People often ask: Tim, why did you have so many children?” To which I can only reply: “Buggered if I know.” However, after considering it more carefully, I have come up with some reasons/rationalisations. If you are thinking of having children, but can’t quite find the courage, this list may help.
1. New social life
By the time you reach the age of thinking about prospective parenthood, which, on average, is slightly over the hump of 30, you are tiring of a lot of your friends. Many you will have known since school or university and been heartily sick of them for years. I met most of the friends I have now at the school gates, or when accompanying one of my children to sleepovers. Gradually, you can edge out the old friends who have begun to bore you because now you’re boring them back about the difficulty of finding nursery places and they are going to run a mile.
2. Something to talk about with your partner
As with friends, so with partners. Those first few years giggling in bed, and sometimes even having sex there, are losing their allure. Puzzling over the meaning of life and the proper reaction to a piece of contemporary art is less of a rush than it once was. You start to realise that you are average and dull like everyone else. Having children means you can stop trying to be Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre and get on with the real meaning of life – wiping excrement from children’s bottoms. As the immortal PJ O’Rourke put it: “Don’t try and come on like Jean-Paul Belmondo/Aspire instead to two kids and a condo.”
A lot is talked about how children give you someone to love and how they offer a sense of purpose. What isn’t so often mentioned is that they are very funny. If I tried to explain how they are funny and the countless ways they have made me laugh over the years, the stories would sound lame. OK, I can’t resist it anyway. Here’s one off the top of my head. I was walking in the park and saw a rabbit. I said to my then seven-year-old, in an admittedly patronising fashion: “Look, darling, there’s a bunny rabbit.”
She shook her head despairingly and replied: “Daddy, I’m not a baby. Don’t call it a bunny rabbit.”
She glared disapprovingly, then snapped: “It’s a bunny.”
You had to be there. But believe me, I multiplied my laugh rate 10 times more than when I was childless.
4. You stop thinking about throwing yourself under a bus
Before you have children, you are quite likely to have a number of philosophical crises about life, death and meaninglessness. Is it all worth it? “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide” said Camus. However, after children you realise there are other questions, after all – whether Beany Babies have souls and if there are fairies at the bottom of the garden, how can they stand the smell of the composter? These kinds of inquiries, which will be incessant, usually leave no room for thoughts of self-annihilation.
Children are not only funny, they are beautiful. Even ugly ones are thought beautiful by their parents. Simply surrounding yourself with creatures so visually pleasing makes every day an aesthetic delight.
So go ahead – do it. Have some kids. I won’t say you’ll never regret it. In fact, you’ll probably frequently regret it. But it’s a hell of an experience, and if you consider that you want to be brave and adventurous, don’t go on a canoe down the Orinoco, bin the condoms and starting stencilling the spare room with unicorns instead.