In the beginning, having children was just a byproduct of sexual instinct. Later it was a means to increase manpower for survival (hunting the mastodon, tilling the fields). It was just a part of life, even what one aspired to. A strapping daughter was great, a robust son perhaps even better.
Having children can be an expression of love to our mate. How more intimate can two people be than to literally mix their biological (genetic) essence into a tangible package. Children also help cement the marital bond through the shared common interest. There's ego involved too. For how would the world be right without our personal genetic packages continuing on, right?
But bearing children is serious business, not just a diversion from boredom or a means to pacify our insecurities or ego fantasies. In modern civilization things are different than in the bush or on the farm. The world already has more than enough people for its resources. Children do not help families survive; rather they are an economic burden.
To not have children is to miss out on something not duplicated by any other possible experience. It is such a joy that some parents keep repeating it without a full understanding of the long-term responsibilities and consequences. Regardless of their age you never really break the cord. So procreation is not recreation. Today's world requires an intelligent approach to most everything. Certainly, would be parents should be educated on child rearing as well as the impact population pressure has on the world. In fact, nobody should be allowed to have children without such training. It's insane that such an important responsibility requires nothing more than capable (and always willing) genitals.
But since there is no such training or requirement thereof, I'll take on the duty here. Before you become Mr. or Mrs. Fecund, consider the following:
1. Babies grow up to be in-your-face teenagers and adults. They are not always so cuddly, cute and compliant. Yes, you will be god to them for about 12 wondrous years, but that's it. Then you will have the rest of their life with responsibility without authority?they want you there to provide and pick up the pieces but don't want to follow your advice.
2. You will not make your children what you want them to be. They are not your toys, something to solve some ego or insecurity problem you have or a glob of clay for you to shape into your perfect view of a child (modeled after you, of course). They will not change from the first time you can recognize their personality in the crib until they die of old age. Don't try to spank them into submission or conformity to your dream of what they should be. It will not change them but it will leave you with memories to regret. All you can do is provide a healthy and loving environment for them to be what they will be. The rest is up to them.
3. You will never stop feeling a sense of responsibility toward them regardless of their age. You will never stop feeling guilt that you should have done more when they were young.
4. Children are a dramatic departure from a singles life and take a huge amount of energy and effort. It is no longer all about you. They require total devotion. If you have children when you are biologically ready in your teens, you will have plenty of energy to raise them, just not a whole lot of savvy to go along with that. You're still a kid yourself and have not yet even figured out that the world does not rotate around you. They will be raised and gone while you are in your thirties. If you have children in your thirties, you will have plenty of energy to begin but will be running out of steam in your forties and fifties. You will have much more life wisdom to help in their rearing though. Having children when you are quite young is therefore not a good idea, having them when you are quite old isn't either. My vote, however, is to have them when you are older (not too), smarter, less egocentric, more mellow, are not thinking bar-scene and appreciate and savor the things around you more. A child is something to savor.
5. You will never stop feeling as though they should listen to you (rightly so), but they will pretty much stop when they are about 12.
6. The more you do for your children when they are older, the more you impede their own independent progress. Love is turning them loose, not providing for their every need. Life is a series of lessons from experiencing failures and successes. Parents who insist on providing for every need thwart a child's development and rob them of life itself. Failure, pain and mistakes are success if we let children experience it and learn from it.
7. Children grow faster than we can keep up. About the time we come to understand and adjust to a particular stage in their life, they have moved on. You will always be behind, thinking of them in terms of a previous molt. If we do not adjust and respect their new mature stage, but keep them in our mind where they are no longer, they will move on to friends who see them for who they really are.
8. Each child brought into this already overpopulated world places an enormous burden on the carrying capacity of the earth. The earth is finite. Reproduction is infinite?until there is environmental collapse.
9. Worrying about teenage hormone-driven kids-- who might do what you did when you were that age-- is hell.
With all that said, there will never be another time in life when you feel so important and are so needed as when you are raising your family. There is also no equal affinity you can have for another than that for your child. Watching the development of children, when all things in the world are fresh and new to them, is like reliving these discoveries and joys yourself.
But do not be deceived into thinking it lasts. It not only doesn't, it passes so quickly you will be aghast. It is also cruel in that, although you are a constant to your child, they are an evolving creature with a series of deaths and rebirths through their various stages. You will long for the soft tender feel of their infant bodies, their sweet milky breath, their cute antics and clumsy verbiage, their first steps, their fears that only you can allay, and the awakening of their intellect. All these marvelous things pass quickly, ultimately leaving you with the empty nest syndrome and to mourn each stage of their childhood that is gone forever.
Several children later, these are the lessons I have learned. Would I like to experience rearing them all again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Did I do everything as well or as intelligently as I now perhaps could and am telling you to? No.
Such is life.
Dr. Wysong is a former veterinary clinician and surgeon, college instructor in human anatomy, physiology and the origin of life, inventor of numerous medical, surgical, nutritional, athletic and fitness products and devices, research director for the present company by his name and founder of the philanthropic Wysong Institute. He is author of The Creation-Evolution Controversy now in its eleventh printing, a new two volume set on philosophy for living, several books on nutrition, prevention and health for people and animals and over 15 years of monthly health newsletters.
He may be contacted at Wysong@Wysong.net and a free subscription to his e-Health Letter is available at http://www.wysong.net