Friday, September 21, 2007

The Joy of Other Peoples' Kids

I spend a lot of time blowing off steam in this blog - justified complaining in reaction to an oppressive child-centric society. Complaining becomes tiresome after awhile, even to myself. Sometimes I feel like Archie Bunker spewing hatred out like a catharting toxic waste dump.

Today, though, I would like to impart some sunshine into this blog and talk about something positive concerning children - the joy of other peoples' kids (or as my husband says, "OPKs"). It's a topic that is brushed over in most discussions of the childfree lifestyle, but I think it's one that really deserves some focused attention.

One of the numerous joys of being a childfree person is that I can have all the happiness and fun of children without the burdens of them. I have been accutely aware of the fact that I seem to have more fun with children and derive more happiness from them then their own parents do.

Let's take my family as an example. One of my brothers has 3 children who my husband and I just adore - two girls and a boy, all under the age of 5. When we see those kids, we are just filled with joy (and they are too). They love us and we love them. We feel excited to see them and we can tell they are excited to see us too. We engross ourselves in playing with them and my husband spends our entire time with them in doing whatever he can to make them laugh and entertain them - even if this means throwing himself into walls or onto the floor. We marvel at how unique and different they are, and how they each have their little quirks and how deep and intense the love is that we feel for each of them. Every month or two we will take one of the kids for an overnight stay at our house on the weekend and I delight in thinking up fun things to do with them. We usually take them each to a special place that we think they will enjoy, like the zoo, amusement park or other places, and it's really fun to see them so happy and to see things through their eyes. We love doing crafts with them and I am excited to know that as they grow older we can share our interests with them...maybe I will teach them to cook or share my love of photography, or my hubby will teach them to play drums (they're already clammoring to get behind the drum kit each time they come over) or impart his special sense of humor onto them. We can't wait to take them camping with us and share our love of nature and animals with them. Maybe through our influence one or more of them will eventually become vegetarians - you never know.

Our time with those kids is 100% joy. Okay, maybe 90% joy and 10% exhaustion (they do tend to wear us out). The point of this is, we don't have children and we are not missing anything. Through our nieces and nephew we get all the "kid fix" we need - all the joys of loving them, seeing them grow and change, influencing them, doing fun things with them and feeling enriched by their presence in our lives. We have the best part of parenthood without the burden or responsibility.

When I see my brother and his wife with the kids, my impression is that they are just worn down. Most of the time they don't seem joyful with the kids. They love them to death - no doubt about that - but the truth is - they mostly just look tired and jaded. The kids will do things that completely bust hubby and me up and I turn to look at my brother and his wife to see their reaction, expecting them to be laughing too, and they are just staring straight ahead or just barely smirking or rolling their eyes. They've seen it all 10,000 times already and it's not special anymore. They are tired. We think it's funny when the kids are dancing and singing, dropping their pants to make us laugh and karate chopping us. We squeel, "how CUUUUUUTE!!!!" and it takes every ounce of control for me not to kiss them to death and my brother and sister-and-law (you can just read it in their faces) are annoyed that we are riling them up.

Their house is noise, mess and chaos 16 hours a day - all the hours the kids are awake. They are struggling to maintain order, to get the kids fed, the get them bathed, to deal with their temper tantrums, mood swings and illnesses, to provide for them. So it's no wonder they are jaded and tired.

Hubby and me have all the joy, fun and fulfilment we could ever want from children in only a few hours a month. The rest of the month we enjoy the other numerous aspects of our lives - our marriage, our interests, our friends, our careers, our cats, our trips, our quiet home.

If you like kids, being childfree doesn't mean you will have no kids in your life. It just means you can have the good parts and none of the bad.

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