This is not about teen pregnancy. That teenagers should not have babies is obvious. What this blog is about is my particular kids and the fact that they are beginning to say out loud that they are not sure that they want to have any kids, at all, ever. My 21-year old son has told me that he and his girlfriend (who he is planning to marry) have pretty much decided that they don’t want to have any kids. My youngest daughter, now sixteen, has also said that she is not sure she ever wants to have any kids. Ariel isn’t positive either.
So my first reaction was a reaction, as though it was a reflection on me and the home they were raised in that they didn’t want to have kids. And hey, it could be. I have had five kids, and that’s a lot of kids. We have one of those houses which are almost always crowded and you have to fight for the bathroom and somebody is as likely or not to have drunk the last of the milk while you were sleeping. And finances have been tight and each kid has not always gotten as much as he or she might have wished at Christmas, you know?
And of course, I had to wonder if what happened to Michaela might have played into these inclinations to perhaps go through life childless. It is a certainty that my children have witnessed the absolutely horrifying depth of pain and grief you can experience as a parent. And I hope that this hasn’t influenced them. I hope that they do not fear to love anybody, any time, anything, any way, just because it might hurt one day. That is probably my greatest fear for my children, given the lives we have led here and all they have witnessed.
But I really don’t think that’s it.
Although I didn’t purposely set out to have so many kids, I am not stupid, so it’s not like I couldn’t have prevented each and every one of them. But I am an only child, and not just an only child in my immediate nuclear family. I am the only child in the entire known generation of my family. At this point in my life, I have only one living relative, and that is my aunt in England. To top that off, I grew up in a military family, so up until the age of sixteen I never lived in the same place long enough to form any attachments. Before graduating from high school I had managed to attend thirteen different schools. I think that a large part of the subconscious motivation behind my large family was just simply a desire for family, and for roots.
My kids, on the other hand, have grown up in a house with lots of people. Family, they’ve got. It’s solitude and privacy that are at a premium for them.
I have thought sometimes about what life would have been like if I hadn’t had kids. It would have been much easier, less complicated. I’d have had a lot more money and freedom to do things. If I could go back and take with me everything I know now, would I make any different choices? I don’t know. If I’d never had kids, life might have been easier. It would have been a whole lot less painful (I think). But look at all the wonderful stuff I’d have missed. I really wanted to have kids in the first place, and I don’t know that I could ever have chosen differently, even knowing what I know now. Even thinking I should have had fewer, which ones would I send back? They have all enriched my life so much!
But it’s okay if my kids choose not to have kids. It’s okay if they choose that kind of freedom in their lives, as long as they still choose to love. For my son, I think this decision will stick. He and his girlfriend are training to be youth pastors, and have been working as leaders in a large youth group for several years. Even though they are now only in their early twenties, there are already a few hundred teenagers they consider to be “their” kids, and they want to be able to devote themselves wholeheartedly to this calling. The girls, who knows? Right now they have their own dreams to follow, and I hope they do that. They may change their minds one day, but I think it’s good that they consider having children to be a matter of choice, rather than something that is inevitable.
No choice is guaranteed to bring you happiness. You just have to make the ones that are right for you, and let others make those choices for themselves as well. The absolute center of my life is my children, and it has been for as long as I can remember. There is a fifteen year gap between when I had my first child and when I had my youngest! My career, my needs and wants and desires, and my own relationships have taken a far back seat to my kids. Now they are growing up, and here at this late stage I am actually facing making a life of my own. It’s an internal struggle for sure, and yet it is kind of exciting also.
Life is full of possibilities.