I like to engage with pretty much anyone I meet wherever I am or wherever I go. It may be in a foreign country such as on my recent trip to Africa or simply sitting next to someone on a chair lift when skiing. If the person is young, I’m especially interested in the choices they will be making and I often ask personal questions about whether they are in a relationship or not. If I sense they are open to these questions, I will probe further.
In my unscientific polling, I’ve been surprised at how many young people are indecisive about having children and, if they are considering having them, it’s usually only one or two. This is yet more evidence of the demographic crisis we are facing in the “West” and in much of the world presently.
My journey having and raising my boys has been far from a picnic but it is without a doubt the greatest ongoing serial drama I’ve ever experienced. No book series, movies series, or daytime soap opera can begin to compete. Heck, I’m invested body and soul in this parenting thing! I’ve come to believe that it is the greatest story ever told in our lives.
First, it is ongoing from the moment of birth of our kids until our deaths. If we are unfortunate enough to outlive our children, it is a very sad but thankfully unusual circumstance these days. But, that is also the exception. Every step of our children’s development is both exciting, scary, and a cliffhanger. Truly, is there any more suspenseful cliffhanger than raising a teenager?
Have you ever stayed up and waited for your teen son or daughter to get home when they’ve missed the designated and agreed-upon curfew time and they’re not answering their cell-phone? Need any more suspense in your life? I think not!
If you are blessed with more than one child, then you know how the cliffhangers and dramas will tend to shift from one to another, usually when you least expect it and usually in ways you never expected. Again, can any soap opera compete with that “drama?” I think not! Can anyone write a better “twist?”
Let’s now look at the “joy” of having adult children. Don’t we parents simply kvell with joy and nachas (that’s Yiddish) every time our adult children call? No, we wonder what the problem is going to be THIS TIME and/or how much it’s going to cost us THIS TIME.
Note: How interesting that WORD, my word-processing program wants to spell- correct both “kvell” and “nachas” since those words are not in their dictionary, yet when I google them, they show up exactly the way I spelled them with the definition exactly the way I used them.
My older son actually does call me to talk. I still am always waiting for the other shoe to drop but he seems to actually want to share the good stuff, whine about the bad stuff, and get feedback on the in-between. Nonetheless, whenever I see him calling, I take a deep breath always concerned and nervous about what I will hear.
When I was a new parent, I was so enamored of the experience that I would often encourage anyone I met to become a parent if their circumstance merited that consideration. Thankfully, I’ve relaxed that annoying habit and simply ask, listen, and accept. If someone doesn’t want children, they shouldn’t have them.
But, I will always reflect about the amazing stories they are missing by not going through all the drama of parenthood. I also wonder what they will talk about when they retire from their all-consuming careers.
Every grandparent I’ve ever heard has always said that having grandchildren is by far the best part of the parenting experience. I think the reason is very simple. As a grandparent, one gets the pleasure of the kids for short bursts and the equal pleasure of returning them to their parents. Obviously, that’s the sequel to the drama of the first generation – it’s the second season of this particular series. And, it begins a new cycle of drama, great moments/transitions, and another round of cliffhangers.
When there is a particularly difficult problem, Grandpa and Grandma can offer lots of solace and choose to step away and wish dad and mom good luck!
So, for my money, there’s nothing that beats parenthood as a life experience. Perhaps it’s my showbiz background, but I’ve always looked at my life and my parenting as if it were a novel, a movie, a serial drama, with distinct “acts” and distinct chapters, beginnings and endings. And, I continue to believe there’s no greater story ever told…