The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: children

Desire for Offspring

PonderingAs a child, I always imagined that I’d grow up to have a family of four myself.

I regarded our family as a perfect foursome. We shared secrets (at least I did, with Mummy), indulged in spirited discussions on almost every topic under the sun (“Really, apart from breasts and penis, what is the difference between men and women?” Ahhh, the earnestness. I am sure my sage Mom gave nothing away), went to concerts and dance performances and movies and restaurants, and so on.

I thought, clearly this is the perfect template for a happy family. Yes, I would have two children as well.

Then came adolescence, teens, glowing youth. Along came a guy, all thick eyebrows and dark eyes and intense expressions. I promptly fell in love. The years that followed were filled with happy adventures and philosophical discussions as we eagerly tried to understand each other, savoring the new relationship. I wasn’t thinking of marriage at all but time passed soon enough… and marriage happened. The boyfriend became a husband. Then came the honeymoon phase, as I tried to wrap my head around the new role I was playing. Everything felt new, exciting and fresh.

The beginning of marriage also coincided with my introduction of meditation and spirituality. That was a whole new adventure in itself (that continues to date), bringing me so many gifts — friends, fun, awareness, clarity, confidence.

No thoughts of children arose. As the years passed by, I turned my mind to the question. Thought back to the sepia-toned picture I carried in my mind through childhood — me, the husband, two children.

Nothing about that picture seemed relevant any more. I realized that I had no desire for offspring at all. As a child, I had effortlessly internalized the “happy-family-of-four” dream but as an adult, seemingly more self-aware and mature, I let go of that dream. In fact, it simply vaporized. It had no legs at all. It was empty.

I know a few women who say that they ALWAYS knew about their desire to have children. As they became adults and found fitting partners, they promptly acted on that desire. I am incredibly thankful that I recognized my lack of desire, and acted on it.

(Human beings have a strong survival instinct. My uninitiated opinion is that the desire for sex as well as the desire for children function as means to fulfill that instinct. Perhaps an evolutionary biologist might know more. We are well aware that our life span is limited. Producing offspring is how we stave off the threat of death and subsequent extinction. Now, everyone knows that humans are in no danger of extinction, so we have no real reason to procreate. Except that old desires die hard, so we continue to birth and raise and nurture children. Ahh, well.)

A Strong Case for Children

A long time ago, I wrote a post making a strong case for marriage. Well, I am qualified to write/talk about marriage… but kids? No experience, I agree… but insights, I do have. Here is my inexperienced and somewhat intuitive take on why kids can be a good idea.

Daddy, me

Daddy, me

Parents are likely the most unselfish people on the planet. A somewhat easy way to experience unconditional love is to birth/raise a child (The other easy/difficult way is to attain enlightenment, I jest not). The child-parent relationship is beyond logic and reason. Parents can move mountains, walk through fire, swim across an ocean… give up their life for sake of their child. Yet these very parents sometimes become the most obnoxious individuals ever. They lose perspective completely… yes, on account of their little ones.

Part of the problem lies with conflating love and attachment. Attachment is binding and restrictive, while love is utterly freeing. Children cannot be bound to their parents against their will. That, in a nutshell, explains the parent’s dilemma. Learning to love without attachment is probably the lesson every parent has to learn.

(Read Gibran’s “On Children” where you can read a fluid and poetic version of my awfully clumsy and cumbersome explanation.)

Yet, children can be a medium for the lesson that Life wants parents to learn. To give without expectation, to understand the meaning of love, to let go – every second, again and again.

Children have the capacity to bring innocence and freshness into our lives. A parent gets the opportunity to view the world anew through the eyes of their child. Children can grant purpose and meaning to a dull, boring existence. They shake up the mundane/banal elements in a relationship.

And for those among us who are not parents? No fear, we get our lessons through other means.

Blessed I am that I have parents who have always granted me love, freedom, space and independence…