Life's Doorway

Family

 

 
I’d like to get to the end of my life having “lived well, laughed often, loved much” and certainly having learned a thing or two so that I don’t repeat my mistakes or the mistakes of others unnecessarily.  That’s why I was keen to read a recent article by addicted2success.com regarding the top regrets of those who are dying.  
There were the usual suspects: ‘I didn’t pursue my dreams’; ‘I worked too hard and spent too little time with my friends and family’.  There were some surprises too, like those who regretted not speaking up for themselves and bottling their emotions to those who regretted not being the bigger person and resolving their conflicts.  
One of the points that surprised me most, however, was that many respondents said they regretted not having children.  
I’m currently in the mix of couples having children.  They’re all around me.  Pregnant bellies everywhere!  I can hardly take two steps without overhearing a conversation about birth, babies or their bodily functions.  When I do manage to leave the ladies and join the gentlemen for what I hope will be more enlightened conversation, I’m disappointed to find out that they’re talking about their own bodily functions!  
As I ponder my own motherhood, I wonder.  I’m in that wonderful place where I would truly be ok if I had kids, and I’d truly be ok if I didn’t.  I wish I were so unworried about all major decisions in life.  But I see, being 31 years old now, how not having children to this point has afforded me the luxury of doing a lot of other things, like sleeping, showering in solitude and not developing a drinking habit (just kidding!)  When I look at all of my accomplishments and the long list of things I’d still like to do one day, I have to wonder if I would regret foregoing these goals in favour of having children.
I know very well the counter-argument.  Those who regretted not having kids grew lonely in their old age, and yearned for some company.  Practically, I’m sure that many also would have liked a familiar loving face to take care of them in their dying years.  And some must have been concerned about whom they would pass their legacy on to, financial or otherwise.  
I admit, I want those things too.  And yet I don’t believe that having children is the only way to achieve them.  
When I come to church on Sunday mornings, I’m usually greeted by a handful of children, those whose parents I’m particularly close to.  I get hugs, kisses and, if they’re old enough to speak, a good squeal of “Auntie!” 
I occasionally baby sit, to offer my friends a romantic night away, or the opportunity to connect with one another without the kids around.  I’m glad to do it, even if it means that I have to change the poopy diapers and make sure the kids are fed, clothed, happy and eventually sleeping.  
I’ve put myself in this community and because I am there, because I have chosen to engage with the community, to help out where I can and to be present, I have a family much larger than I could have ever hoped.  
But many of you will argue that it’s not a real family.  Well, that may be true.  After all, I like hanging out with all of these individuals.  That can’t always be said about family.  I choose to love these people and they choose to love me despite our faults, shortcomings and disappointments.  That’s not always the case in real families.  Often what keeps them together is mere genetics.  
You see, I don’t think that the idea of family, as we know it today, has taught us very well how to be in the community, and my family is my community.  We generally haven’t learned how to push into relationships and persevere when things get tough.  We haven’t learned to go and talk to the person we’re having difficulty with; we’ve only learned to fight or take flight, neither of which helps grow a relationship.  
Unfortunately, it seems that we’ve only learned to stick with people if we’re related, more out of necessity than out of love, tolerance or desire.  We’ve learned to stick with our family because, more often than not, they may be the only ones who would have us.  And even families can be disposable.  Marriage, for example, is far less a life-long covenant and far more a passing fancy.  If we don’t like how one wife does the laundry, no problem, we’ll divorce her and get another.  
Family isn’t about who you marry or give birth to.  Family consists of all of those who you do life with.  For this reason again, I don’t worry about my future.  I know I’ll be rich in family, whether or not I ever have children.



 
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