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What’s the Point? I Mean, Really?

July 28, 2011

We have some friends who are trying to adopt a baby. We recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend with them at their cabin and they had the opportunity to spend a weekend with a three year old girl. On some level, it felt like a sales job because they are working very hard to get a child, a newer model than ours, but roughly the same make.

We must have been poor salespeople for The Joy of Parenting because as we were discussing sleep arrangements, feeding arrangements, etc., the woman, apparently momentarily nervous about what a child does to your life, asked, “so what’s the payoff?”

We were stumped. Is it possible we never thought about it in quite those terms? We thought the weekend itself was part of the payoff, our lovely and charming child being lovely and charming all over the place for two days. The payoff?

How to put this into words?

The payoff comes when she marries a banker and buys me a house on the beach where I can play checkers in the afternoon. It comes when she absolutely refuses to let me go destitute when I retire without retirement savings. Whenever I say that, H rolls her eyes thinking I’m kidding and stop with the stale joke already.

At birth, Jane knew two things: when uncomfortable, cry; when something’s in her mouth, suck on it. That’s it, the sum total of a baby’s knowledge of the world.

Jane at a farm

A baby doesn’t know that the restless achy feeling is tiredness and the cure is to relax and close its eyes. It doesn’t know that the pain in its eyes is the sun and the cure is to close them or turn the head. It doesn’t know you bundle up in the cold, or that fire is hot. It has no knowledge of gravity or that those lines and light and dark shadows is a stairway and if you crawl out onto the dark part, you will take an unpleasant tumble. Cry, suck. Repeat. That’s what you get.

But they take this nothing and, using time, experience, and inquisitiveness, build a world. They learn to walk, to talk, to be careful on the stairs. All too soon they wear real people clothes, run around with their friends and scream happily. They tackle new challenges and skin their knees and cry and go to school and date and one day go off on their own without you.

Buying me stuff when I‘m old would be nice, but that’s not really the payoff. Watching it all happen, front row seats to the creation of a person. That’s the payoff.

Too bad we didn’t say that.

From → Jane

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