Walking with my son the other day, I jokingly told him that I had not signed up for being his minion for such a long stretch, and that in some countries at his age children are the ones who become minions for their parents. Without missing a beat, he quickly decided to point out all the benefits I have derived by having him in my life this past decade. The list could actually be endless, but here are the top 5 reasons I think kids make our lives so much better:
1. The fragility of life– only during my pregnancy did I really become aware of what it is like to be vulnerable, and to not be fully in control of everything. Turns out a “due date” is just a target date, but no one really knows for sure when the baby will actually come, whether you will need a C-section, or if you may have to go on bed rest a few weeks beforehand. Several of my friends have struggled with infertility issues, suffered miscarriages, had still births, and one almost bled to death during her delivery. Together, we have cried many tears privately about these losses, and in those moments truly learned to appreciate just how precious life is.
2. Increased connectivity– once you have a child, it is no longer just about you, and whether you like it or not, you need to ask for help from others– caregivers, school teachers, doctors, tutors, relatives and friends will all play a vital role in helping you raise your little one. This was for me a very humbling experience, and I am eternally grateful for learning the importance of working together with others. Instead of trying to operate as an autonomous island, through our children we learn to appreciate the beauty of being part of a larger community.
3. True values become clearer– when you actually have to focus on the lessons you want to pass on to your children, your core values become crystal clear. As they hit the age of reason and start to ask interesting questions, you will find yourself doing a lot of soul searching, and whether you want to or not, you will have to face some of your past and then decide whether you want to replicate certain acts or forge a new path through your own ways of parenting.
4. Importance of family– just as we need to provide a medical history for their doctors so that they know what they are dealing with from a genetic standpoint, we have to provide our kids with the family legends to help them understand their heritage. Bloodline matters, whether you are royalty or not. And as you start to re-tell the tales of your ancestors, you cannot help but appreciate the role they played in your own journey through life.
5. Unconditional love– yes, I saved the best for last. My whole life I have observed with great interest the conditions people place on various relationships, and I lecture and write a lot about being cognizant of the deals you are making, what are the trade-offs, what you are bartering for, and doing your best to never negotiate from a position of weakness. And yet, only as a parent did I finally come to understand that there is one exception to this whole quid pro quo form of love. Learning to give unconditional love has been an amazing experience that has opened my eyes to the true beauty and magnificent abilities of the human heart.
I am definitely not the same person I was a decade ago, and despite all the challenges that come with being a parent, I am incredibly grateful for the poignant life lessons parenthood has taught me. It is indeed my son that has brought out the best in me, and for the first time ever I feel that I have finally lived up to the quote I used in my senior year book, which came from Jean Racine’s Phedre: in later years, as I came to know myself, I am proud of the person I came to know.
Indeed, I am proud of all my friends that have taken on the mission of becoming parents– and not just good parents, but great parents. The sacrifices are immense, and we often suffer in silence as we put our children’s needs before our own, but the payoff is amazing. You can just see in the posts on Facebook and Instagram– there is such immense pride and joy with each new accomplishment that our kids make, and although they may be totally unaware of it, as parents we all know that they have repaid our efforts to help them tenfold– for our kids bring out the best in us, and watching that happen each and every day is exactly what keeps my soul alive and has kept me from losing faith in mankind.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.