There are people whose lives center around their children. I have no quarrel with these people, but I am not one of them.
I don’t feel my life has been incomplete without children, nor do I have any regrets about avoiding them.
However, as I was reading messages from my sister who had traveled to Duluth to take provisions to her number one son, who is matriculating as a freshman at UMD, it occurred to me there is one advantage to having kids.
Despite their liabilities, kids provide milestones along the road of life.
This is an area in which many of us who are childless are deficient.
It’s easy to keep track of time when we are young.
As we progress through the grades in school, we have regular updates, and we can associate where we were and how old we were at a particular time by the grade we were in.
Those who go to college have another clear marker.
Other major life events, such as marriages, buying our first house, and getting our first “real” job also provide milestones to help us keep track of where we are in the journey of life.
For those of us without children, once we are established, we enter a vast trackless area in which there are few milestones to give us context.
We might drift along, with one day seeming much like the rest.
Days turn into weeks, which become months and then years.
Then, one day, we might find ourselves sitting in a memorial service for one of our brothers, and come to the realization that we are, if not old, certainly within hailing distance.
We might be puzzled, because we are sure the last time we looked, we were still young and vibrant.
We might wonder what happened to all the intervening years.
Without milestones to help us mark the journey, we might feel a bit lost.
People who have kids don’t have that problem.
Once they are established, they start a whole new set of milestones, from the birth of each of their children, to their progression through school, to the time the tax-deductables leave the nest and start their own adult lives.
Parents likely remember their children’s weddings, their first residence, and all the other firsts in their lives.
It doesn’t end there, however. There may be grandchildren or great grandchildren to follow, adding milestones of their own.
I doubt parents are ever surprised by the realization that they are getting old, because they spend their lives watching their children pushing them down the road.
People who want kids are often highly motivated to start a family, and frankly, they need that kind of commitment with all the challenges facing families today.
On the other hand, people who are not interested in having children should never be pushed to do so. Contrary to popular fiction, being a parent is not for everyone.
There are days when I have all I can do to take care of myself. I can’t imagine what an unmitigated disaster it might be if I had to sort out a bunch of kids, as well.
So, despite the fact that kids would provide me with benchmarks along the road of life, I think I’ll pass.
Instead, maybe I’ll just start a journal to keep track of the highlights as they occur.
That may not be a bad idea anyway. Wisdom may come with age, but a better memory does not.