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Serial Kid-producer reveals top 10 reasons not to have kids


Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.

I was lying awake last night, trying to memorize the feeling of everything being right with my family. We’re all healthy, happy, and remarkably satisfied with where we are in life at this exact moment. Even Child #4 has just taken her last ever Uni final, and pronounced herself ready to go off the family payroll.

imgresA friend asked if I ever regretted having so many kids, or the time/money/everything that it took to raise them. She said her book club (having dispensed with the required 8.5 minutes of book-related discussion) were all talking about the reasons their grown children were not producing grandchildren.

That reminded me of this blast-from-the-past I wrote a few years ago.

Top 10 reasons not to have kids

There are actually LOTS of reasons not to have kids. As a serial kid-producer, I offer a revised list:

10. Vermin = Pet: For me the word “rodent” evokes two images.lrgscalecoaster-i-child-proofed-my-house

    • Life-enhancing scientific research seeking the cure for cancer and the perfect makeup foundation base.
    • Plague-spreading vermin.
    • (Or three images if you don’t include presidential candidates in #2 above.)

But your children will love all rodents, from Anatole “The bravest mouse in France” to Mickey “The richest mouse in pants”. When we lived in Virginia, some local field mice decided to go on the Taub rodent-welfare system. So I bought some standard mousetraps and baited them with cheese and peanutbutter. Then I threw them away. NOTE: Anyone who actually uses this type of trap to catch Cinderella’s tiny helpers is welcome to explain to children that it works by breaking Feivel, Miss Bianca, Bernard, and even Mighty Mouse’s little backs. While you’re at it, you can tell them who is going to take care of all of Hunca Munca’s baby mousies now.

I’ll bet the people who invented the better mousetrap weren’t looking for the world to beat a path to their door. (The World leaves such a mess on the front walkway…) They just wanted to look their kids in the eye again. That’s how we felt when we bought the Have-A-Heart mousetraps. The way these work is every night for weeks you load up the ends of the traps with a three-course gourmet rodent feast – peanutbutter, cheese, and chocolate chips. Each night, the rodents come into the traps, eat everything, burp at the cat, and leave. Finally they get so obese they trip the little trap-door. Then your husband and kids take a long walk into the fields behind your house. They open the trap and coo over the mouse when he waddles out.

The humanely-trapped mouse tells all his little mouse buddies about this great house where they feed you every night and then finally take you for a ride. The rodents probably make it back to your house before your husband and kids.

9. Credibility Gap: Your children won’t believe you when you tell them:

  • The world is round.
  • Vegetables are good.
  • Nice children share instead of fighting to determine who gets the toy. (Or the TV remote. Or to be on top. Or Afganistan.)
  • You need to learn long division even if you’re going to be a professional athlete or movie star. (BTW: they probably also won’t believe there’s such a thing as calculus in the real world. I think they’re right on that one.)
  • This hurts me more than it hurts you.
  • Your cat/ dog/ rodent/ goldfish is going away to live on a farm.

This inability to accept adult realities goes a long way toward explaining such phenomena as Cubs fans, ‘lite’ cheesecake, and Republican presidential candidates.

Spirit of '76

Spirit of ’76

My own credibility wasn’t helped by my disposal of my childrens’ beloved playroom couch. When the legs of The World’s Ugliest Sofa collapsed, my first reaction was there is a God and prayer works. I realize some readers may dispute the sofa’s right to that title. But consider: does your ugly sofa weigh more than a pair of sumo wrestlers? Does it sport 12-inch high depictions of the Spirit of ’76 in bloody colored detail? Or make regular appearances in your worst nightmares?

I told the kids we were giving their sofa to a poor family that couldn’t afford to buy an ugly sofa of their own. Unfortunately, Goodwill refused to accept the sofa out of humanitarian concern for its clientelle. The kids arrived outside just in time to see the sofa get loaded onto a disposal truck and run through its shredder.

I realized just how low my credibility was as I was reminiscing recently about going to a huge amount of trouble to find a new home for the cat when my son turned out to be allergic to her. The people who adopted her actually did live on a farm, and they said there were plenty of mice for her to chase in their barn. Really. But in the twenty years since we told our children we were sending the cat to live on a mouse farm (see this post), not one of my children has ever wavered in their absolute certainty that the mouse farm was located in the same place that the sofa ended up.

8. National holidays: Before kids, you celebrate New Years at midnight. You still do after kids, but you just use a midnight that’s already happened. Living in the Midwest, we started with New York. By Child #2, we were using England. By Child #4, Australia was looking good.

7. Sleep: My own children elevated parental sleep deprivation to an Olympic event. On any given night, I could be awakened at 0:dark:30 by a small person climbing into my bed, putting little arms around my neck, and confiding, “I hafta throw up.” I think the kids had time-trials to see how fast parents could be roused from a dead stupor.

6. Money: Money is even harder to get than sleep. Face it, eventually you will get some sleep, usually during a nonessential activity like driving to work. But a fundamental rule of child-rearing is that you will never again have any money. You may think you can manage to pay for pediatric antibiotics that cost more per ounce than your engagement ring, orthodontia, and shoes that your child outgrows on the way home from the shoe store. All you have to do is give up luxuries like eating every night and concentrate on essentials like babysitters. To you I say – college. CNBC projects the cost for your newborn to attend a private university in 18 years will be $130,428. Per year.

5. Sex: Contrary to popular opinion, people who commit parenthood still have sex. They just have to do it really quietly. And really really quickly.

ChildrensRX4. Illness: Your children will think prescription Pink Stuff is one of the basic food groups.

3. Travel: Think of every wonderful trip you’ve ever wanted to take. Fabulous food? Exotic beaches? Exciting slopes? Forget it. Your kids will only be interested in one trip. If you’re not taking them to the Mouse, it will be a lot easier to pitch a tent in your back yard and drive to Chez Macs three times a day. (The bad news is that there is absolutely. no. escape. If you have children, you WILL do the Mouse. I’m so sorry.)

2. More kids: Your first child is your gateway drug. You may think you can stop any time, but all of a sudden you’re talking about how it’s not ‘fair’ for your baby to grow up as an only child. If you weren’t suffering from sleep-deprivation induced delusions, you would realize that every child firmly believes the universe can only have one center, and she already occupies that position.

Top Reason Not to Have Kids? Self esteem: If any self esteem managed to survive labor and delivery (where every medical person and possibly a few passersby had a hand – usually literally – in getting you to push a watermelon out an opening the size of a plum), you can kiss it goodbye by the time your first child becomes verbal. Not realizing that the chief purpose of encouraging baby talk is to keep the child unintelligible for as long as possible, we were careful to teach clear enunciation and precise terminology, allowing our children to deliver publicly humiliating statements at will.

For example, I pinched my two-year-old’s neck in the top of her coat zipper once. Toward the end of church services the next day, I tried to take advantage of a lull to put her coat on her. “Mommy,” she shrieked amid the hushed pews, “Don’t hurt me again!” We had to look for a new congregation.

Another time we had stopped for some toddler haute cuisine at Chez Big Mac when my other daughter inquired in ringing tones, “Mommy, why is that person so ugly?”

“That’s not a nice thing to say,” I hissed back in my best parental fury whisper.

“But, Mommy…”
“But, Mommy, I was only…”
“But, Mommy!” She was sobbing now. “I wasn’t going to ask again why that person is SO UGLY.”
“OK, what?” I relented.

Then there was the time the two-year-old asked me where her tail was. I explained that children don’t have tails. “Michael does,” she stated and pointed. I immediately explained about male and female plumbing differences. She was fascinated, and the next several days were spent speculating – loudly – on who had what where. This interesting period culminated in a visit to a crowded local restaurant where she was inspired to stand up on her chair and announce – at full volume to a spellbound roomful of diners – what MY daddy has and what MY mommy has. This time, we moved to another town.

When people ask me why, despite the above reasons against it, we had kids x four, I usually tell them we were doing our part to improve the gene pool. But the truth is a bit different. Like someone who suddenly realizes they can breathe underwater, I figured out that I could actually live without sleep, money, or a clean house for the next couple of decades. And that it’s all worth it to watch as the four most amazing people ever born grow up.

Even if they do think I killed their cat.