What is this feeling? This crybaby, mushy-mushy, cranky feeling? Or is it feelings, plural? Many, many feelings all at once? That I am having? Am I losing my mind?
One minute I am packing away Addie's baby pictures (you know, in preparation for the move that is, what, five months away) and crying my eyes out. I am watching videos of her rolling around on the floor sticking her feet in her mouth and spitting up and learning to walk and I am speechlessly in love and angry that time is passing so quickly. That my babies' baby-ishness is leaving, leaving. That I will never again live this moment with these precious people, that my life is literally speeding past me. My God, I'm living in the moment as much as I can, and still these minutes pass through my hands like so much running water.
The next minute, I am wishing Nolie would stop crying, wishing, wishing that she would grow up and be a little easier to take care of. Wishing that Addie would be quiet, that I could read more than five pages in a row, get through a whole yoga workout without being interrupted, that I had more me time. ME! Wishing the kids were in school, were easier, were less demanding.
I've written about this before, I know. But I'm not sure you can understand the pendulum upon which I ride, legs astride, hair whipping in the wind as I speed toward bliss, then am thrust backward toward utter frustration, unless you are on a pendulum of your own.
Some friends are considering having children. A few have asked me to weigh in on the decision, others haven't. But what do I say? What could I say? I don't know if you should have children. If I say yes, will you remember me at the times when your lives are utterly enriched, enhanced, made fuller than you could ever have imagined by the presence of these little people? Or will you remember me when you're cleaning toddler poo off your new couch, when your babysitter is sick and you can't go into work again, when you're fighting with your loved one because you're both exhausted and haven't seen each other, really seen each other in what feels like a lifetime? What are you willing to sacrifice? Because that's what a lot of it is. There is a whole lot of giving up that goes on. There are rewards--inexplicable rewards, but the price is also dear.
Of course, nobody is going to make the decision based on what I say. It's too personal a decision for that. Most people just want confirmation of what they already know to be true: either that they are going to do it, or aren't.
I know that for us the math has worked out. We are both better, happier people because of our kids. Having kids made us work on our marriage and ourselves in positive ways. These babies are utterly extraordinary people to whom we are deeply bound. They are also exhausting and maddening. But the "fulfillment" side of the scale has certainly outweighed the "What the hell have we done?" side of the scale.
Still, I'm well aware that this equation (Lord, am I mixing metaphors) does not work out to the same answer for others. Eric and I were laughing the other day that we didn't even have to discuss having kids. We just always knew we wanted to be parents. We were lucky enough to meet and get married, and then, well, I just stopped taking the pills. I think we had a five minute conversation about it. "How about tonight, honey?" Sounds good to me.
I don't mean to minimize the gravity of the decision. There are situations where more planning is required either because of the mechanics of the thing or the health of the parents or the mental, social, political, and economic hurdles. Still, there is a sense in which you just do it, decide to have kids. Because how do you figure out whether kids are right for you? You can't know until you know, and then it's too late, either way. And even if it is right--if the scales tip in your favor--it won't be right all of the time. Because having kids is hard. A huge, terrifying risk. Even now that we have them, it's terrifying. What if one gets sick, or hurt? Or turns out to be a jerk? It's awful.
And also the best thing ever.