Let’s face it, the human race has survived because many of us kind of enjoy the whole making process and many of us did this safe in the knowledge that little humans might or would be made.
Now the two aren’t always the reason. Many of us enjoy the whole ‘practising thing’ and with the advent of more reliable contraception, we arguably emancipated sex for both sexes so we can practise a whole lot more. There are or course many same sex people who have sex/make love, who because of their sexuality, would never produce children from that sexual experience. There are millions of heterosexual couples who struggle for years to conceive conventionally. What I guess I’m saying is that sex and the question of why we have children can be separated. Sex is fun, sex is a demonstration of a couples love for each other, sex can be opportunistic, driven by passion, driven by power and in its darkest moments, an act of violence.
Enough of this stuff. Let’s talk about children.
I will declare an interest at the outset. I have six children. Six lovely, complex, infuriating, creative, funny, annoying children. My life changed totally when our first child arrived. At that very moment of delivery, there is someone who is part of you but not exclusively. They are totally reliant on you for survival. They split your loyalty and devotion to your partner. They are full of promise, hope, a physical manifestation of your future. Or are they?
We will never cease to be a parent. Divorce, separation, geography, arguments will never change this. An argument indeed may include the phrase ‘I disown you!!’ but that is not possible. Your parent may die when you are young. Your child may die before you but either of these horrendous situations never change the truth. When you make a child and it is born, you are a parent and they are your child. We wanted to have six children. We didn’t tell anyone as many would assume that we were mad. I’m not really sure why we landed on six but we did. We have three girls and three boys. I can tell you that having one child was as complex as six. All your attention goes on one dependant small human. Six just makes you have to split that total concentration six ways. There are many who think that having that many children is selfish or irresponsible. Stop at two and don’t be a burden. We believe that our six children will go on to make our world a better place to live for all of us. They are the future designers, mathematicians, engineers, health care staff, teachers. Would you rather we didn’t have them around?
But why? Why decide to have children? Is it a desire to extend the lineage of your family? Is it driven by vanity or egotism? Is it an act not thought out and just merely a consequence? Is it a means to define yourself in another human? We knew we wanted six children. We wanted a large family, to be part of a large family. I never thought it was about me. I never doubted that it would become far less about me the older they have all grown. You are identified as someone’s Dad or Mum, You cease to have a first name and become so and so’s Dad. Your invisibility begins. You get letters from school addressed to the ‘parent or guardian of’ and the letter starts ‘parent/guardian’. You have a first name and a last name but the two don’t matter to them. The only thing is your responsibility to them.
Still doesn’t answer the question though. Children are the future. We are the present. We are there to help them realise their future. Ultimately, we all have to achieve this on our own and some will carry on the cycle of producing another generation. Families become estranged. Families become disjointed, fractured and a source of hostility. But and this is a very big but; they will always be your family. I suggested on a social network that I am defined by my children. My legacy will never be anything more than that of their father. But think for a minute what that means. Being a father or mother is the hardest most difficult yet for me the most rewarding job I will ever do. I could go on to write a best seller, earn loads of money and achieve critical acclaim. That will never exceed the role of being a parent though. It really won’t. At present I struggle around the bottom of the literary ladder with book sales reliant on friends and those who feel guilty for not buying them, buying them. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in my work and think it worthy of more attention but sadly this belief is not shared.
I stood next to my eldest daughter this week at her University graduation. She worked furiously for four years and gained a hugely deserved first class honours degree. I stood next to her looking like an old crumpled English lecturer, incapable of smiling naturally. I didn’t smile because I was holding back the tears of pride and find it impossible to display one emotion whilst hiding another. This was about her not me or her mum or grandparents. It was her day of adulation.
It made me realise why I had children. I wanted to share my future with others. I don’t want to exist in isolation.
I am a pack animal. I will never be the pack leader. I love being in a pack though. I am defined by my children because I helped to create their future. I can be the old male hanging around on the edge of the pack as the younger ones take the dominant roles. I have no choice as to whether I am their father. I have no say in that title. I am and always will be just as my father is and his father was and so on.
I am writer who craves peace and solitude to write. I love being on my own but having a large family around me and enjoying my space are not mutually exclusive. I have lived with depression for many years and am very used to being alone in a crowd. This is not of my choice but it has changed my view of loneliness. At my darkest point though, I never doubted that being amongst my family was the place that felt the most curative. To know they are there and you are there with them was enough. They gave me strength.
You who have children will ultimately know why you had them. It is not my reason nor is it anyone else’s. It started off as one of those why am I questions and kind of went from there. Now stop thinking about it and enjoy the being bit!