Of course, intellectually we know that kids are a lot of work. I remember worrying before Marisol was born if I'd really be able to take care of a baby. And if people knew what raising children truly entails, many more people would choose not to have children. I think many people (like me) just instinctually *want* children and don't give it much more thought. They trust that they will know what to do at the right time. Then of course there are many people that don't really *plan* to have kids, but, well - here they are! Actually, probably people that actively choose NOT to have kids have given the most thought to their decision. And I'm sure this factors into their thought process; they know that kids AREN'T convenient.
But our culture tries to make them convenient. We try to train them to sleep (or not sleep!) when we want them to. We believe that punishments and rewards will mold their behavior into what we want it to be. We fear if we don't control them (what they eat, who they hang out with, what TV they watch, what games they play and on and on) that they will "turn out" the wrong way. We try to put them into neat little boxes so that our lives can mostly carry on in the way we had imagined for ourselves before we had kids.
But kids are not here for us. They are not here for us to re-live or un-live our own childhoods. They are not blank slates for us to write stories on. They are not here to fill our needs and they are not lumps of earth-clay for us to mold.
Here's what we didn't realize:
Kids are real, whole people. They come wired with their own unique personalities. They all have their own opinions (some stronger than others) from the moment they are born (maybe even before! Marisol gave me a strong kick in the ribs once when I bent over on her while pregnant! I should have known then what I was getting into.)
They sleep when they are ready and tired - often not when we expect or want them to. They are ultimately the ones in control of what they eat and when, even if we may try to be for a while. Sometimes you will make breakfast only to have eggs returned to you because you absentmindedly cracked pepper into them, (what can you say, you were in the flow!) and your daughter wants, "no pepper!" So you will sigh inwardly and make more eggs - because you know that *is* how she likes them, and you were the one who screwed up. (This may or may not have happened here this morning.)
Kids will sometimes be nervous or scared of things you don't think they should be. You may spend a LOT of money to take them to the world's most amazing amusement park only to have them nap in the stroller or ride the merry-go-round multiple times (the very same one they could have ridden for a couple of bucks at your local park or mall).
They will need you when you feel like you have nothing left to give. They will express big emotions at inconvenient times (in front of others, right as you are ready to head out the door for an appointment, while you are trying to cook dinner).
No, kids AREN'T convenient. But they *are* a lot of other really, REALLY wonderful things.
Because the good news is that kids more than make up for anything we might have once considered an inconvenience. If we can shift our mindset we will see that we never really wanted or needed "convenient". If we open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, we will begin to learn more from them than we could ever possibly "teach" them. We may even learn that we want things we never dreamed of wanting!
And this shift in perception is what is really key. How you perceive your children will affect them (and you, and your relationship) - right now and for the rest of their lives. Because you can pick almost any word up there and put a negative spin on it - if you choose to. Creative? Well, yes creative can be messy. Energetic can be hyper or out of control. Imaginative could be unfocused. Curious can be downright annoying. But is that what you really think of your child? And is that how you want them to think of themselves? Would you rather that they KNOW how they want their eggs, or would it be better if they were like the woman in the movie Runaway Bride, who didn't even know how she liked her eggs because she was always such a people(man)-pleaser that she said, "ok" to whatever was given to her?
Bottom line: kids are life changing no matter what. They should be! And change is rarely "convenient". Change can also be uncomfortable, but with a little mind-bending it's as likely to be invigorating and life affirming! It's how we deal with the change that makes all the difference. And if you let your kids, they will guide you on your biggest, best life adventure yet.