Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Kids do grow up, but can one be a parent always looking ahead?
Q: I'm childless by choice because I don't enjoy being around small kids. However, I've always suspected I might be missing out on that aspect of life.
My sister recently commented on how fast her kids were growing up, and that she has forgotten what it was like for someone to need her every second. This made me wonder whether the thing I dread most — that exhausting, annoying stage between infancy and 8 or 9 — is really less of a big deal than I think it is. Do you think I am right to rule out being a mom, or is there a chance the ends would outweigh the journey?
Carolyn: Of course there's a chance, but with kids, you can't test your theory, say "Oops!" and change your mind.
So, I can't encourage you to go for it when there's any chance you'll be a cranky, put-upon nightmare to your kids for the highly formative first 8 or 9 years of their lives.
And if you're a grudging parent while they're small, don't expect angels when they hit your hoped-for age of reason. The better-behaved kids tend to be the ones whose parents really hung in there and did the hard work — of saying no despite the risk of touching off a tantrum, of getting up in the middle of the night to soothe away nightmares despite being stumble-into-walls exhausted, of listening to them before they have any skill at expressing themselves, of letting them make normal kid mistakes without getting shrieky and punitive on them, and so on.
Even the best parents fall short here and there. But the best ones are, in general, with their kids in the moment, and not looking off to a distant somewhere else they'd rather be.
Remember, too, that not all kids come out with a full set of abilities. You have to be ready to be a whole-hearted parent to a special-needs child.
So, have kids only if you really believe you're up to being that kind of parent for as long as you need to be, and if you really believe your life would be enriched by children, and, as always, if you truly believe you'd be the kind of parent you'd want to have.
Anonymous: Re: Pennsylvania:
Remember, you might be thinking of it as just 8 or 9 years, but for your kid it would be their whole life so far. Your temporary stage would be all of reality as they've ever known it.
Carolyn: Heartbreaking and true, thanks.
Anonymous 2: Re: Pennsylvania:
She could consider adopting. Usually the older kids have a more difficult time getting adopted.
Carolyn: True. However, older children often have had traumatic childhoods.
I realize that can be used to support two completely different arguments — (1) They need the most awesome parents out there, or (2) Any stable, non-abusive, permanent home is better than life in the foster system — but either way, I'm reluctant to say to a reluctant parent, "Adopt an older child."
But I'll let you say it, and add a caution that it can't be just about getting a child after s/he gets "easier." It has to be about giving an older child a chance, for the sake of the older child.