But it will never be easy, and undertaking that huge a responsibility takes forethought, dedication, and a whole pile of compassion. When you're ready to have children, do it for the right reasons. Children aren't hobbies, they're not line items on a resume or a financial statement. They're not cuddle toys or photo opportunities, not completely. They won't do chores or even clean up their own rooms for several years to come, either.

When you're ready to have children because you're eager to GIVE your love, not RECIEVE it, then raising a family will prove to be a rewarding, enduring, and soul-satisfying path for your life, far into the future.