Welcome in to PG today, as we dissect one person’s opinion on the real reason children are worth it. According to the latest estimations (though I find their methodology suspect), a single child will cost a household somewhere in the vicinity of $250,000 from their conception to age 18. Ouch. That’s quite the price tag to pay for the honor of cleaning bodily fluids out of every crevice of my home. As a father to two girls age 3 and under, I am still in the phase where any effort or sacrifice on my part, monetary or otherwise, receives zero recognition from my daughters. I’m not saying that older children and teenagers are particularly appreciative, but toddlers seem to take a special pride in trouncing over your selfless intentions with a hop in their step. Which is fine; none of us got into this parenting game for thank you’s and special recognition (it was all about the tax credits, no?). But it is hilariously defeating to take out a second mortgage to pay for the grocery bill of a 3 foot tall dictator that eats more snacks than breaths I breathe each day. And yet somehow even more of the food ends up on her clothes and on the floor…but I digress.
Anyway, as I was listening or reading or watching something sometime last week (parenting brain, amiright?), I came across a profound observation that I’m going to butcher in an attempt to recall. I’m still searching for the proper source though it was clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson speaking. I’ll update this when I locate the source and exact wording, but it resonated enough with me as a father that I wanted to write about it immediately. The quote said something to the effect of “Kids repay every dollar you spend on them by reintroducing you to the world and allowing you to serve witness to the majesty of first perspective.” I’m sure it was delivered far more eloquently than that, but the general gist remains. As a child, when everything is new, everything needs explored, identified, and fanatically admired.
I took my infant daughter (11 mos) outside this weekend and sat her in the grass to observe her reaction; since she was so small when the weather was warm, she hasn’t had all that much exposure to nature. Everly did not disappoint and cemented the sentiment of the aforementioned expression; dead leaves literally captured her entire attention for a full 20 minutes. She snatched a dead leaf immediately after sitting and I watched as she shifted it from hand to hand, rubbed it on her head, ripped it apart, and ultimately, as babies are wont to do, chewed on it vigorously before finally deciding it wasn’t food (great parenting by her father there). There wasn’t a thing in the world outside of those previously undiscovered leaves for my little girl; she paid no attention to cars passing, the wind blowing, any other trees…her focus remained solely on this crumbly textured new phenomena.
Her older sister, however, has stuffed plenty of leaves in her mouth so when she finally joined us outside it was off to bigger and better things and a new adventure! Why, our day can’t be slowed by a trivial examination of deceased tree parts! Our new adventure lasted almost 100 feet, where Eliza identified a neighbor’s cat patrolling an alternate driveway. While she has certainly seen cats plenty of times before, somehow this black mischievous furball enraptured her. “IT’S LICKING THE TAIL!!!” “IT JUMPED ON THE POT!!!” Needless to say, we do not have to walk far to meet the entertainment needs of our little girls. And, as fathers typically do, my natural inclination was to spur the baby on from her leaves and drag the toddler from the cat; after all, we had a WALK to go on! Yet we paused in both instances and, though perhaps oblivious to the meaning, allowed our girls to marvel in wonder at the ordinary.
As adults—specifically adults with Netflix and Youtube—we have seen it all. I can’t recall the last time I paused to look at something, at anything, in the same manner my daughters might look at a rock. I mean, sure, I do squint in horrifying wonder at what their diapers contain, but certainly not things found in nature. Sometimes it takes the overwhelmed senses of a child to rediscover novelty in the mundane. I don’t know that watching their enthusiasm for life bleeds into me in the sense that I begin to pause in observation as well, but I do know that watching the little ankle biters experience something for the first time is its own wonder.
So yes, I do believe that the best way kids pay for themselves is by taking us back to a time when the world was wonder and objects and experiences weren’t frivolous décor on a path to paying bills, impressing our friends, and surviving modern life. My girls are a daily reminder that no matter the circumstance, my surroundings could always use a little appreciation.