“Why would you ever want to have kids? Like, what happens to your brain to make you decide that having kids is something you should do?”
That’s an actual question I was asked recently. By someone who works with kids. I imagine if I worked with kids 40 hours a week, going home to more of them might seem like pure madness. And I certainly have nothing against those who choose not to have children; in fact I admire couples who decide, for whatever personal reasons (economical, environmental, sanity, etc.), that they are not going to give into societal pressure and start popping out kids for the hell of it.
Still, when asked like that, it tends to take one aback. And a question that blunt deserves more than a pat answer. So I told him a true story:
Late August, this past summer. We were having an idyllic dinner at our dining room table (an unusual occurrence in and of itself; most of our dinners are spent in the living room watching either PBS NewsHour or the Mets injuring themselves horrifically). The food was a mix of items from our garden, the Beacon Farmers Market and our local CSA, all vibrant and painfully fresh. The drinks were strong and refreshing. The evening light fell softly through the windows, and our cats purred at our feet. The moment hummed with the sort of quiet contentment that ad executives build commercials around, when you sit back in your chair and think “Whatever I had to go through in my life to get to this moment, it was worth it.”
But I wasn’t thinking that. Instead, a peculiar feeling was creeping over me: I couldn’t shake the sensation that something was missing. Specifically, someone was missing. There was supposed to be someone else with us at that table, someone we were supposed to be sharing that moment with. I couldn’t help staring at the empty chair next to Kristen and wondering why the most important person in our lives wasn’t sitting in it.
This wasn’t an abstract or fleeting feeling. It actually felt like there was a physical void in the room, centered on that empty chair. It then began to dawn on me that perhaps neither Kristen nor I were living up to our full potentials as human beings. Sure, we were doing alright in our careers. We volunteered for many organizations. We were teaching ourselves to grow our own food. And we had given four needy cats a good home and (as of press time) kept them from killing each other. But two people and a herd of cats do not make a family. And I realized at that moment that a family is what we were always meant to be. The irony in all of this is that by having a child, we’re guaranteeing that we won’t have another one of those quiet summer dinners until he’s old enough to be shipped off to summer camp.
Those of you into pronouns will have figured out from that last sentence what we learned at our most recent doctor’s appointment: the ultrasound revealed that we are expecting a boy. Just like that, the baby stops being an “it” and becomes a “he.” I have four months to learn how to throw a curveball, tie a clove hitch, and hotwire a ‘57 Chevy. But if I can’t figure out how to do any of those things, at least I can guarantee my future son that there will always be a place for him at our table.
Brian PJ and Kristen Cronin live in Beacon with their four cats and a baby on the way. View more of their photos at www.flickr.com/teammoonshine.