Today as I stumbled through an exhausting day of construction, apple processing and the final lawn mowing of the year, I wondered if I'm so different. Life would certainly be easier and more comfortable with no kids. We'd have a smaller energy-efficient house, eat less, travel more, work less, and sleeeeeeeeep deeeeeeeep. So why have we chosen this difficult path, this extreme sacrifice for the sake of our progeny?
No doubt at some molecular level it's the same drive as my wasp friends (the ones in the apple tree, that is) - survival of the species. And of my genes in particular. I live alot longer than bees, but in the end it just ends unless my kids and grandkids are fruitful and multiply and come to dominate the earth. My old reptilian brain doesn't question, it just drives me to procreate.
But my over-evolved human neocortex isn't so sure. I am unwittingly part of this basic instinctual drive to spread my seed as if it's the only thing that matters, even though while picking apples I was wondering why I should care if the world continues after I'm gone. Really, why would it be a tragedy if this whole, brief experience of mankind just ended?
In the end, my limbic system and frontal lobe come to the rescue, over-riding all my instincts and reasoning. They flood me with the emotional experience of Love, and Joy, excitement, the pure ecstasy of being a parent. I chose to have children because I love children. I choose daily to devote the vast majority of my energy and focus on my children because I love my children. Sure it might just be some cognitive trick that our over-analyzing brains had to come up with to continue the species, but I buy it. I live it. Children are my drugs, the opiate of our masses.
As drop-dead tired as I was all day, it was worth it to cut that grass before the rains come so that the kids can enjoy playing soccer all winter on a field that isn't soaking with 3-inch grass blades catching water. Putting away enough apples and apple sauce to feed the whole valley is worth it to send our children to school with happy, healthy lunches all winter. I'll forgo world travel for a few decades in exchange for the vivid journey through our boys' childhood.
I still complain sometimes about not having enough time to Do Things because I'm so busy caring for the boys. But that is life, the life I've chosen and continually choose. The day doesn't start after they're dropped at school; the day was full and bursting with life during the 2 hours of being with them and getting them clean and fed and dressed and confident and loved and packed and there on time and hugged good bye. And while they're gone, I'm spending my day buzzin' happily, collecting nectar and making honey for when they come home to me.
In my sons' eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what shall be
And though they'll grow and someday leave
Maybe make a family
When I'm gone I hope you'll see how happy they've made me
I'll be there, in my sons' eyes
- one of our nighttime songs, adapted from a Martina McBride song