I'll go ahead and tell you that as a single woman entering mid-life, I'm finding it quite convenient not to have any children. For one thing, I consider any week that goes by in which I haven't had to deal with another person's bodily functions a good week. For another, I can't stand to be talked to before I've had my coffee in the mornings (and occasionally after I've had my coffee as well). So not having any kids underfoot tends to work well for me.
But I've spent enough time around my family and friends to realize that having kids isn't all bad. In fact, having kids around can occasionally be quite useful.
Why Kids are Useful:
1. Having kids means that you'll never need to set an alarm clock again. Ever. Over the summer, I wound up doing some overnight emergency babysitting which resulted in my sleeping on the couch at my brother's house. Not knowing quite when my brother or his wife would come home, I didn't bother setting an alarm, figuring that one of them would wake me up in the wee hours by opening the front door and flipping on the lights. In the end, neither one of them came home until much, much later in the day. But as it turns out, I needn't have worried about setting an alarm clock anyway: my five-year-old niece woke me just before 5:00A.M. by poking me really hard a few times in the spine, breathing snuffily through her nose down the back of my neck, and sucking her thumb at me until I found the presence of mind to get up and pour her some Cheerios.1 Parents of small children deal with these sorts of shenanigans all the time, meaning that they never, ever need to set their alarm clocks. Think of the money that they'll save on batteries (or the energy they'll save by not having to set their phone's alarm function!) because they know that they can rely on being poked, jumped on, steamrolled, or jolted awake from the crashing, banging knocking, and ungodly shrieking of their children in the room next door every single morning.
2. Having kids means that you won't want for a Facebook status. And I'm not just talking about the pat status updates about the latest adorable thing your kid has said, how many bananas your son ate for breakfast, who is vomiting, and who just blew out a diaper.
- You guys know how I sometimes joke about taping my kid into a box for a few hours? Today may be the day it stops being a joke.
- This just in from daycare: [my daughter] has taught the new girl how to pick her nose.
- My son graduated to a half size violin yesterday. This has inspired him to practice--starting at 6:15 this morning.
- Yesterday was made more interesting by [my younger son], who Monday night decided to wrap my keys up in a box and paper and give them to me as a "present." Except he forgot to give them to me, and apparently forgot that he had ever, in fact, seen them. So Tuesday when [our friends] arrived to babysit, I was frantically destroying the house trying to find my keys. [My friend] very graciously loaned me his (manly) minivan for the day. Found the keys later that night when [my older son] knocked the box off a shelf and we heard them. [Younger son] was very excited about presenting them to me at that point as his "gift" to me--so how could I be upset?
- My five year old just managed to put her shirt on upside down. You read that correctly. Waist thru the neckline, arms in sleeves, hem around neck. She was very frustrated she couldn't get it to meet the beltline of her trousers.
- Daughter: Mom, can you twist my bones in? Me: ....... what? Daughter: Can you TWIST my BONES in? Like this: *grabs side and twists at the ribcage* Me: ............. Why? Daughter: So I can do a super-duper-ally-ooper bounce!
And so on.
The salient point here is that once you have kids, you will never have to sit around trying to think about something to post on Facebook that will make your life sound interesting. In fact, you will never have to post anything about your actual life again. Well... you will... but only because your actual life is now, you know, your kids. So... yeah. There you go.3
3. Having kids means that you will stay humble. Unless you don't find the following situations humbling (and in that case, there really is no hope for you):
- Realizing only once you're already out in public that you have vomit/poo smeared on your clothes (or, in the case of at least one of my friends, a dirty diaper stuck to the seat of your own pants).
- Having one of your earrings yanked out completely, causing you to shriek bloody murder in the middle of an otherwise rational conversation at church.
- If you're like most of my female friends, being out shopping and belatedly wondering if you've combed your hair yet. If you're like at least one of my man friends, being out shopping and realizing that you're still wearing your soft, moccasin-like house shoes.
- Dealing with the social awkwardness perpetrated by your medium-sized son, who points at an elderly shopper across the aisle and proclaims, in tones so carrying that even her elderly ears can hear, "SHE'S SO OLD!"
- Resigning yourself to the knowledge that if you have children, your house will never look as neat as you want it to look, reminding you that you are not and cannot be in control of everything in your life.
- Acknowledging that the way in which your children won't always listen to your instructions mirrors your own relationship to your heavenly Father, a sobering reminder of how he must feel when you ignore his promptings. It also reminds you of grace, and to be gracious to the children in your life who have much more cause for this sort of foolishness, being much younger and less wise than you are.4
- Realizing that if such a tiny person as your own toddler can get under your skin and cause you to lose your temper so quickly, you must not be as long-suffering as you thought you were.
4. Having kids means that you can remove the word boredom from your lexicon. Between keeping them fed, clothed, and away from most hazards that can kill them -- not to mention making sure they grow up moderately well-behaved and non-stupid -- the one thing that parenting is guaranteed to do is to keep you busy. 5
The truth is that even if you--like me--don't have children of your own, you have all no doubt experienced the dubious wonder of being important in the life of a child. If your experience has been anything like mine, you have found it equal parts thrill, hilarity, mayhem, refreshment, exasperation, terror, revelry, diversion, enchantment, and conviction.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that kids prove their usefulness in that one point: that they alone bring to the universe that mingled sensation of confusing, glorious bafflement that both tests us beyond measure and helps us to understand that we are, beyond measure, blessed.
1. My confusion at finding myself still babysitting at 5:00A.M. was compounded by the fact that there was no coffee in their house. THERE WAS. NO. COFFEE. IN THEIR HOUSE. I fed the kids, dressed them for the day, got them to their Summer Bible Club program, and drove home all without any coffee in my system. I'm still amazed that nobody died.
2. Cribbed from some of my friends' actual Facebook statuses. Because my friends are awesome.
3. Don't worry. This awkward transition confuses me too.
4. Special thanks to Holly Dove for this beautiful perspective.
5. Just because I like it and didn't have any other place to link it, you get this: 27 Reasons Why Kids Are Actually the Worst. Enjoy!