This is kind of an odd one for this blog. I’m going to link to Savage Love. Be warned! It’s a sex advice column, and the ads alone can be NSFW. But in a recent column, Dan Savage took a question from someone about having children, and that’s what I want to address.
For those that don’t want to click through, here’s a simple, safe summary:
The writer is a married woman in her early 30’s who’s ready to have children, but her husband is concerned that once they have children, they will stop having adventures together.
Savage assures her that the reason most married people with children don’t have adventures is because they have children at a point in their life when they don’t really feel like having adventures anymore. He points out that stopping at one child makes adventuring easier, and that while planning adventures is a bit more complex with children, it can still be done.
All good advice, but I’d like to go one further. And I’m no fan of adventures.
Yes, for the first few years it’s hard to have adventures. Small children need a lot of time and attention. They like stability. They love routine. And while some kids think nothing of traveling all over the place, many react badly to things like time changes, unfamiliar food, hotel beds, and even babysitters. For a few years, adventuring can be hard or even impossible.
But then you get a new person in your life. A person who has her own interests, passions, and adventures. Dan Savage’s son taught him how to snowboard, a hobby that Savage now loves. Mine has taken me to Disney World, Vermont, and my first Star Trek Convention. (Okay, technically I paid for all that, but I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for her.)
For someone like me, adventures don’t come in the form of backpacking across Europe or bungee jumping. But my Kid has introduced me to some great books, to Adventure Time, and the pleasures of a weekly pilgrimage to the comic book shop. She’s helped me make friends and taught me to play foursquare. I’m now a certified Official with USA Swimming. And I’ve learned to knit and even tried my hand at art a few times because of her.
I’m can’t wait to see what I learn from her next. And at eleven years old, she’s only begun to engage with the world on her own. If you’re really open to your child as a human being separate from you, if appreciate that the way to make a life-long relationship with your child is to engage with her interests, then your world grows as hers does. And as delightful as it is when your child shares an interest that’s important to you, it’s also really fun to learn to love something through the eyes of your child.
So having a child doesn’t have to be the end of adventures any more than marriage does. And like marriage, learning to love another person helps you to grow and change in ways you never expected. And sometimes to have adventures you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Those needy years don’t last long. In a few years, your child will be going on sleepovers and overnights and sleep away camp. And then you can have whatever adventures you’ve been missing that you really can’t do with children, be it kinky sex or dinners at elegant restaurants or a quiet weekend at a bed and breakfast. Before you know it, especially if you have one child, they’ll be grown and gone, or grown and not caring what you do, and you can go back to adventuring with your spouse the way you always did. But you’ll also have new adventures, down roads you didn’t even know were there, or never bothered to explore on your own, with a person you love more than anything.