Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Dad

June 18, 2012

Yesterday, I celebrated Father’s Day with my brother, dad and grandfather.  We ate barbecue.  It was great.

I’ve made no secret that my wife and I are on a quest to start a family.  And when I use the word “quest,” it sounds all Medieval-y and it makes me want to say that I’m trying to “sire an heir” like a fifteenth century king.  Except I don’t plan on having my wife’s head cut off.

Yes, my vast* fortunes and family name will all pass away with me, unless I become a dad.

And so far, our quest has been unfruitful.  Another Father’s Day has passed, and no one gave me a tie or some drill bits or a coupon book for free hugs.

But I’m actually not boo-hooing.  I’m not disappointed.  I’m actually glad to have savored one more childless non-Father’s Day.

If that sounds bizarre, I admit, it is.  But here’s why I’m glad to still not be a dad.

What If They Find Out Their Dad is a Human?

I’ll admit, a good deal of being glad to not have sired an heir has to do with fear.

I know in my mind that I want a kid.  But when it comes down to the real possibility, suddenly I don’t know so much.

Because there will be several Father’s Days when my kids think I’m awesome.  Any dad, no matter how lousy he is gets a few free years of being looked up to by the chit’lins.

But then…sooner or later, kids realize that Dad is human.  He’s not a superhero.  He’s not perfect.  He needs forgiveness and grace.

What If My Kid Is Not a Human?

My wife got mad at me the other day because I was whining at her, the way I imagined our kid would some day.  I was being a real pest.  I thought I got a free pass to make fun of our kid, since he hasn’t even been conceived yet.

But here’s the thing, and it’s going to sound awful.  Every parent thinks their new baby is perfect.  They can’t imagine their kid doing anything wrong.  But like children, parents eventually learn that their kids are human.  So, what if my kid turns out lousy?  Like, not just a disappointment, but a full-on failure at being a civilized human being?

You know at least one of these families.  One kid turns out great.  For whatever reason, the other kid is a hellion.  I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t constantly bail out a kid who was always getting in trouble.  I wouldn’t mortgage my house or cancel my retirement to keep a kid out of jail or raise an illegitimate grandchild while my kid is in high school.

But, I’ll admit it, I just don’t know what I’d do.  What if my kid ruins my life?

Some of the best people have had crappy kids.  Dolley Madison, wife of the fourth President, died in poverty.  Why?  Because she had a hell-raising son who they constantly bailed out.

The No-Kids-Allowed Club

This last one may sound truly weird if you haven’t been in the club.  But my wife and I recently admitted to each other that we were kind of halfway hoping that the latest round of baby-making medical procedures wouldn’t actually work.

Why would we want an expensive medical intervention to fail and put us another couple of months away from our dream?  Because we’re insane.

And because we find ourselves in a very unexpected and exclusive club.  It’s the can’t-get-knocked-up club.  There’s only one way into the club, and once the pee stick says “+,” you’re out.  No kids allowed in the club.  It’s a club with diminishing membership, and we really treasure the opportunity to share war stories and prayers with other couples.  It’s not a club that we planned on being a part of, but we’re enjoying being a part of it.

Plus, there are couples that have struggled a lot longer than us and deserve a kid more.  If we got pregnant already, it wouldn’t be that great of a war story.  Or something like that.

Well, that’s probably the only Father’s Day post you’ll ever read in praise of non-fatherhood.  So help me out.  When did your kids realize you were human?  When did you realize they were human?  And is being in the parent club as good as the non-parent club?

19 responses to Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Dad

  1. dawn ellen miller June 18, 2012 at 5:15 am

    honestly, I was trying not to have a kid. Life was far from smooth at that time, but God, in His wisdom, intervened. She is going to be 30 this year and has become a wonderful woman.
    None of our kiddos have started having grand kids for us yet, but that is good since none are married yet ;).
    And yes, each one is human.

  2. When I was a kid, one of the things that my mom would say to me when I got in trouble was that “we only fight so much because we’re so much alike”.

    This used to drive me completely batty–that didn’t make any sense-weren’t we fighting because we were too different?

    Now that I have a kid of my own I’ve realized that this is actually true–kids have this nasty tendency of absorbing all of your own bad personality traits and shooting them right back at you when you least expect it. Some folks may even call it karma or something.

  3. Reason #whatever: When they’re little they walk on your feet; when they are older they walk on your heart. No kidding. Phone call, five a.m. today. Son, 500 miles away, woman kicked him out; nowhere to go. So then what?

  4. Your kids WILL find out you’re only human, and they will respect you more if you admit it and apologize when you mess up. If you pretend you can do no wrong, they will resent you. (I speak not as a parent, but as a daughter of a very stubborn dad.)

  5. As a single 20 year old male, I’m probably just too inexperienced with life to have a valid opinion. I realize that I probably will be a father one day but as it stands, I really don’t want to have a kid. Not because they cramp my style or are costly. Perhaps the reason is akin to your “What If My Kid Is Not a Human?” section, but on a more spiritual level. Even if I raise my child in the most Christian of families, what guarantee do I have that he will be a believer as well? I mean, that child has a spirit that is going to spend an eternity somewhere – either somewhere nice, or somewhere not nice. Yes, I know the proverb “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” but I think that’s more of a generalization than absolute fact. Do I really want to create a new life and then gamble with it like that?

    • Well, if no one took that gamble, nobody would ever have kids :)

      All kidding aside, though, I think your concerns echo the difficult questions that most Christians have about evangelism (Matt did a nice little post about it a week or two ago.) As Christians we all want everyone to go heaven, but in the end (since we’re only finite and fallible human beings) there’s very little that we can do within our own power to make that happen.

      Same thing with raising kids–you can introduce them to this God person but, as much as you want it to be different, the kid’s mind and heart and soul are not yours to control. They never will be. (I know, that much is freaky in itself.) Just like trying to “witness” to a friend (or whatever folks are calling it these days)–you can share what you can, but what they ultimately do with that information is out of your hands.

      I’m no expert, but I think that’s where the “God” part is supposed to come in.

    • Yeah, the proverbs are just that – proverbs, not promises. There are no guarantees in life. I have agonized over exactly what you described, as I think any Christian parent would. It’s one of those aspects of the theology of hell that we just can’t stand. I’m at the point where I don’t know what God does in respect to sending people to hell, and that’s as much comfort as I think I’m going to get in this life.

  6. Being a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done. It was tougher than being an alcoholic and getting sober, it was tougher than having a heart attack or being in ICU, and much tougher than being rejected by stupid church people.

    It’s tough because your job is to act like God the Father and give them a preview of the perfection to come. It’s tough because you’d rather die then see them hurt, smashed, crushed or with that no good neighbor kid that you’d like to kill.

    The only time it seems worth it, is when they do something that you are proud of, and then there doesn’t seem to be anything in life that matters more.

    Then they get a face piecing or a tattoo.

    They found out way too much about humanity during my divorce. And after 12 years, they are still talking about it.

  7. The really good news is that even if you are human, even if you make horrible mistakes, things can turn out okay. Prayers for you and your wife on your journey, wherever God has planned to take you.

  8. my kid is 11 days old…so she should still be impressed with every awesome thing i do

  9. I can kind of relate on some level.

    I’m not married yet, but I always thought, when I get married, do I really want to have kids?

    I know my soon-to-be husband will probably ask me if I want kids, and the honest answer is: “I don’t know”.

    For one reason, there is a chance that our child could have the same disability that I do. I’m not sure if I want that, at least not for my first child.

    The second reason is that there are so many unwanted kids out there already. Foster Care. Orphans. And that’s just in the United States. What about in other foreign countries? Especially the ones where women aren’t as favored, as having a man child?

    The third reason is my health. Pregnancy ain’t no walk in the park. (I’ve heard stories. Very bad stories).

    I suppose the good reasons for having a child is, well, to say, that you have one, I suppose.

  10. My first kid probably figured out that I wasn’t perfect at day #2, when I ate the only thing we had in the house–a dish chock full of beans. In four hours she filled ten diapers with newborn solid waste and cried for about three of them. With the others, it might have taken longer.

    We all scar our kids in some way, shape or form, which is God’s way of teaching them how to forgive, just like we had to learn to forgive our parents.

    You won’t be perfect parents, but you will be perfectly wonderful.

  11. I remember when I was single, having dinner with a work friend and her two kids. Watching them interact, I later told her “I don’t know if I can parent kids at that age.” She told me, “they don’t come at that age, you grow into it”. I thought that was profound.
    I am now the mother of 2 teenage sons. They rock. my. world.
    “Having children is like letting your heart walk around outside of your body.”
    Truer words have never been spoken.
    I’ve never known pain like this before, but I’ve never known love like this before.
    I’ve never known God like this before.

  12. God thought having kids was so worthwhile, He decided to make us humans.

    Raising our girls was hard, exciting, frustrating, humbling, exhausting, incredible, and I would do it all over again in an instant. Having kids was the best decision we ever made (after knowing God and getting married).

    Having kids gives God a whole bunch of new ways to make us more like Him. As a friend of mine says, “When faced with a decision, I choose the one that will require the most faith.”

  13. Jason Cormier July 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    We conceived baby number 1 6 months into the marriage. So we hardly know what the non-parent club is. Both my kids still think I am awesome.

  14. The best way not to have children is to have fun don’t try to have sex at the best time to conceve etc. just have sex because you caught a glimpse of your wifes ankle nd you wanted her there and then, and sure enough a little nipper will come along to stop you having fun.