Observing a family with two small kids, setting up a tent next to our camper during our short adrenaline vacation in Slovenian mountains (rafting, high ropes, canyoning, paragliding, bungee – verdict: canyoning most enjoyable, bungee most terrifying, paragliding possible future), I remembered a post by my blogging friend Robin Easton on how families with small children are often being looked down upon and avoided in camps, everybody fearing that their vacation is going to be disturbed. So, I immediately decided to not fall into this trap (as I actually even vowed to in my comment to Robin’s post) and be positive and open towards them.
But, oh boy, did that prove to be a difficult task in the next couple of days.
Kids were about 2 and 4 and they were crying ALL THE TIME. Parents were a young and completely depressed couple, just attempting to switch kids off in the evenings, in the mornings, during the days, just to park them somewhere and have some peace of mind. Unsuccessfully. I have not seen them smile at their kids even once, never giving them a single encouraging and gentle glance, let alone any sort of touch, hug, kiss. It was basically just ordering them around and rolling their eyes when the crying started again. They never unpacked their bicycles, never brought any ball or toy or anything from the tent. Kids seemed completely lost, helpless, unhappy, confused, and parents appeared to be at the edge of sanity, worn out, disillusioned, depressed.
It was so easy to have empathy for all four of them. Yet my knowledge of their language was not good enough to do anything really and I also did not feel like jumping into any sort of rescue missions here.
This was obviously not what these two people had imagined a family life to be like – well, this is not what any parent ever desires for. A constant mutual torturing. Yet, not every family scene in the camp was like that at all. There were extremely happy families around, with laughter, play, joy, hugs and kisses, expressions of love and beauty, everybody enjoying each other and life.
I guess I am a bit pissed off by this let’s-have-kids propaganda. Photos of happy mothers with happy babies everywhere, romantic images of loving families, all the celebrities – all delighted and mystically uplifted – speaking how having kids changed their life and brought meaning to them and all of that. And then, when young couples are all crazy about each other, when their brain is temporarily out of order because of being in love, when all families are hinting them to hurry up and produce some grandchildren, yes, it is then so easy to see only the bright part of it and jump into having kids.
Yet, all too often they have no clue about the reality behind it all, the one that was so lucidly expressed in my beloved film Lost in Translation, when Bob, telling Charlotte about life and having children, says: “The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born… …Your life, as you know it… is gone. Never to return.«
So, I would like to scream to all the young future parents, please, for everybody’s sake, DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN – unless you fully understand, that:
- you actually do not have to have children. It is perfectly fine to live your life with no kids. There’s plenty of children in this world and nobody will suffer if you simply choose to not have them because you do not feel like having them.
- yes, having kids is one of the most beautiful things that can happen in life, yet it is also a very, very, very, very hard work
- once you have kids, you have them for good. You cannot change your mind. Ever.
- you will be fully responsible for them and your relationship with them for many, many years. No time-outs, no excuses.
- raising children will demand huge amounts of your time and energy. Therefore you will have much less time and energy for yourself and for your relationships with your spouse. This will bring about conflicts, dilemmas, problems, that right now you do not even dream of.
- raising children will ever demand changes within yourself and the relationship with your spouse. Raising children is actually not doing work on children but rather working on yourself and all the stuff that keeps coming up. You can not do a good job with your gloves and asbestos suit on. You will need to get fully naked and be willing to be influenced on a daily basis. It will change you a great deal, whether you want it or not.
But, on the other hand, it is all about the unconditional love, the beauty of life and all the magical subtle joys that will bring about the best moments of your life. There are so many of your needs that will be met and you will have a honour and a pleasure to meet so many needs of your children. And the hugs you will be getting from them will be the warmest and most sincere hugs you will ever experience. And their tiny little fingers trustingly holding your tired hand on a late afternoon walk, while sharing some basic truths of life – well, this will keep you going for centuries.