It’s a great question why any of us choose to have children, in this age. We don’t need them for their labor. We no longer expect children to provide for parents in old age. We aren’t allowed to use them for spare organ parts. Kids are tremendously expensive, and an iffy proposition since it turns out their eventual success is much more about their efforts than ours. Having kids comes along with a burden of bearing others’ judgements, not sleeping in, cleaning up vomit, worrying and making excellent meals that no one will eat. And yet we continue to have children.
If I thought about why I wanted to have children, other than just seeming like the thing I ought to do, I think I wanted children so that someone else would get to enjoy childhood as much as I did. I thought back the the joys of my youth and wanted to offer them to someone else.
I remember in particular one car trip we took as a family. (My family practically grew up in a car.) My brother was a nascent reader – maybe four or five. My sister and I – eight and six years older – were already well versed in reading. On this particular day we drove through the rolling desert hills of Eastern Washington and told my brother about all the books we were jealous that he’d get to read for the first time: Mrs. Buncle’s Book, The Lord of the Rings, Shakespeare. My entire family breathed a deep sigh of relief when my brother finally picked up books and started reading along with the rest of us. We spent our vacations with book bags larger than our clothing bags. I married a man with the same predilections.
But the last decade or so has been somewhat lacking in the reading department. We’ve had a non-reader as part of our family for the last eight and a half years. Until now.
Last night, we sat around the fire on an incredibly buggy night on the shores of White Lake. (Ask me about how I and my phobia survived my first ever tick bite!) Adam was reading some book of Cthulu horror on his Kindle. I had managed to lure Grey into reading “My Side of the Mountain”. Ah – is there anything sweeter than watching your child devour a book you had loved as a child? He was deep into it, head dancing with dreams of living off the land, just as I did. And Thane was doggedly working his way through beginner books. He read “Are You My Mother” and “Put Me In the Zoo” and slogged his way through a Pokemon book. For an hour or so the four of us sat around the campfire swatting mosquitos and reading.
The joys of slightly older children did not stop there, though. Finally chased into the tent by the ravening hordes of starving, blood-sucking insects, we broke out a board game. On the tent of the floor, we played through an oddly cooperative round of Carcassonne – an actual game that Adam and I play for fun. Thane played a tough game, and Grey actually won. Then we read some more before bed. Thane tired before he finished his book, and I woke up to the sound of him slogging his way through it in the morning light (at a reasonable hour).
This Memorial Day camping trip was wet, but dryer than last year. It was cool, but warmer than last year. (Actually, Friday night was one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.) It was irredeemably buggy. But it felt like the dawning of a new age, with the company of these cool kids who like to build forts, imagine themselves as outdoorsmen and sing old folk tunes in front of the fire. They can open the zipper to the tent, go to the bathroom by themselves and be safely out of my sight.
In the buggy, moist air above the loons of White Lake I had that moment of joyful realization: this is why I had children.
You can see all my pictures for May, including video of Thane reading, by clicking here!