Dear Ann Landers: I have four children, all grown up, married and on their own. They were quite a handful to raise, but they turned out great.
I have a fond recollection of a column you printed a few years back about the joys of having kids. Our two oldest children now have kids of their own, and I think they would appreciate a good laugh. Will you please run that column again? - Reader in Gary, Ind.
Dear Reader: It’s one of my all-time favorites, too. Thank you for asking.
Musings of a Good Father on a Bad Day
There’s nothing sadder than the childless couple. It breaks your heart to see them stretched out, relaxing around swimming pools in Florida and California, suntanned and miserable on the decks of boats, trotting off to enjoy Europe like lonesome fools - with money to spend, time to enjoy themselves and nothing to worry about.
Childless couples become so selfish and wrapped up in their own concerns that you feel sorry for them. They don’t fight over the kids’ discipline. They miss all the fun of “doing without” for the child’s sake. It’s a pathetic sight.
Everyone should have children. No one should be allowed to escape the wonderful experiences attached to each stage in the development of the young. The happy memories of those early years - saturated mattresses, waiting for sitters who don’t show, midnight asthma attacks, rushing to the emergency room of the hospital to get the kid’s head stitched up.
Then comes the payoff - when the child grows from a little acorn into a real nut. What can equal the warm smile of a small lad with the sun glittering on $1,500 worth of braces - ruined by peanut brittle - or the frolicking, carefree voices of 20 hysterical savages running amok at a birthday party?
How sad not to have children to brighten your cocktail parties - massaging potato chips into the rug and wrestling with guests for the olives in their martinis.
How empty is the home without challenging problems that make for a well-rounded life - and an early breakdown; the end-of-day report from Mother, related like strategically placed blows to the temple; the tender, thoughtful discussions when the report card reveals your senior son is a moron.
Children are worth every moment of anxiety, every sacrifice. You know it the first time you take your son hunting. He didn’t mean to shoot you in the leg. Remember how he cried? How sorry he was? So disappointed you weren’t a deer. Those are the memories a man treasures.
Think back to that night of romantic adventure, when your budding, beautiful daughter eloped with the village idiot. What childless couple ever shares in such a growing experience? Could a woman without children equal the strength and heroism of your wife when she tried to fling herself out of the bedroom window? Only a father could have the courage to stand by - ready to jump after her.
The childless couple lives in a vacuum. They try to fill their lonely lives with dinner dates, theater, golf, tennis, swimming, civic affairs and trips all over the world.
The emptiness of life without children is indescribable.
See what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, well-groomed and youthful. It isn’t natural. If they had kids, they’d look like the rest of us - tired, gray, wrinkled and haggard. In other words, normal.