277. A Practical Decision

Throughout most of my life, I’ve had a reputation, real or imagined, accurate or inaccurate, for being impractical. And I have made some decisions that would have been made better if I’d taken more details into account. Recently, I’ve noticed that people have begun to ask me for practical advice, and I’ve been surprised to be able to give them some, and to be thanked after the advice has proven to be useful.
But the advice I intend to give at the end of this article may represent some regression to my former mindset. So be it. I’ve been looking back a bit, looking at where I am now, and thinking that one of what some of my wise friends called “mistakes” may not have been a mistake. Perhaps, for my friends, it would have been a mistake, but I don’t regret it; I’m glad I made one of the “unwise” decisions I made.
I’m referring to the decision my wife and I made to become parents. And since I’m the one writing this article, I’m actually only referring to my part of the decision. Back then, most of the college-educated portion of my generation was deciding not to have children, or at least not until much later. My daughters’ friends’ parents usually were either older than we were or were not college-
educated. Now, my friends who are my age mostly either have children much younger than my daughters or don’t have any children.
The “wisdom” was all around us back in 1969, and to some degree, we heard it: don’t have children until you have a house; you can’t save up for a house as easily when you have children. Don’t have children until you have a secure career; there won’t be time to focus on career issues when you have children. Work on your marriage first. Wait until you have more of a sense of who you are – what’s important to you. All of that advice was really wise, and it may well be that we and our children would be better off if we’d followed it.
But as I said, I’m glad I became a parent when I did. I’m twenty-one years older than one of my daughters and twenty-two years older than the other. So far, they haven’t decided to have children, but if they do, I stand a chance of putting in plenty of grandparenting time. I’m excited about that possibility; I think grandparenting is largely a lost art, and I hope to help revive it. I’m also glad my daughters are not far removed from my generation; they may not remember the fifties and sixties, but at least they remember some of the seventies. And most important of all, I became a parent when I wanted to.
So I’m going to give a bit of advice that is probably different from what you’re used to hearing: notwithstanding your situation with regard to employment, real estate, finances, and other practical details, give some weight to your desire to be a parent. If children grow up knowing they were wanted and knowing they’re loved, it may not matter so much whether all the details called “practical” fall neatly into place.

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