What do you LOVE about being a parent?
January 15, 2013 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I have a very easy time picturing the ways in which having children would negatively impact my life and career -- I can imagine the exhaustion and the chaos and the drudgery with crystal clarity -- but the good parts are much more hazy. What great stuff does your kids bring into your life? What do you love about having had a family? What makes all the difficulties and sacrifices worthwhile for you?

As a woman in my early thirties with some family history of fertility problems, I'm aware that my window for making the kid decision is going to start closing soon. But while I've had it thoroughly hammered into me how difficult parenting is and how completely it could destroy my hopes and plans for the future, I really don't have anyone in my life to talk to me about what's GREAT about parenting.

I want specifics! PLEASE FEEL FREE TO GUSH! I'd always imagined that I'd have kids myself eventually, and this doubt and indecision has made me feel pretty terrible! I would love to be convinced!

(Please DO NOT tell me how awesome it is to be child-free or how terrifyingly difficult parenting is. I really don't need any more information in either of those areas right now, and both are easy to ready about in the askme archives if I want to refresh my memory.)
posted by Narrative Priorities to Society & Culture (86 answers total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
My daughter is 4 and just learning to read and write. In general, the only thing she writes independently is her own name. One morning she found some post-it notes on my desk, and started writing something on it. She walked up to me and gave me one on which she independently written her first full sentence- "I love you Papa."

Stuff like that. :)
posted by uberfunk at 11:29 AM on January 15, 2013 [22 favorites]

Enjoyment in watching them learn and grow and develop their own personalities, the funny things they do and say, pride in their accomplishments, having built-in best friends as my daughters have gotten older...good outweighs the hard 95% of the time.
posted by tamitang at 11:30 AM on January 15, 2013

Oh, holy crap, we laugh SO MUCH MORE now than we ever did before. I also learn new things every day, because my son is curious about things I never really was, so there's built-in discovery, and it's fun to see things through the eyes of a little kid. And then there's the sweet things. The way he hugs and kisses us good night, and the way his head rests on my shoulder when he's tired. Life is so much richer now.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

Listening to my girls' laughter, watching them create art and drawings, watching them learn, watching their faces light up when they see something for the first time.

The structure they brought to my life, allowing me to get more focused.

They helped renew relationships with my parents and other members of our family.

They have made it so I get out of the house and into nature and the world much more. Many more visits to museums, parks, around the block.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

An engineer friend of mine once said that a rational person would never consciously choose to have children. He has a daughter now, and the point he was making was not that people shouldn't have children but rather that it's not a good idea to try to make it a rational decision because otherwise you'll almost always end up choosing not to have a child.

Now let me tell you what another friend said. When my wife was pregnant, he didn't give me all those tiresome warnings about "your life will never be the same". Instead, he simply said "you are in for a big treat". I think that's the best way to answer your question, because he was absolutely right.

My daughter is pre-school age now, but as soon as she could start paying attention with her eyes and ears, I started feeling like every day at home was like a party: laughing, singing, dancing, playing, bouncing, jumping, rolling, making faces, cracking jokes, etc. And every day watching this new living being develop was like witnessing a miracle play out over and over again. And when she runs to your arms yelling for you with a huge smile when you pick her up from school, the love practically melts you (but also makes you want to cry because you know in ten years she'll be running the other direction!).

Having a child far, far, far outweighs any other joy in life. There's just no comparison. Even Steve Jobs said that:

"It’s 10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done."
posted by Dansaman at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2013 [18 favorites]

They're so damn cute! Kids in general are cute, but your own kid? CUTEST EVER! Everything they do is adorable. Every new facial expression, new skill is just the awesomest thing you've ever seen. My kid just figured out how to bang things together to make noise. HE'S A GENIUS.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

You know how great you feel when someone decides to do something special for you? Yeah, kids do stuff like that all the time.

Kids have also been great for me because of the time they demand. Having my free time brutally cut away has motivated me beyond anything else to make the best use of spare time, and has genuinely made me a more disciplined person and made me invest more time in myself.

There's the pride in watching them develop and grow. There's the joy in sharing new things with someone that finds pretty much everything new.

And they honestly made me smile at life again. I had moved myself into a pretty sardonic, cynical place regarding the rest of the people on the planet prior to kids. It's hard not to smile and appreciate the small things when this important little person in your life is doing the same.
posted by bfranklin at 11:36 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

My children are young, so I suspect this will change in time, but my four year old and 16 month old have given me this:

Smiles and the giggles. Hugs and the kisses. Amazing ways in which they are a part of me and yet completely separate people. The quickness with which they grow and learn. The increase in my value --- I am (along with my husband) the person someone most wants to see everyday --- no matter how terrible my day is otherwise, when I get home, I am ambushed at the door with affection.

One of the greatest gifts parenting has given me is so much more compassion for people and the world. I have become more patient than I could ever possibly have imagined. I have learned, too, how to be an advocate for my son with special needs. And I have learned an infinite capacity for love.
posted by zizzle at 11:37 AM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Think of life as multidimensional (they do interact, as you suggest; being a parent affects the others) -- just figure that an entire dimension or three will be mostly inaccessible to you without raising a child. I won't argue that this would be a tragedy, but it would be a loss of amazing experiences and emotions. And of some struggles too, which have their own strange charm.
posted by lathrop at 11:42 AM on January 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

When we were first expecting our first child people told us all the horror stories about no sleep, no time etc but didn't tell us about the overwhelming love one feels for ones kids. Watching my kids grow up into themselves has been amazing. I'm at a point where my really active parenting is changing since my youngest child is a senior in high school. I'm enjoying the relationship with my young adult children as much as I loved their babyhoods and childhood. It's different - no longer taken up with physical needs and transportation but no less wonderful.

Did being a parent limit things I could do? Certainly but it also opened things I never would have experienced or felt otherwise. I would certainly do it again.
posted by leslies at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

This morning my two-year-old son fought with me for a full 45 minutes because he didn't have a very good sleep last night and wanted to stay in bed and not get dressed and go to daycare. I ended up being 30 minutes late for work. I was SO PISSED.

But I tell you what, when I get home today and he comes down the stairs and gives me a big grin and a hug, I will totally forget anything happened this morning. He is the absolute star of my day and I love coming home to him. Watching him learn new words, seeing him react with joy to his favorite stuffed animals, being able to actually begin to communicate and understand each other, seeing him trying to reproduce the Gangnam Style dance moves, giving him high-fives and fistbumps, how he somehow understands that "No" and "snow" are two different things even though he pronounces them identically, it's like everything is brand new for me every single day. I was/am very emotionally repressed and it almost frightens me how much maternal love I'm able to produce for that kid. It is RIDICULOUS. I wouldn't change a bit of it.
posted by agress at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

this weekend, we were in Paris for a family celebration. Saturday, I walked around the city with my 14-yo, we had a special lunch and discussed the sites, and shopped for things 14-yos like. I believe it was one of the happiest days of my life.
Meanwhile the big girl and her boyfriend were about holding hands and being romantic. This made me happy too.

Before this weekend? Lots of lovely days just being. Laughing, hugging, doing childish stuff.

Normally, I try to talk people out of having children, because in some ways, it is not what it is cut out to be. For more than a decade, you will be stressed out and economically strained, and after that, there will be a whole other set of worries (college, cars, drugs, sex...). When I try to discourage people, it is because they communicate that they see children as some sort of obligation or style choice. Only have children if you really want want children.

If you really seriously want children it is everything you'd ever wish for.
posted by mumimor at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

My kids are all teenagers now. They are awesome. I love going to their varsity sporting events or to their orchestra performances or other school events. It is awesome to have them call me up and tell me they are coming over to watch the Giants or Yankees game. I love watching how hard they work at achieving their goals. I love that my youngest is a frigging funny wise guy. I love watching TV with them to see their point of view.

I think I talk to my own parents more because I have kids. One I appreciate what they did a lot more now and two, I make my three talk first so by the time they get to me, my mom just says, "I am exhausted from listening to all the kids are doing. How are things with you? "Good. All Good." "ok, nice talking to you. Love you. bye."

The best thing is every day, at the end of the day, they all give me a big hug, say "I love you" and "Good night, Pops/Old Man/Daddy-O"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:45 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

What great stuff does your kids bring into your life?

My kids themselves. They are little people who I could not love more. It is simply a joy to have these little people in my life.

Also, being a parent makes my life easy in a way because my priorities have become crystal cllear: when confronted with a choice of two things, I choose the thing that lets me spend more time with my kids now. And even if they time is spent in the company of a screaming monster, I know I have not made the wrong choice.

And most importantly, I am reminded of the unlikely quote from Flea (bass player from RHCP) in the film, "the other F word", he said "You know the usual cliche parents tell their kids is - I brought you into this world! - well, for me it was the other way around, my kids brought ME into this world." For me this really hit home.
posted by three blind mice at 11:45 AM on January 15, 2013 [14 favorites]

Our two and a half year old has wandered to our bedside very early in the morning in order to tell us that the ghost in his room wants to tell him a secret. When we ask what the ghost looks like, he just said, "Spooky."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:46 AM on January 15, 2013 [16 favorites]

Do you have relatives or friends with children that you could spend time with? I'm not a parent, but spending time with my young niece was what made me realise that I really do want to have children of my own, contrary to what I used to believe. It was like a little "oh, okay" in my heart the first time she climbed into my lap for a cuddle, that has only grown stronger since.

I realise that Other People's Kids are different to kids of your own, and that this could also backfire, but I dunno. Worked on me anyway.
posted by lwb at 11:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Halloween costumes. It's all worth it to be able to dress them up in adorable Halloween costumes. Check out Pinterest if you think I am kidding.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm a foster parent and we've had our first placement, now 13 months, since she was four weeks old. I'm also pregnant with my first biological child.

To me, my toddler is one of the funniest human beings of all time. She knows a bunch of baby sign, but loves to imitate our hands when we show her new ones. She can't master her fingers yet, so the hand sign for "I love you" becomes the world's smallest Black Power salute, and when I finger-sign the alphabet, she waves her hand and wiggles her fingers confidently, and the look on her face says "Nailed it!".

We spend weekend mornings snuggling with her in our big bed while she bounces back and forth from parent to parent, being silly (trying to tickle, chattering, playing peek-a-boo) and snuggling. She says "Awwww" when she snuggles us or a stuffed animal. She runs up to hug our legs then runs off to keep playing. She sticks her tongue out with her mouth full of yogurt, because it always makes me laugh. She calls herself "Baba Gull" (baby girl) or "Baba Yaya" (a hilariously bastardized version of part of her name). Whenever we tell her "Good job" she claps for herself. She has suddenly realized that "Mama" means me, and keeps double-checking by saying "Mama?" then being thrilled when I answer.

The new baby I'm working on is pretty awesome so far too. I'm starting to feel regular periods of movement (I'm 18 weeks along) and feel like I have this cool little secret thing going on that only the baby and I know about.

Also, on preview, nthing what's been said about being the person someone in the world is happiest to see. My kid drops whatever she's holding to RUN to me every single day when I get her from daycare. And to be honest, sometimes I jog out to my car so I can get to her a few seconds quicker.
posted by SeedStitch at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

They provide you with grandchildren! Easily the best thing that has happened to me EVER!!

Look, kids can be annoying, messy, noisy, prone to spout off inappropriate things and all kinds of other negative stuff but ... hands down they NEED you and love you in a way you will never be needed or loved by anyone else. Suddenly you're so important to another human being and they are so important to you, there's absolutely nothing like it.
posted by Allee Katze at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am 29 and have a three month old. I knew I wanted kids but honestly had a hard time picturing my life with them. Not because I was worried that I wouldn't want them but because I wasn't sure how they would fit into my life. My husband and I love to travel (lots) and I have a demanding job. I can tell you that she has, in a few short months, become the light of my life and now I make everything else in my life work around her. But the best things? Watching her grow and learn. Watching her discover things as simple as her hands or her reflection in the mirror. My heart melts every morning when I peek over her crib rail and she is BEAMING at me. There is no other feeling than when your child smiles at you because YOU are there. I never have to worry about being bored because she is an endless source of amusement. Look honey, she pulled her monkey toy and made it sing! Look, she figured out how to chew on her teether! "Little" things but I can't help but watch her in amazement. There is something to be said for knowing that you have such a large part in helping to shape a little life. I am blessed with a baby that has been sleeping through the night since two months and I actually MISS her while she is sleeping! I want her to wake up so we can play. I can't speak to what parenthood is like with older children yet since this is our first but the first few months have been worth every sleep deprived day.
posted by polkadot at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Before I had a kid I didn't realise what funny little people they are! My daugher is almost two and she cracks me up several times a day. Life is full of laughter now.

Also, speaking only for myself, I had not realised how much I had longed for someone to share this kind of love with. It is stronger and closer and even more intimate than any other kind of love, even the one for my husband. Before, I had been wondering whether I would be able to feel "like a mother", and then when my kid was there, all this incredible emotion came pouring out of me as if I had been waiting for her all my life.

Yes, you get some incredible lows, but the highs are much higher, too.

I get to relive all the discoveries and accomplishments kids have when they grow older. And this time I feel like I have the power to make growing up a happy time for her, happier than my own was.

I feel like my life is 100 % more worth living now.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:52 AM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh and if you are worried about your future after kids, I can tell you that we are still traveling and just got back from a long weekend in Florida with her. Sure we had to pack more and go to dinner in more family friendly places. But we want to do those things so that we can be with her. And I have started working again and had a promotion go through while I was on maternity leave and was given some high visibility work upon my return. So it seems my career hasn't suffered although I do admittedly work for a very family friendly company that touts work life balance. They are out there and can help you have the best of both worlds if you chose that route. Best of luck - kids really are great.
posted by polkadot at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Father of a 10 ½ year old boy. Only child. Here’s what I can give you off the top of my head. Right now these things apply to my son at his current age. Some of these things may not have been true six months ago and some might not be true six months from now. One of the good and bad things is that things are always changing. Now that I’ve written them out some of them seem rather selfish, like his main job is to validate my own existence, but for every “selfish” thing about it there are a hundred sacrifices I’ve made for him.

In no particular order:

I am raising a mini-me, only not. Right before my very eyes, I am seeing my son develop into a little version of my wife and I, which is amazing, yet at the same time he is developing into his own person, which is ten times as amazing.

I am a somebody’s hero. Seriously, man, I am constantly impressing him with the most mundane things I do. Look, Dad can juggle! He’s awesome! Look how far he can throw a ball!

He’s constantly amazing me with the things that comes out of his mouth. Whether it’s a dead-on imitation of Groundskeeper Willie, some vocabulary word I didn’t know until I was 30, some playground rhyme I remember myself from fourth grade, or just an interesting insight into the world. It’s incredible.

I have someone to play catch with for the first time in my life. Someone I’m not afraid to be my incompetent self around.

I have a reason to get overly-obsessive about Halloween.

He loves me. He totally freakin’ loves me and he knows I love him.

I got to be the one to show him the movie Airplane! for the first time. Ditto The Simpsons, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Monty Python, and countless other things.

Having a child showed me what I’m capable of. That I can be a silly, wacky, fun dad, but if needed I can also be series, stern, and super-responsible.

It has opened up new social circles and we’ve made some great friends through my son’s friends.

It made Christmas fun. It allowed me to put all the baggage and negative feelings I had for Christmas and start fresh and make it as magical for him that it should have been for me.

Likewise, it has given me a chance to break the cycle, to correct any wrongs that happened to me as a child, and to be the parent I always thought my parents should have been. So far so good.

It has given me a sense of perspective. Yes, it sucks that we couldn’t go out to dinner like we planned but thankfully the doctors were able to remove the cherry bomb and there will be no lasting damage. (this didn’t really happen, just an example.)

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being able to fix something that is broken and make things better.
posted by bondcliff at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2013 [18 favorites]

I'm a step mom to a five-almost-six year old. Its hard sometimes. Before him having kids of my own wasn't really a mega priority, yet here I am... a step mom. It was very much a sink or swim. There are lots of things I could complain about or whine over. Being responsible for a kid and being partially responsible for having that kid grow in to a normal functioning adult is scary and daunting.

However, that kid brings me so so much in life. His energy and excitement and interest and curiosity is contagious. I have someone I get to watch grow and learn and develop, and that on its own is a real gift. Sitting down with him last week and showing him youtube videos of an octopus that can change its shape and colour and watching his MIND BE BLOWN was god damned awesome. Sure, our life is busy and highly scheduled, but that is a good thing. We don't pass time doing nothing. Time is marked by events and memories, not days on a calendar or tv show seasons. As others have said up above, because free time is at such short supply you make as much use of that free time as you can. And the times with him are interesting and active and busy too.

I may not have really chosen to be a mother, this kid may not be biologically mine, but when I fell in love with his father it wasn't long for me to fall in love with the kid too. I'm fiercely protective of him, I am thrilled beyond words when he learns something new or succeeds at something, I am scared and worried more than I ever thought I would be when he is hurt or upset, and I love love love when I see him displaying mannerisms that he clearly picked up from me. LOL There is a richness and fullness to life that comes with being a parent I didn't expect. It certainly isn't easy or 100% good times, but the good vastly outweighs the bad, and I feel absolutely lucky to have him in my life.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't have kids yet, but my best friend has two that I adore to pieces, and I can tell you, there is NOTHING that compares to seeing a little person just LIGHT UP because they're so excited to see you and have them run over and tell you all kinds of things they think are interesting. It is just the best thing ever. Also, seriously, Halloween and Christmas (if you celebrate) are SO MUCH MORE FUN with kids. Costumes! Santa! Stockings! Crafts! Like, all the stuff you used to love that you don't do anymore, you get to do again with someone who's never experienced it before. IT IS THE BEST.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have a 2 year old - one thing that I consistently appreciate about him is that he isn't goal-oriented, isn't rushing through anything, and is always paying attention to small details.

An example: on Sunday night, I was running around, frustrated, trying to clean house and get us ready for work / school the next day, and in a foul mood. He did the small task I asked him to do, then wandered into the bedroom, where I found him a few minutes later looking out the window. I left and came back ten minutes later (his mom was also nearby) and he was still looking out the window. He turned to me with an excited look, pointed outside, and said: "saw the moon dada! Moon's pretty."

Then he went back to looking, at which point I put down the pile of his dirty clothes that I had picked up and went over and looked with him. A pointed reminder for me to relax a little.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:12 PM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

One of my greatest joys as a parent is seeing my kids enjoy something that I enjoyed as a kid. It's almost like you get to relive a little bit of your childhood that way.
posted by cuppycake gumdrops at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I strongly believe that life is an empty shell you fill with meaning. Everyone decides these things on their own. There is no external arbiter of truth. If having a good career makes you a complete and happy person, run with it.

That said, relationships are probably one of the most common things people tend to believe are worthwhile. For most people, their relationships are also their most resilient and lasting legacies. Your career will almost certainly end once you die, and not so many people build lasting physical (or digital) objects anymore. But the people who know and are affected by you endure after you pass on, and their continued existence affirms your own.

Relationships don't have to be with people. They can be with pets, plants, places. Anything. Whatever you can become emotionally attached to, and whatever can become attached to you (or reliant on you), is capable of becoming a lasting source of joy, happiness, and contentedness.

The relationship you have with a living being that gestated inside you, who is completely dependent on you for years, whom you have watched develop from a chubby nothing to a fully grown adult human being, provides an amazingly rich and fertile environment for what may be the most meaningful relationship(s) of your life. That may not be how it works out in the end every time, sadly, but the odds are in your favor. It's probably more than worth the gamble.

I don't have a kid at this point, but I'd like one at some point and that's why.
posted by jsturgill at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

4 years in.

Seeing him figure out the world. The look of concentration on his face as he files away every newly learned word or bit of information. The unpredictable, sometimes incorrect but always perfectly logical ways he extrapolates from what information he does have.
posted by ook at 12:13 PM on January 15, 2013

I was like you--I couldn't really understand what was appealing about being a parent. I didn't actively NOT want to be a parent, but I didn't necessarily crave it either. And then I had a kid, and now I understand. You can't really make a list of pros and cons--it does change your life, probably somewhat differently for everyone.

For me, the thing I love about being a parent is how much my child has made me grow up--learn how to make commitments, discover my ability to be patient, uncover my flaws and figure out how to work on them. I understand myself way better than I ever did pre-kid, and I get how the decisions and parenting choices my parents made in my own childhood affected who I've become. And being a parent really unleashes your creativity--first because when your kid is little, everything is about drawing and painting and gluing and discovering, but also because to be a good parent you have to be creative--you have to come up with ideas about how to spend time, or how to say or approach things differently when the first twenty ways you've tried something doesn't work. And this creativity is fun and gratifying!

This all sounds so self-centered, but really the thing I love the most is how becoming a parent helped me get over some of my own selfishness. I'm surprised how easy it is to make my kid's needs a priority, and to take real joy in her achievements, which are really hers, not mine.

Plus, I love that I got a chance to be pregnant--it is a pretty cool body/mind/life experience.
posted by gubenuj at 12:19 PM on January 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. I'm constantly amazed at the things they create -- my daughter has real artistic talent, far beyond anything I've ever had, and my son can craft stories that are wonderfully intricate and strange, and yet hold together. They're getting to the point where I know they're going to want parental involvement in their lives to go down, but their smiles still never fail to make me fall in love with them all over again.

It sounds weird to say it, perhaps, but you really do fall in love with your kids. Instantly and completely -- you will find depths of love in you that you would never have thought existed. There is nothing in the world as wonderful as hearing your baby laugh for the first time. Shakespeare couldn't find the language to express the joy you'll feel.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:21 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think my favorite thing about my kids is the way that they both amplify character traits and habits that my husband and I have (some leaned and some maybe innate :)) and are wholly their own person at the same time. I sometimes sit and see the two of them interacting, doing their own weird kid thing together, and I think, oh mercy, I'm raising two Human Beings. And the weight of that makes my breath catch in my throat in a big lump of amazement, and I contemplate the future and the time and love and nurture I'll be pouring into these two little ragamuffins for decades to come and then... they just do something so hilarious, so off the wall that it's beyond the most creative mind's abilities to think up something so bizarre, and all that heaviness just melts right into the moment and the act of living and parenting. What a cool privilege it is.

And that time they are barely able to walk and talk yet and they still manage to do that one thing that is so quintessentially You in character (the furrowed stubborn brow and gruff snort?) and you realize they know way more than they're letting on? Awesome.
posted by takoukla at 12:21 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can say baby baby baby baby baby and it makes sense. I can ask about 'getting some more catfood for the baby to eat' and 'well it is 20% protein and thats good enough for the cat' while shopping and getting yucks out of overhearers. Poop is funny again. Turning for a moment to grab the next diaper; and seeing a stream arch through the air and land on the cat; priceless.

Coworkers in part time career talking about their kids in the Sea of Japan, Atlantic Ocean, or graduating Great Lakes; and getting to mention my son was in the Sea of Bathtub last night, LOL I had my 1st child late in life.

Going to the pet store; watching the smile and giggle as the baby watches hundreds of goldfish spiral and swim around; the eyes wide at the bird cages, snakes hanging from small trees.... its like a zoo trip for the child and good for its brain too.

Gave me a reason to be more productive for the next 20 years; also a 100% positive item for a newfound social circle... hey, have you heard about diapers.com???
posted by buzzman at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2013

Watching your own kid(s) grow and develop. So many times, I've said "it's like you can almost see the gears turning" when your child is learning something new. Any experience of pure awe, joy, and wonder, is about the best thing you can experience in the world. Hearing your child say, "I love you, mommy!" out of the blue, but with fierce devotion, makes up for just about any negative aspect you can imagine. :)
posted by Eicats at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2013

I was 40 and had a comfortable life as an adventurous professional. I was resigned to never having children if that's the way things panned out but my wife at the time convinced me that having a child would be the most rewarding thing ever.
On the day he was born my life changed so profoundly, and in so many subtly wonderful ways, that it would take pages to describe.
From that moment my life's clock was re-set; no longer did I think of the future as 'where will i be when i'm...yrs old...' but rather 'where will i be when he's...yrs old...'
Every day there is something to enjoy. yes there are trials and tribulations, but children teach you patience like you've never known.
All of these things you may have hear before in one form or another, but for me there was one more , and the most important thing.
My wife left me after 10 yrs together, out of the blue. My son was 3 at the time. His presence saved my sanity and quite possibly, saved my life. Now I would never wish separation or divorce upon you or anyone, but i would wish upon everyone the unfettered, unconditional love that can make even the darkest hours something to work through for the sake of this other being.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:28 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a 15-month-old daughter. The best thing so far is making her laugh!

When I dreamed of having a baby, which lasted quite a long time because we had trouble conceiving, I focused so much on the pregnancy part that I never really thought about what it would be like to live with a child. It is so so so much better than I imagined. Just the little silly things I find myself doing because it gets a laugh out of her. There's something so pure about baby/toddler laughs - they live so completely in the moment, without any self-consciousness. Even just tickling her to make her laugh makes me feel like I'm a child again myself.

But in addition to the joy that she brings to our lives, I feel like a stronger, more flexible person in general now. I have more of a reason to care about doing the right thing. When I argue with my husband, I make sure to be respectful and keep my voice down so that I am not modeling unhealthy behaviour for my daughter. When I get stressed out, I make sure to keep my cool so that I can be a good role model for my daughter.

When we were struggling with infertility, sometimes I would wonder if it would be worth it in the end. It totally is - the world just seems richer now that I'm a parent.
posted by barnoley at 12:31 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having a kid is the biggest commitment you'll ever make in your life. It's the biggest project you'll ever work on. It's the PhD program you can't drop out of multiplied by the boyfriend/girlfriend you can't ever break up with no matter how maddening they are. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do, something that will cause you to fail repeatedly despite your best efforts. But it will still be satisfying.

A kid is someone you're completely responsible for but ultimately have no control over. It's someone who came out of you and who you raised and educated and taught all your best secrets but who is completely different from you and who will end up doing whatever they want, thank you.

It is not fun to sit up all night with a vomiting kid in your lap when you have to go to work the next day. But looking back with your partner on the nights you sat up with the vomiting kid, you'll realize it's the most meaningful thing you ever did. It's something you wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

A kid brings their own script to the game. They will surprise you and amaze you, they will entertain you. Kids are not blank slates, oh no. They are themselves so fully and completely it is mind boggling, and they just show up that way, as themselves, without your having done anything (and often in spite of anything you've done).

Your kids will love you but they will never understand how much you love them, at least not until they have kids. Then they'll know (and you'll have grandkids). But it doesn't bother you, at least not until they're teenagers.

Kids grow up to be bigger kids. But whenever you look at them you will still see the little kid there, all the different aged kids sort of lined up behind the current one you're looking at. That's why people cry when their kids get married, because they see the baby and the toddler and first grader and all the other ages all at once and it's overwhelming.

You were a kid once, and hopefully having a kid will remind you of how you started, that this little thing composed mostly of hope and trust and joy bubbles and burbles and eats and crawls and runs and jumps and talks and eventually becomes a grownup. It's a mystery. But that's some of it.
posted by alms at 12:31 PM on January 15, 2013 [16 favorites]

Oh, another thing: before having a kid, I tended to be kind of cynical about almost everything. Having a baby helps you see things through their eyes - and as a result, you regain a bit of innocence and can see the good in things a bit more.
posted by barnoley at 12:35 PM on January 15, 2013

I am not a parent (just yet), but I thought you might find this article relevant.

There's More To Life Than Being Happy.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:35 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

When my kids were babies I spent way more time in a rocking chair than ever before, and they taught me how to rest. I would carry them around everywhere and my arms developed good tone. I became better with money and overall more efficient about everything.

As they began to eat solids, I ate better than I used to. I relearned what barnyard animals sounded like. I began to play more and be more silly. I read books aloud and learned to perform. I made up stories!

When they began to ask questions about everything, I was forced to explain things simply, and that meant rethinking things. Even big things. It's good for clarity and certainty.

This past Christmas I got to play with walkie talkies are relearn CB radio '10' code.

And most of all, these little creatures trust me and I've worked hard to earn that trust. It feels good!
posted by mazola at 12:36 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My one child is only 4 months old, but his smile and laugh are the most wonderful things in the world. You can see in his face that he adores me and my husband with his whole being, and he smiles simply because he is so joyful, not because it is socially expected of him. That magically and instantly fills me with love and somehow negates the night of awful sleep I just had.
posted by Safiya at 12:37 PM on January 15, 2013

I love: taking trips with my kids to places they've never been and showing them the stuff I love, taking trips to places none of us have ever been and exploring it all together, seeing them develop skills and talents I have never and will never have, watching them navigate relationships and friendships and realizing they're really kind people, seeing them interact with our pets (it just melts my heart when they use their "doggie voices"), teaching them to cook, them teaching me about new technology, talking about the Big Stuff in life, talking about the little stuff in life, teaching the 15-year-old how to drive, teaching the 12-year-old how to flip a pancake without a spatula...everything.

My children are so much better than I am. They're just awesome and smart and beautiful and good. They've made me into a better person, less jaded and spoiled and more patient and understanding. Because of my children I've met some of the best friends I'll ever have in my life.

Being a parent has changed every aspect of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.
posted by cooker girl at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

We were laying in bed last Sunday, and our son was trying to hug through us, he was so happy to be between us in bed, just overjoyed, and I said "We love him so much, we've poured all this love into him and he's just overflowing with it and giving it back." It's your own choice, your own life, but the entire experience is unlike everything else.
posted by history is a weapon at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, here is a specific example to add to my earlier comment:

Saturday evening I stayed up incredibly late to finish a gift for a little boy's birthday party we were attending on Sunday. My daughter woke up at her usual early time on Sunday morning, and my husband kindly got up with her and my son while I slept a little longer.

Then when I got up I went right to finishing the birthday gift. A few moments later my husband calls to me. I have to get up. I have to come into the kitchen. RIGHT NOW! So I get up, go into the kitchen, and my lovely little daughter is sitting in a mound of dry oatmeal.

She eats oatmeal for breakfast every morning. My husband had apparently not fed her yet that morning, so she decided to feed herself.

And that same Sunday, my son decided he wanted a tortilla with cheese for lunch and sat at the table while I dutifully made one for him and his sister. He said, "Baby sit here with [Kid Zizzle]," and I sat his sister next to him. While lunch was cooking, he bent down and said to her, "Baby, you have tortilla and cheese? Yes! You have tortilla and cheese!" It was so unbearably sweet my heart nearly broke, it couldn't handle how sweet it was.
posted by zizzle at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My 12 yr old daughter is an accomplished Oboe and Mandolin player....every time she plays or does something else that her crazy, wonderful, brain seems to be endlessly talented at, and smiles at me with those gorgeous eyes, my heart just stops.....It happens every day. My five year old son is my heart walking around, outside of my body. He comes in every morning and says, "Good Merning Mama! What a beautiful day!" (I'm going to kill whoever teaches him the correct way to say morning). He dances in front of the mirror, cracks himself up with his antics and loves to make toast all by himself. Kids are THE BEST things about life....You can have friends and love and a fulfilling, happy life without them, lots of people do but when you feel the depth of endless, unspeakable, indescribable love that you will feel for your own children.... you will thank the stars that you went down that path.
posted by pearlybob at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have never, ever lost myself so emotionally in someone as I have completely lost myself in my beautiful, smart, funny 4-year-old daughter. I do so many things to please her, just because I want her to know how cherished she is.

Until I had a baby, I never knew of the intense love one could feel for another person. Yes, I've been in love; I've had crushes, and very deep and meaningful friendships, and I had a happy childhood and family life. But, the pure, joyful love I felt for my baby was so focused, I wanted to replicate that for other people, so they could have that joy.

My daughter is sensitive, empathetic, thoughtful, caring, intelligent, and very funny. She's independent, and very much NOT a carbon copy of her mama. I find most everything she does amazing, most everything her little mind wanders to interesting. And... we made this!

My husband and I are smitten. Just smitten.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:44 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love how my toddler laughs out loud and jumps up and down when I walk into his room and say good morning. And even though it drives me crazy, it is hilarious when I turn around and he is inside the hamper.

I love how my 5-year old tells me jokes that he made up that are actually funny. And that we can go out to breakfast and hang out together. And he slips his hand into mine as we walk home.

In terms of how the burdens of childcare cut into your life... when my kids and husband were away for two days, I made so many plans for what I would do with my free time. Exercise! House projects! Practice music! In reality? I sat on the couch and watched TV. So I realized that my kids aren't preventing me from doing as much as I thought.

Having somebody that you love unconditionally, and who loves you the same way, is really amazing. I am learning so much about compassion for myself and others from the way I respond to and treat my kids. And I see how my older son is SO much like me, and he is not broken, so I must not be either.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:02 PM on January 15, 2013

My four kids range from 5 to almost 14.

Being a parent has made me a better person than I thought I could be, and also made it clear how much more I have to grow.

Being a parent taught me, at a stroke, so much about my own parents. I swoon to think of all that they did for us as kids, and it helps with keeping me on the ball (see previous item).

Being a parent has made me think a lot harder about things than I used to: education, how I treat people, what matters to me, &c.

Being a parent takes a lot out of me, but it gives me back something lot more complex: seeing my kids grow up makes me excited and nervous and proud and aware of how much more I have to do with them and how finite life is.

Being a parent has added a lot of depth to my life.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:21 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

The human capacity for learning is a wonder, and when I see my one year old daughter figuring something out, I am blown away. Sometimes it is important stuff, like learning how to move her body. Sometimes it is silly stuff, like imitating people clinking glasses at dinner a couple of nights ago. I now have this very jolly dining companion who toasts me with her sippy cup! Cheers we say, knocking sippy cup to tea cup!
posted by stowaway at 1:21 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love the random hugs and I love yous. The memory I will cherish forever is my daughter, age 1 1/2 at the time, coming up to me unprovoked and saying "I love you".
posted by Sweetmag at 1:22 PM on January 15, 2013

I am just like you. And in contemplating the decision whether or not to have a second child, I am you again. Except now I know both the joy and the hard stuff -- not ALL the hard stuff, my girl is only 2 after all, but enough to give me pause. And here's the thing, I would say to you on the other side of parenthood -- do it! It's amazing! Your child will be your heart and joy. He or she will be so very amazing to you and your partner. But, I would not have listened to me before children. Lots of parents and grandparents tried to tell me how amazing it would be but how can you really trust them? What do they know? They say, "Do it! You'd be such a wonderful mother!" and I'd think, 'huh, what do you know about me?' Because, really, they don't know!

But, they also do.

A very early realization after I had my baby girl was that my baby was amazing. The most amazing baby I have ever seen or interacted with. It was so crazy. You hear a lot of people reassure men that they'll love their baby once they get here. The flip side of that notion is that women are already tuned in, already in love. Not necessarily true. Not for me. I was wary. Wary until the last minute! Then she arrived and it was a bit slow to build but a week after the birth, there I am mooning over my kid like she was made of sparkle dust. And here's a secret: I still like my kid best of all. I didn't turn into one of those people who loves all the babies. I like them a lot more and am a lot more interested but my kid is still the awesomest.

I could tell you all the awesome things she does but it wouldn't matter to you because my kid won't be your kid and you could be all: "Pfff...that's what she thinks is awesome?! Lame!" Heh. And some of it really is lame. In the grand scheme of things. But not to me.

Parenting is both easier and harder than everyone says. People love to complain -- I do, too. Like, one thing that I thought would be the worst are those typical irrational temper tantrums. Now that she's here -- yeah, they're not, like, super magical fun time, but they are tolerable and I love her and I actually sympathize with her and I have my own tricks to help her calm herself (and myself) and then we move on and go do more jumping in snow banks and laugh and tickles and now it's time for cookies...yay! There's this balance with parenthood that is really hard to convey or promise to someone. The love evens out the tough stuff.

Best of luck! I made a very cerebral choice and that was very, very hard. I'm so unexpectedly happy about the whole thing, I can't help but recommend it.
Just ignore my future post about getting my toddler some better sleep habits. It'll be fine!
posted by amanda at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have an 8 month old. She is beautiful.

What has really surprised me is not how hard it is sometimes -- I knew it would be -- nor how emotionally intense it can be. I expected that too. What has genuinely surprised me is how interesting it is. From the beginning, it's just fascinating to watch them grow and change.

Now, she laughs and plays and is so clearly a person. I'm looking forward to the adventures ahead.
posted by kestrel251 at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

The joy. OMG the pure joy that fills my heart and makes it hard to breathe just for a second.

Everybody told me about the struggles and difficulties. Nobody told me about the JOY.
posted by Ginesthoi at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

My children have added a million wonderful things to my life. Their giggles, their unique worldview, their reminder to me to keep playing, no matter how old I get. The patience they've taught me, the way we explore, run, create together.

Probably the most earth-shattering thing my daughters did for me was inspire me to be a better person. I was in a low point in my life a few years ago, in a dead relationship and struggling to define myself outside my children-- before, I was someone who'd never planned on children, would spend my life in academia, would do Great Things. But when my girls came, I wanted to dedicate myself to being an amazing mom, too, so I cut back on a lot of things that were Me. Until the day I realized that I want my daughters to be amazing, intelligent, compassionate, Great Things Doers.

So why wasn't I? Why wasn't I creating that example for them? Why wasn't I pursuing my dreams the way I want them to?

My children have made me a better person. Because I decided I needed to be the person I wanted them to be. And I see it in their eyes: how proud they are of me, how much they respect me, how much better our time together is now, when not all my time belongs to them. In addition to all the fun stuff, I love that my kids developed me as a person in a way I don't know I would have developed without them.
posted by weeyin at 1:56 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is a good excuse to post this video.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:08 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love the smell of baby heads. Mmmmmmmmmm. Baby head.
posted by mindsound at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Being a parent has taught me about devotion and commitment in a way that nothing else ever has. You know that old saw about the ham and egg breakfast? The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Parenting has made me a pig, big time.

It has made me more patient and forgiving. It has helped me make sense of some of the totally inane shit my parents did when I was a kid. It makes me wonder how people who don't have kids work through some of that childhood baggage. It has helped give me the perspective to see what was just my parents being fallible humans like everyone else, and what was them being genuine boneheads. And the perspective to move on anyway.

It tends to put everything in perspective. I was so self-absorbed before I had my daughter. I don't even mean that in a bad way, just that my life revolved totally around myself. Having another person to consider is a huge adjustment and changes how you think about other people and events around you.

My daughter is about to turn ten and it has been a long and very tough road. I've raised her alone from the start. But it has been so completely fascinating. My favourite times were when she was a toddler (like living with an hilarious, tiny, jolly drunk person), when she was around 5 and the age she is going into now. I remember walking around with her at age two or so, and seeing the world through her eyes and loving the crazy way she approached things. I thought she was the original non-conformist, and then I realized, no, she's pre-conformist. Seeing them before they learn about all our social conventions taught me a lot about our potential as humans.

And living with an almost 10 year old is awesome. I'm constantly surprised by what she knows and how she thinks. She's so clever and so funny. It's taken her a decade, but she has perfected a deadpan, ironic wit that slays me.
posted by looli at 2:34 PM on January 15, 2013

1. A baby with a fever is a great little heater on a cold night. (Only half joking here, I remember one amazing cuddle with a hot toddler.

2. My 22 year old baby is home on winter break right now, and woke her dad and me at 4:30 this morning with a bad pain in her bum knee. Massage, heating pad, vicodin, and SLEEPING IN HER BED WITH HER so I would be there if she needed me*. That is the best. And you don't get it very often from a 22 year old. I don't care what hour she calls me, it makes me feel like a special person every time she needs me. (My son, too, but he calls his wife now.)

*I got thrown out for snoring after half an hour though.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:42 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't yet have kids, but I am now living in a world in which so many of my friends and relatives do that some of the benefits not yet mentioned here have become really clear. I do think it's hard to understand the kinds of sentiments people express - "you just can't imagine until you do it!!!" -- which may be true but doesn't help you think about the decision because you can't miss what you don't know. So taking that at its word, here are some other things that are obvious to me, partly through the kids in my life and through some of my teaching experiences:

1. It can expand your social world in ways it wouldn't if you didn't have kids. Connecting with other parents, alike to you and different also, and their children, opens up a new social dimension that can include insights, strong communities, new places to go and become part of, and fun (and strange) experiences designed with and around kids.

2. It can help you feel as though life is going somewhere and for something and will carry on beyond you, into the future. I have been on a lot of "all grownups" family vacations lately and it starts to really feel like something's missing. We all have a lot to pass on to another generation - experiences, knowledge, special traditions. With no one to pass it on to, there can be sort of a dead-end feel.

3. Someone mentioned Christmas. Experiences like holidays and the important "first time" rituals of childhood are delightful to rediscover and reintroduce to someone younger.

4. It's potentially the most you will ever mean to another human being.
posted by Miko at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2013

I love seeing my husband as a dad. I love my husband very much and thought I knew him as well as you can know another person, but seeing a new side of him support me through my pregnancy, including scary complications at the end, and then watching him jump in head-first to parenting, has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I never would have seen this side of him without having had my son.
posted by handful of rain at 3:21 PM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Becoming a parent made me braver. Telling my kids to "use their words" forced me to realize I needed to use my own words in situations where I'd normally sit back and let things pass—but with two little people watching and learning from me, I didn't have the luxury of hiding.

Becoming a parent forced me to be more extroverted—socializing with other parents and learning from them, as my kids socialized with other kids and learned from them.

Becoming a parent actually started my real career as a writer, as I grappled with my ambivalence about the culture of motherhood by writing a book about it and putting my words out in the world in a way I was too afraid to do before I had children. This year marks the 10th anniversary of my first book being published. Nine very different kinds of books later, I still remember the powerful experience of writing that first book, totally terrified, while being pregnant and managing a toddler. (The book was due to my editor on the day my second baby was due to be born. Every time I freaked out about "can I really do this? I can't do this!" the baby would kick and I would remember my deadline, and I would get it done. So becoming a parent literally forced me to become the thing I'd always wanted to become.)

Becoming a parent helped put my own childhood in perspective, and gave me a new perspective on my own parents. Seeing my children arrive just exactly already who they were—their personalities evident from the start—and watching them become who they are has been amazing, and gave me a lot to think about in terms of the stories I told myself to explain my own growing-up experience.

Becoming a parent is a thing that continues to continue: I was born as a mother the moment my first child was born, and for the past 13 years I've been learning on the job, adapting as I go, always trying to balance the person I think they are with the people they reveal themselves to be, navigating the tightrope of when to push and when to pull, when to comfort and when to be strict. I have two very different people for children, and the amazing thing is that I get to be a very different kind of parent for each of them. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for the other, and what's appropriate for one is not for the other, and it's been a process to learn how they work and how we work together and still make sure that everyone feels equally loved and that I'm equally as present.

But maybe the best thing is the continuous surprise of who they are as they grow. They are 13 and 10 now, and watching them enter this stage is amazing. We can joke and laugh like they are (almost) grown-ups, I've been able to share with them books and movies I read and saw when I was their age and watch them GET IT, with their own perspective, and have it become another thing we have in common.

The surprise of who they are as they evolve into themselves is what really gets me. Just the other night, as we were reading before bedtime, my 10 year old got a bit weepy as he confessed to me that sometimes he thinks about how we live in a house and he has games and toys and food and comfort, and that makes him think about homeless people and other people, and that makes him think about, as he put it, "how not everybody has what they need." And that, he said, made him feel guilty. I hugged him for a while and we talked about how unfair it is that some people don't get what they need. And I made an attempt to reassure him that him having what he has doesn't mean he's taken it from someone in need, and that perhaps the people who have warm houses and food to eat and the comfort of friends and family can use those things to strengthen themselves so that they can be in a position to help people get what they need. And I told him that I knew he had a generous heart, and that just the fact that he was thinking about these things made me think that when he was a grown-up, he might be a person who helps, and that instead of feeling guilty he could feel thankful, and maybe we could brainstorm some small ways we might be able to help people in our community, if he wanted to. But mostly I wanted him to know that I loved him, and that I appreciated him sharing that with me.

I sniffled a little bit as I was ending this talk, which I managed to get through without getting weepy myself. And because he knows that I tend to weepiness in these kinds of conversations, he reached out his hand and put it on mine, looked me in the eye, and said, "Mommy, are you getting a little teary talking about this? Because, if you are, I'm right here."

And then I hugged him and got a little teary, because come on.
posted by mothershock at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

3.5 yo here.

She's awesome. It's like a science experiment rolled up with a comedy show plus a mirror. I dunno. Words are hard.
But here's a specific thing. She goes to daycare. Whoever is lucky enough to pick her up that day gets greeted with the most insanely happy, grinning, laughing, huge hug. Then ten minutes of nonstop talk about her day and wuestions about yours. For this reason, my extended family fights to pick her up - my dad, my siblings, me and my spouse. I spend my day thinking about what I'll tell her when she asked what my favorite thing was or what I learned. It's a miracle.

Right now we are at gymnastics and I just watched her hug a little girl who had fallen down, then take her to the tumble track where they aren't supposed to be, with a mischievous grin. Guaranteed that when I ask about this she will tell me she did it to help her feel better. I feel like I can take no credit for that kind of empathy, but that somehow it's also something my husband and I taught her, somehow. Another miracle.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:35 PM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I love watching my partner play with our toddler. The kid has been asking, "What doing?" a LOT recently. So, Papa's lying on the floor, while toddler hands him toys. Finally, toddler says, "Papa, what doing?" "I'm forming a toy-based economy. What are you doing?" "Want penguin." "Okay. This penguin costs three kisses." So they practice counting to three, while giving Papa kisses.

I love watching my kid's personality blossom. The other day, he demanded a toy in the store for the first time, a little plastic fish. Since then, he's been wandering around carrying this fish, saying, "Hello fish. What doing?"

Having a toddler sometimes feels like I'm doing double-takes all day long: He used to be a blob! All he did was nurse and sleep and poop and he wasn't really capable of expressing his personality. Before that, I carried him in my body -- he was part of me. Nowadays, I'll look at him, and he's coming up with words and ideas I don't remember teaching him. He appears to have grown several inches overnight. I assume this continues until he's stopped growing, at which point I'll just be amazed about the life he leads, so separate from mine.
posted by linettasky at 8:03 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

So everyone has amply covered the baby/toddler stuff, and oh my, it is wonderful. I am reminded so poignantly of these awesome baby-things because 1. My step-daughter just had a baby on Christmas Eve (yes yes yes the smell of a newborn's head OMG!!), and 2. I have been watching the 3 mo old progeny of a family friend (on Fridays) and there is no pleasure on earth quite like the toothless smile of a three-month-old baby. None!

But I chimed in to say that just yesterday I drove to the High School to pick up my 15 yo son and looked up from my phone to see not just the 15 yo son, but his 17 yo brother approaching (older one not expected yet) my car together. From 40 yards away, these big, strapping, gorgeous young men, best friends, laughing, talking, half trying to trip each other on the way.
Wow. It's breathtaking!
Being a parent has been hands-down the most rewarding experience of my life.
posted by bebrave! at 8:12 PM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

So, I don't know what parenting is like yet because I am six months pregnant with my first baby. But I will tell you that being pregnant is a really, really interesting experience, one that I think everyone who can ought to try. Before I got pregnant, I tried to find novels about pregnancy to read, to help me understand what it was like. I figured it had to be a pretty well-developed genre - it's a nine-month period, the plot you need it to follow is mostly clear, etc - but was surprised to discover that there really aren't many out there.

Well, now I know why. I've written a couple of novel-length books, and the idea of trying to write down what this is like for someone who hasn't been through it is hilariously daunting. Pregnancy takes you on an emotional and physical journey that's impossible to describe, even to your spouse who's right there next to you, watching it happen. The other day I had a uterine contraction (this is a new thing for me) and told my sister and she asked me what it felt like, and I was like, "Well, if you had a uterus the size of a soccer ball, and then a big ghost reached through your skin and squished that giant uterus with both hands, that's what this feels like." She was like, "Well, sounds interesting!"

Not to mention the emotions, oh my god. Around 20 weeks I had a couple of afternoons where I couldn't think about anything but how much I wanted to protect the baby and ended up sitting at my desk at work writing really intense poems about it and trying not to cry. I can't pretend to have had extensive experience with mind-altering drugs, but BOY is this experience altering my mind. I can feel great chunks of my personality being rewritten from the ground up.

It's terrifying, but so, so fascinating. I never thought of myself as someone who would consider pregnancy anything other than a drag from stem to stern, a necessary torment to be borne for the sake of meeting my kid, and I will admit the day-to-day reality is not so sunny some days (my back is KILLING me today, for example). But the overall experience - it's like nothing else, I think. I find myself feeling sorry for men sometimes because they can never know what this is like.
posted by town of cats at 9:09 PM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Random things like this.
(From my son, for no reason at all.)
posted by chococat at 9:32 PM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

My eight-year-old stepson has recently figured out what puns are, and he's got a million of them. They're mostly awful, but they're evidence of my favorite thing: seeing when a new connection has formed in his brain, seeing him actually create something new.

Also, he's reading Calvin and Hobbes now, and oh, the feeling of knowing he's never read Calvin and Hobbes before. I wish I could steal that. All the firsts that he's had, and the many that are coming.

I'm planning on getting pregnant really soon now myself, and having spent the last eight years with this boy made the decision simultaneously harder and the easiest thing in the world.

Spend as much time with your friends' kids as you can. Watch the looks on their parents' faces when they talk. Look for the moments (try midday or bedtime on a weekend) when there's no yelling, no frustration, no fighting, and imagine having that connection yourself. It brings joyful tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
posted by kostia at 11:30 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Small catastrophes. Poop in the bathtub and flung on the floor. Fingers closed in doors and bruises on knees. Standing and peeing in the middle of the kitchen. Two cats scrambling for life in six directions at once. Puke on the computer. Falling face down flat on mud or floor or sidewalk or snow. Unending slobber. Upended sleds. Bad dreams or bad gas or insomnia at midnight. All turning out all right. Everything made better.
posted by pracowity at 2:04 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have five kids who range from difficult to lifetime tv-drama heights. Like involuntary commitment for psychiatric care, multiple police and social workers drama.

They are the best, deepest and most wonderful part of my life. I missed out on large chunks of the regular "fun" stuff of parenting with most of them - no easy cuddles, no charming refrigerator art (unless graffittied obscenities count), but you learn to treasure what you do get in the larger context. My kid sits next to me quietly for an hour, leaning against me, my kid is secure enough to scream in wordless rage, my kid went a month without falling sick again - these are good. These are moments that fill me with hope and gratitude and love.

It's a major fear for prospective parents - what if my kid has a physical or mental challenge, what if they turn into a terrible teenager? What if things go wrong, terribly wrong?

You adjust and you will end up finding the same joys as parenting ordinary kids. This is not universally true - there's a reason a lot of high-need kids wind up in foster care. But at the same time, the majority of parents I know love being parents. We just have different goalposts.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:24 AM on January 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Wow, what a fun thread this was to read! My wife and I have a 15 month old. We'd been together for about 10 years before we had a kid and the one thing that I'd add to this discussion is that aside from all the joy elucidated by previous posters, one of the best things for us has been that it gave us a new activity to collaborate on together and someone else to love and worry about and care about besides each other. It's been very bonding.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:12 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

They chortle. Really. You think you know what "chortling" means but you don't, not until you hear a five-year-old do it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:44 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

They teach you to take a licking and keep on ticking.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:51 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

My daughter is a year and two months.

What I love most has been watching her develop. I can see her struggling to learn and not get something and slowly come around to understanding. And then one day she just does it and - it's magical, really. In the same vein it's been really neat to see her personality come out in full force over the last eight months or so. I mean, I knew her when she was a blob and now she's this little dynamo that hoots like a monkey when she sees bananas, says 'leedle-leedle-leedle' when she's really happy and brings me books so I'll read them to her. And so on.

Really nothing else like it.
posted by Tevin at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mom saw this and had this to add...

Hugs. Memories (later on:)) I still think back to the unique and charming moments: the sudden flashes of humor, or intelligence, or just plain cuteness you both exhibited. Seeing another little person grow into a happy, healthy adult has no equal.

And now that the tables have turned, and we are retired and slowing down, and you two are ascending and getting better every day, It is a great comfort to know you both. Where would I be today without you?? I cannot imagine. I cry at the thought!
posted by kostia at 6:47 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You'll be so much in love with your children that you don't mind the extra work and stress. It's so hard to explain. I was okay with not having kids and then we had an "accident". She is 3 now. She is so awesome. Such a joy to see life through her eyes. Everything is full of beauty and wonder. She gets excited about seeing mundane things like -- I don't know - "Look, a blue car, Daddy !!!" I just rubs off on you.
posted by kingb at 7:44 PM on January 16, 2013

Oh good Lord, one is never invited to gush. And yet how one longs to.

The realization that though I'd never felt brave enough to have children before, I loved my mate so much that I desperately wanted - not just babies, but *his* babies. The way labour and delivery cracked my world in half and revealed, beyond it, an infinitely bigger world.

The first time I saw her face. The holy terror and searing beauty of it.

Finally going on meds because I loved her better than I loved myself and knew that even if I deserved to be depressed, she didn't deserve a depressed mother. Staying on meds ever since and finding a new set point, where I feel basically okay most days. Being completely unable to take for granted the sheer miracle this represents. Feeling grateful for it hourly.

And the kid herself. My God. The first time she kissed me back. When she learned empathy. When she started wisecracking. When she started giving me gifts. When she wrote me a piece of music and played it for my birthday.

She made me brave enough to try it again. And then the sight of her face when she saw her baby sister. And the way my world cracked open again to reveal another, infinitely bigger world.

The two of them together, laughing. Bickering, mostly, but occasionally laughing. Their weight in my arms, their magnolia-petal skin against my cheeks. The fact that I love them enough to learn patience, and kindness, and compassion, none of which come naturally, oh my goodness no. The fact that these lessons turn outward again to reach everyone else in my life, to the benefit of us all. The way my friends love my children at first for my sake, and then as they get to know them, for their own. The way they give my parents hope.

But maybe most of all, the day we buried my father-in-law, the day we got my father's diagnosis, this week when I am mourning a kid who took his own life - the blessed obligation to be present for them, to give them courage. The fact that showing up for my children is the only thing that seems to help me to be at peace with this pain.

It's not that I don't completely, absolutely respect the choice to be child-free, I do, and I am overjoyed to have many child-free friends in my life. But for me, having my children was the single most extraordinary and wonderful and life-affirming and best thing that I have ever done.

The fact that I used to be a miserable, pessimistic sort of git, and now I say embarrassing shit like that.
posted by rdc at 8:59 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: This thread has been (and continues to be) completely amazing.

Thank you all, SO VERY MUCH, for taking the time to tell me your thoughts and your stories. It's been incredibly helpful to me, much more so than I would have guessed.

(There have been some tears, is what I'm saying.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:56 PM on January 16, 2013

I can't resist adding something to this wonderful thread - having kids adds such a richness to my life and it's by far the best decision I ever made. By far.

Love - I've tried, but I don't have the words to describe the depth of the love I feel for my 3 kids. It does not consume you, it transforms you. Into someone better than you ever thought you could be.

Joy - I always figured having kids would be fun - but seriously, it's a blast! All the fun kid things you either did yourself or always wanted to do - well, you get to do them! With the people you like best in the world!

Laughter - I can take life too seriously sometimes. But my kids - one of my daughters in particular - love to laugh and do so all the time. I make a decision that I would laugh every time my kids laugh, and you know what? It has been life-changing. I laugh all the time now, every day.

Healing and forgiveness - being a parent allows you to see your own parents in a new and usually improved light. I had a difficult relationship with my mom, and it's been incredibly healing to learn more about the many things she did right, and not just focus on the ones she did wrong. I also get to choose how I want to raise my children, and I'm proud of the job I'm doing. One of my children is a mini-me in looks and behavior and it is incredibly healing to watch her unfold in an environment so unlike mine - it's almost like watching what I might have become under different circumstances.

Family - I absolutely LOVE being part of a tight-knit, loving nucleus of a family. We often talk about how lucky we are to have such a great family, and how excited we are to be in each other's lives - we even have a family song... ; ) The bonding you experience with your partner when you have kids together is also something completely different from anything you had before. Transformative.

My hands-down favorite part: watching them unfold. Seeing the world through untainted eyes. Boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, and for completely different things depending on their personalities. It is a gift and an honor to be a part of it. Truly.

I could go on and on about what their personalities are like and how every single thing they do is amazing, and it's true - to me. To you, your kids will be equally amazing. Yes, having kids is hard - the hardest thing you'll do - but what it gives back more than makes up for it.

TL;DR: It enriches your life, heals you and makes you a better person, makes you love more - and keeps you laughing every day. Truly miraculous.
posted by widdershins at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Didn't read all the up-thread answers, so apologies if it has been said. Imagine that you never met your best friend. I mean, you wouldn't have any idea what you were missing, because you never met them. That's how you'll feel about your kids. Not that they're your best friends, but that you get to meet and hang out with these amazing people. Maybe they'll be cool and maybe they'll be jerks, but you'll probably think they're pretty cool.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:42 PM on January 17, 2013

All the above. They keep you real. I used to worry about a kid taking time away from my career. Now I worry about my career taking time away from my kid. We do a lot together. If you check my profile, there is a link to my flickr account, plenty of kid photos scattered around there!

Plus, I get to go to toy stores and browse for lego and trains ...
posted by carter at 7:39 AM on January 20, 2013

I am not sure it would be appropriate to link directly to one of the pictures carter suggested we review, but the picture of carter's son with the firemen at the huge fire epitomizes the answer to the question for me. That is why having children is so great.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:21 AM on January 20, 2013

Yes ... and they were totally cool about it! Plus, due to his interest in the subject, I now know more about fire trucks than I ever thought existed ...
posted by carter at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2013

Think of yourself at 10 years old trying to understand what was so great about romantic love and adult relationships. It doesn't make a lot of sense until puberty hits, then bam, you have a new set of desires and drives, and the way adults act made more sense.

Having a kid is like that. You get rewired for empathy with this helpless creature, and suddenly spending a Friday night playing with your baby is a wonderful way to spend time. Most of the things you think you'll miss become inconsequential by comparison.

I always think of the lines from the Magnetic Fields song "Asleep and Dreaming" when looking at my daughter:

Well you may not be beautiful / but it's not for me to judge
I don't know if you're beautiful / because I love you too much
posted by benzenedream at 12:56 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everything! What's not to love? =p
posted by EricHollenbaugh at 10:10 AM on January 22, 2013

I thought of something else today and thought I would add it. I've enjoyed how the change in perspective has added new dimensions to art and literature. Not long after my daughter was born, I watched Thumbsucker with a friend. When it was over I remarked how it had never even occurred to me what it must have been like for my parents when I announced I was moving all the way across the country when I finished high school. Similarly, I recently re-watched "My So-Called Life" and just this afternoon saw Silver Linings Playbook, and being able to put myself in the shoes of the parents as well as the protagonists adds this incredible richness to the viewing.
posted by looli at 7:13 PM on January 23, 2013

My current joys of parenting:

-Watching my 14 month old, who can't yet walk, DANCE by bouncing his fat little body up and down to the beat of whatever music is playing.

-The awesome questions my 4 year old asks. Yesterday's gem? "Mommy, do whales have boogers in their blowholes?" After laughing hysterically over this for a few minutes, I googled it. And yes, they do. Good question, kid.

-Seeing them sleep, and hearing the little one snore like an old man.

And so much more.
posted by bigd at 4:32 PM on February 13, 2013

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