Nick and I have often discussed the eventuality of having children and while we are never truly on the same page we know that at some point in the future there will be a mini me. If left up to him we would start expanding our family yesterday, but me – well I could wait a few years for it, enjoy marriage and life and freedom. Either way I am sure it will happen sooner or later.
Being Catholic we had to attend a Pre-Cana class where they basically force you to discuss things like children, sex, communication, finances and such. This is how they combat divorce – assuming that most divorces occur because people do not know what to expect from their marriage. By being placed in a situation where you are required to have a serious discussion about the issues that are sure to crop up over the next 50+ years you will be more prepared to actually deal with them. This all makes fine sense and I understand the purpose of it just fine. However, Nick and I have been together quite some time and we both have successfully married parents and grandparents who had given us this advice a few years ago. They would ask us questions such as “What will you do if your children do this? Or that?” “How would you react to your spouse developing an addiction?” “How will you handle large scale purchases, that will affect you both.” For this reason we had many discussions regarding our future long before attending Pre-Cana. While communication is not always the best between us it is strong in the times where it matters most. We have discussed the having and rearing of children extensively. While we love our parents dearly we recognize the imperfections of their parenting methods – as well as the things they did spot on.
My mother spent a good portion of my life battling addiction and mental illness and I suffered because of it. When she married my father (Who is not biologically related to me but had always been my father and never my step-father) things began to look up. He was an amazing buffer and the steady component of my life.
Nick’s parents always did the best they could, I suppose. But Nick was a later in life baby and his parents marriage is not as stable as the one we hope to have ourselves. He suffered abuses from his old-school Italian father and dealt with a certain amount of instability from his mother. Nonetheless they, like my parents, did what they thought was best. Not that I believe all of the moves made on either side were always best but I believe they felt they were.
The conclusions that we have come to may change over time as situationally necessary. However, for the most part this is what we know.
- We want no more than three children –
Ideally 2 kids, however we are both open to a third. From watching our relatives on both sides it seems that four is really when things start to get out of hand.
- We will push our children to cultivate their interests and talents.
I remember being full of dreams and interests as a child and teen. I was always one to find a new hobby and stand by it fast. However there were many things that my parents felt were pointless – often telling me to pursue dreams that would make me money as opposed to making me happy. I remember often feeling defeated by this lack of support. One thing sticks with me most of all. I always loved how a good meal could bring my family together peacefully as if we were normal. I remember watching my grandmother and grandfather cook and always wanting to help. I always loved cooking and when I was about 10 years old I had decided that I wanted to be a chef. This dream persisted for a long time and even continues in some small corner of my heart still. My parents mocked this dream unrelentingly saying that it would get me no where fast. They refused to allow me to go to culinary school and consistently told me that it was a foolish dream that I should give up. It would make me no money and would be more work and dedication than I could handle. Part of me has never forgiven them for this and I have sworn to never do this to my own children. Nick has experienced similar defeats from his parents and agrees with me. I don’t think that either of our parents meant to crush their children’s dreams in this way, but that is how it turned out. I think that we just need to be conscious of how the things we say affect our children. We have decided that no matter what our children exhibit their passions in we will always do our best to support them. Whether its playing the tuba, becoming a scientist, writing a novel or dancing we will make sure that we do everything in our power to cultivate that passion.
- We will accept our children for who they are and who they become. –
I have seen so many families torn apart by hatred and misunderstanding. Bigotry and ignorance are the biggest problems this world has. I could never understand how a parent could turn their back on their child because that child is part of the LGBT community. We have had this discussion extensively although it wasn’t necessary because we immediately agreed that we will accept our children no matter who they are. We will never turn our backs on them for something so silly. And on that note –
- We will accept their choices of love. –
People seem to look to closely at race and religion when it comes to who their children love. My parents were very much like that. We think that is ridiculous. It is the soul that falls in love and as long as their choice in partner is a good person then the color of their skin and god they pray to does not matter.
- We will teach our children the importance of respecting authority without becoming authoritarians. –
Respect is an important part of life, especially respect toward authority figures. I want to know that my children act appropriately toward teachers, police officers, judges, bosses and as kids respect for adults in general. However I know that often my parents has an authoritarian approach that discouraged an open communication environment at home. I want my kids to know that we are in charge and they are expected to behave in a certain way without Nick and I becoming dictators. I want to foster an open loving relationship with my children while still maintaining authority and know that my kids will know how to behave in public.
- We will instill our children with the value of hard work. –
We have had to work for everything we have in life. This is where our parents went right – they made sure we knew the importance and value of hard work. Nothing in life is handed to you and it is incredibly important that our children understand that. I have seen too often lately young adults who expect all the perks of life while putting in a minimal amount of work to get it. I want to know that I am sending productive members of society out into the world who have something of value to contribute. I want my children to know that we love them and will always help them, but they must be willing to help themselves.
- We will ensure that our children learn how to lose. –
Loss is a part of life. You cannot have everything that you want and there is no trophies for participation in real life. Children these days are taught that they are beautiful little snowflakes who bless the world just by breathing. Nothing they do is ever wrong and they do not understand what it is to lose. Children never seem to lose or fail anymore which does NOT benefit them. This reverts back to number 6 in a way because why would anyone every put in the work required for the things they want in life if they have spent their lives being told they will always get the prize without the work? Learning the value of this is incredibly important in life. Yes, you are a unique individual and the world is lucky to have you – but you need to show them why. Simply showing up to an interview will not get you a job. You will not ace a final if you never attended class. You cannot be an NFL star if you refuse to go to practice and be a team player. That is the real world.
- I want them to know that they should ALWAYS stand up for their beliefs. –
No matter how small something may seem to other people if it is important to you then you should always stand by it. I want my children to always stand by their convictions. No matter what other people say I want them to know that I will always be proud of them for doing this. It is so important to stand for something in life – learn what it is you stand for and stick by it, always.
- We will always fight for our marriage and love each other. –
I fully believe that one of the best possible ways to ensure our children our happy is for parents to be happy. One of the best pieces of marriage advice I received was from my grandmother. She said “Your children should not come before your spouse. The best thing you can do for your kids is to date your husband and always make time for each other. Your strong marriage will be the best lesson your kids will ever learn.”
- We will not let our financial trouble affect our children.-
Finances get tight sometimes. This is just a fact of life. It often causes marital distress and places a inordinate amount of stress on the family life. We have decided that we will not let our children know when these situations arise. We will try very hard to not stress our kid out with these adult concerns. It isn’t fair to stress out kids because of our issues. We want our kids to be as carefree as possible while they still have that opportunity.
I am curious to see what some parents out there think – Did you have some must-dos before the babies came? What do you think of the guidelines we have set for ourselves?