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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Why Factor

A recent article in Newsweek, a magazine for people who want to appear smart without reading really clever things like, say, Green Eggs and Ham, discusses a study that indicates having children doesn’t make a couple any happier than a couple who has no children to leave the refrigerator door open. Also the childless couple is free to have a nice martini when they get home from work instead of cleaning baby poop out of the blender. (Don't ask; just keep an emergency cash stash that covers the cost of a new blender.)

Which leads to several very important questions; namely, does Amy really read Newsweek? Actually I can’t even make it through Green Eggs and Ham without getting distracted by subplots and theme, but I do get a kick out of the Captain Underpants books, especially the Flip-o-rama on the corners of the pages.

Who said my degree in English wouldn’t come in handy?

There is an obvious flaw in this Child McStudy, which assumes that we have children in the first place so that they will make us happy. That’s like buying bait to eat at the seafood buffet.

So why have kids, if the result is a house full of naked Barbies when the pastor comes to visit or painful Lego injuries when strolling barefoot through the shag?

We have children to remember our address and phone number when we fill out registration forms at the Social Security office, to bring us our glasses from the bedroom when it would take the jaws of life to extract us from the couch, and to bring a diaper when the baby/grandbaby/neighbor’s kid/unhousebroken puppy needs a change and leaving him alone would bring the Social Services SWAT team and/or PETA people repelling down the chimney.

I’m not saying I haven’t had good times with my children. I have a son with a flair for entertainment who keeps us amused by using the living room furniture as an obstacle course. He makes the living room look like a pinball machine as he ricochets from wall to floor lamp to desk to invisible air molecules on his way through to the kitchen. Of course, this particular skill tends toward the expensive side when you consider the medical bills. Even Lloyd’s of London won’t insure this kid.

We could derive a good deal of glee from the act of punishing the children--except all the good punishments are illegal and cause waxy yellow buildup or require harsh chemicals, like soap.
All the low-level punishments; grounding, withholding phone privileges, and storing away video games merely results in our own discomfiture, as children seem to multiply when underfoot, and the whining index increases throughout the house. After a while even the children get restless.

So are parents happy? Not every second. But there’s not a greater satisfaction than seeing a child’s face light up when you walk into his classroom with a tray full of Batman birthday cupcakes, when you get an A on a Botany project that helped you learn in a serious way how poison ivy can affect your personal life, or when you see a young man walk across the stage to accept a high school diploma that it took a village—and some late night tutoring sessions and heavy-duty prayers—to secure.

Just don’t forget to make one of those prayers the Parent’s Prayer—“Please be sure that he grows up to have a child just like him.”

But don't forget. He's going to ask you to babysit.


Carolyn E. said...

What insight. And now we know you read Newsweek.

Really, you make such a good point. They shouldn't try to measure the relative *happiness* of people with or without children. They should compare our reflexes!

colbymarshall said...

Even at twenty-three, my parents still come to see my community theatre shows--to more than one performance. I love them so much for it...makes me feel like even though I'm grown and married that I'll always be their baby. And I will be.

Ann and Dennis said...

I have been reading off and on for a while now, and you always, always make me smile.
Thank you, Amy.
(Anno -bws)

Amy Mullis said...

The most rewarding job isn't always the easiest,is it ladies? (At least that's what the Marines tell me.)

Anno--Thanks for dropping by. If I can make somebody smile, it's been a good day. Keep up the blogging--I'll be checking in!

liss n kids said...

Yeah, and when people without kids are unhappy, who do they have to blame it on?