To my friends with children

Time flies.  Let’s start there.

My mental image of myself is about 25.  And yet I’m encroaching on 40.  Wow.  I’m 15 years out of sync with reality.  They say that the 30 is the new 20.  They say lots of things like that.  It’s amazing to me that in a matter of two generations or so we’ve changed so much.

A lot of people have the luxury of living like adolescents well into their 40s if they choose to do so.  Or to put it another way, we have the luxury to do what we feel like doing well into our 40s while avoiding a lot of what we, as a society, think of as adult stuff.

I’m not necessarily a good example but even so.  Aside from working I spend my time working on music, taking art classes, blogging, mountain biking.  I guess some people travel to and fro, hither and yon.  Some spend their time in relationships of various depth and benefits.

The purpose of this blog entry is not to complain about children or people with children.  I hope to have children myself someday.  And relatively soon.  But I do end up mourning the end of a phase of friendship.  These are observations.

Meanwhile…

Many of my friends are settling down.  They’re getting married, buying houses, having children.  Having subsequent children.

I’ve said before that when friends get married and have kids, it’s like they’re leaving for the Graylands like the elves, Frodo and Gandalf at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Or if you’re a nerd: “trilogy”.  They sail off to a new world with new mysterious rules.

Marriage is one thing.  That changes things.  I’ve noticed that a lot of guys, once they get married, they kind of — what’s the word.  They don’t socialize much.  All of the socializing is facilitated by the wife.  Then there’s that phase of about 18 to 24 months before they get married that they kind of disappear off the radar.

They come up for air a bit after the wedding.  For a while anyway, after things settle down in a myriad of ways.

Eventually comes the pregnancy.  Then comes the baby and the baby grows into toddler-hood.

The Singles

Have you — talking to the single folk now — ever hung out with your friends with young kids?  I like kids.  They’re almost like people.  I like their take on the world.

I was talking to one of my friends’ kids once and we were talking about his day at pre-school.  Then I was reading to him from a book about two friends and I said, “Wow.  Look at that.  That’s a really good friend, huh.”

He said, “Yes.”

“She must be a really good friend to protect him like that.  And to play with him and to visit.  They must be best friends, huh.”

“Yes.”

“Do you have any friends like that at school?  Do you have a best friend?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  I have a best friend.”

“Really?  What’s your best friend’s name?”

“Mommy.”

Kids are great.  Well, kids are great if you have the patience and energy reserves.  I remember going out to dinner with a couple and their baby.  Baby was not happy.  Baby wanted to pick up everything on the table and drop, swipe or throw it on to the floor.  Baby cried and sometimes got close to wailing when Baby was denied something to throw on to the floor.  All in all, it was a slightly stressful and awkward experience.  Then I’d forget about that and try again and it would come flooding back.  Oh right.  Strong-willed, tired, inconsolable toddler.  Oops.  I forgot that they do that.

So going out in public to socialize in a controlled environment was mostly off the table as an option for a relaxing, fun hang.

I’ll just skip to the chase here since my brain is kind of numb today for some reason.  Lots of money stuff and logistics to catch up on.  I really need to manage my time more effectively.  Anywhich…

If you’re single and have friends with young children, your job is to pay attention to their kid and dote on their kid and distract their kid at strategic times.  You go to be a part of the experience and to be a friend.  Those should be your expectations.  If you expect to go and have long, meaningful conversations or accomplish any one thing in particular … it’s probably not going to happen and your expectations will betray you in the end.

It’s the parents’ job to be all about the kid.  So expect your parenting friends to seem slightly retarded for the next decade or so as 80% of their mental resources are devoted to tracking the geospatial coordinates and the hunger/thirst/excretion/attention gauges of their children.  They will talk about their children when they aren’t talking to their children.  And when they’re talking to you about anything not related to their children, their children will interrupt to show you what color their socks are, or try to stick a fork in a toaster, or run into the room swinging a real life, fully activated light saber while ululating and wearing a pillowcase cape and nothing else.

C’est naturale.

I love my friends and their children — all of you — but I do miss the old days sometimes.  The new days have a lot of good times in store, no doubt.  They’re just — different.

Ticking

At the same time, it’s a harsh reminder.  Like, I can sit here and talk about how it’s different when your friends have kids.  But that’s just a reminder that I’m supposed to be well into the phase of child rearing myself.  I’ve managed to get left behind.  As far as phases of life go, I mean.  I’m way off.  And I’m a guy.  Even ten years from now when my young eastern European mail order bride arrives it won’t be an issue, biologically speaking, to start a family.

There are a lot of women in my generation, though, who are also in a single until middle age track.  Women have a physiological window of opportunity if they want to give birth.  That’s an interesting turn of phrase, isn’t it?  Give.  Birth.

And that got me thinking.

This laid back, post modern, western civilization mentality has its perks.  Freedom, flexibility, pursuing your passions.  I get the feeling that I — that we — are about to pay the price.  Well, that sounds more dramatic than I mean.  It’s just that there are consequences to every choice, whether that choice is intentional or whether it quietly unfolds from action or inaction.

I’m picturing half a generation of successful, smart, motivated people.  Aging.  Childless.  Wondering what they have to do to get some sense of purpose or accomplishment out of their lives.  No, I’m NOT saying that having children or getting married magically makes you at one with the universe and happy for the rest of your days.  Obviously not.  But in many ways, I believe that it’s why we’re here.

There are a lot of people in their late 20s and 30s who don’t want to have kids.  Not now anyway.  I can see why.  Ironically, though, it’s the people who I think of as the most responsible and loving and nurturing  who are talking that route.  The people who would make an effort to raise their kids with a sense of their impact on the world, how to live responsibly, respect the environment, not solve problems with violence and so on.

I’m nearing the half way point o’ life, assuming that I live to be 80.  I have to say that I’m not especially thrilled about that and it’s mainly because I want to have kids and raise them and see them grow up and meet their children.   And so on.  The odds are decreasing ever rapidly.

Species

I don’t mean to end this negatively, but I saw something troubling in the news and it brought some things to mind.  The article I read was about a “trend” in France of women killing their newborn babies.  It’s happened enough times and it’s been in the news enough times in France to garner the attention of the media and experts.  Did you see it?  Psychologists are calling it a result of a psychological phenomenon called Pregnancy Denial.  I didn’t understand the explanation, to be honest.

But it seems to be, maybe, the counterpart of the Family Annihilation phenomenon.

These behaviors are destructive.  Suicidal on a species level.  There is a lack of respect for children and babies.  You know, how some refer to people with families and kids as “breeders”, as if it’s a bad thing.  I’ve read/heard people referring to children as pollutants.  And I know it’s mainly because of the politics (and politics of language), but there are those who won’t call a pregnancy a baby until he/she is out of the womb.

I was pondering this today and wondering if it’s some kind of biological feedback.  A biological sense of stress and overcrowding leading to people of a certain mental makeup to self destruct.  To destroy themselves and/or their children.  It’s frightening.

Still … I’ve been hesitating to ask this question because it’s innately offensive.  Maybe.  Why do poor people have so many kids?  Okay.  Let me try to sound less ignorant.  Why do poor countries have such high birth rates?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_birth_rate

Or … why do people around the Equator have so many kids?  Wow.  Africa is gettin’ busy!

Closing

Alright.  That’s enough out of me.  If you made it this far … your kids must be in bed already.  And thanks.

Have a good week, America.

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7 comments

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  1. Janna

    I caught a snippet on NPR the other day (at least I think that’s where I heard it) about how it’s natural for many species to reproduce more under stress. Because if its dangerous and difficult and you might not survive, you’ll have more offspring to make sure some survive. The piece was explaining poor countries higher birth rates, and also how Germany is decreasing in population because they’re doing so well they are only having 1.3 kids or whatever per family, and its becoming a problem.
    Interesting.
    I also remember someone saying something once about how there are many species of animals that will develop about 10% homosexuality when the species is overpopulated. That one I wouldn’t probably bring up at a party, but still. Food for thought.

  2. garyarthuryoung

    That’s interesting. Hey, Janna.

    I’ll have to see if I can find that piece.

    Well, immigrants in western countries are reproducing like gangbusters, which is freaking people out.

    But they’re also trying to build a workforce and so are trying to encourage women to have children.

    What a world.

  3. artsymoon

    I’m smiling as I remember you telling me, after I asked if my 6 year-old could sit with you during the show, “She can sit with me, but I won’t be telling her how to behave.” LOL.

    Having kids for a woman is the death of your independence. As harsh as that sounds, that is the truth. This society is harshly discriminatory against women who are engaged parents but still want to have a career. You are implicitly shown you can’t do both. Hence, many women with children who choose parenting over a career are often underemployed if employed at all.

    • garyarthuryoung

      What I meant was, I couldn’t promise that I could get her to behave. That kid loves you something fierce. Not being by your side is a trial for her.

      She was trying to get your attention throughout. Ha. Poor thing. How’s her finger? Cut all healed?

      That’s some bonding.

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