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Having kids

· 4 min read

A Midjourney-generated illustration for this post

Before the end of the day, when the kids are already asleep, my wife and I often go back to photos/audio/video of them that we ourselves have registered very recently (like, in the same day) and thus know well already. Nevertheless, we enjoy that, and sometimes giggle and point at the screen and say “awww”. It's a very warm feeling. And it's very stupid. I often marvel at that.

Truth is, what one feels for their children is so special and intense that it's hard to describe.

I often try to explain it as a deep conviction that nothing else matters if they are well, healthy, feeling loved and laughing. Or the realisation that everything in my life could go wrong, and it'd still be OK if I have them with me.

I've also said that it feels exactly like falling in love, minus the sexual component and the intellectual companionship. I say falling in love, not being in love: it's the high and the thrill of seeing the new bond forming out of thin air — not the affection of a romance that inevitably wears out over the years. It's like falling in love, where the “falling” is constant.

Another sign of the uniqueness of that feeling: I have always been OK when I didn't see my close relatives or best friends for days — sometimes even weeks of months, depending on the relationship. Even when work or leisure kept me apart from a lover for a few days, I was usually content. Of course I felt the desire to see and smell and talk with that other person, but in most occasions I made the most of those few days alone and didn't think that much about not being together. In contrast, the very few times that I've been separated from my kids for more than half a day, there's that strong impulse to see them, to hold them, to not spend more time than is strictly necessary far from them. It's quite unique.

And it's also astounding how one can indeed love a second child just as much as the first one, despite the intuition, when n=1, that that feeling is so strong that it could not possibly reoccur. (I don't happen to have data for n>2, but I trust induction.)

“One of the great things about having kids is that there are so many times when you feel there is nowhere else you'd rather be, and nothing else you'd rather be doing. You don't have to be doing anything special. You could just be going somewhere together, or putting them to bed, or pushing them on the swings at the park. But you wouldn't trade these moments for anything. One doesn't tend to associate kids with peace, but that's what you feel. You don't need to look any further than where you are right now.”

— Paul Graham

So cheesy, uh. And yet none of that is accurate enough.

A consequence of stumbling upon this love for progeny is that one can't help but notice just how imperfect, ugly and unpleasant adults are. I mean, they are nasty!

Grown-ups have scars, wrinkles, tics and hoarse voices. Their bodies smell, their mouths smell, they sometimes limp or say stupid things. They occupy so much space, drive around like idiots, smoke, look dumb and are often boring and predictable.

I guess if I were one of those people who like kids in general, I would notice that even more. But I just love my kids and tolerate other people's kids moderately well, and even I am blown away by how dramatically humans deteriorate with age.

Now that I'm a dad, I can't believe that all adults I see around me were babies once. How is that even possible? The transformation (for the worse) is amazing.

I even marvel at the fact that my parents, for whom I used to be an adorable little boy, hang out with me now as if nothing had happened. As if I had not become just another annoying, flawed, ugly adult.

Am I the same person I was forty years ago? How could I, if I don't even remember being a very little boy?

Will Miss Entropy and Breaker of Horses become adults too, and thus cease to be resilient, innocent, unstoppable, surprising, ultra smart?

Will they stop being perfect?


Image by Midjourney & tripu (variations over love for a child, warm feeling, fuzzy filter, embrace, loving, parenting, son)