Interacting with kids, when you don’t have any, and considering the impact you have on them.

My wife and I don’t have any kids and we have made the decision to not have any in the future. We find people’s response to that decision to be very interesting. Most people comment that we are both so good with kids that we should have them. I am quite surprised at the number of parents that get angry with us for not having kids. We have had more than a few parents tell us we are wasting our lives not having kids and not living life as God intended. This could lead me on a rant of people judging other people’s life decisions, but I won’t go down that road at this time.

We have three cats and a dog. Funny story about the dog. My wife walks into the house one day and tells me she would like to get a dog. I frown a bit and do my best to discourage her. I love dogs, but getting a puppy is somewhat like having a child. I was enjoying easy street and didn’t want to make any changes. She lets it go for a few weeks and mentions it again. I am successful in discouraging her and consider the matter closed. A few weeks later, she walks into the house and says, “I either want a dog or a kid.” I grab my keys and say, “I’ll drive, let’s go find a dog.”

My middle brother has five kids and my youngest brother has one. We have plenty of kids to go around. Several years ago, I started a tradition of taking the kids to lunch on their birthday. After lunch, I would take them to their favorite place to buy them a couple of gifts. I started this when my middle brother’s twin girls were ten years old. They were old enough to not present any challenges and spoiled me. I had no idea the challenges with the younger kids that awaited me.

Little man, the only boy in the group, was maybe seven years old when I took him the first time. Being a bit younger, mom had a few more instructions for me. My rules were no parents aloud and they got to pick the place. Today’s trip would be taking us to Buffalo Wild wings. We sit down at the table and go through the menu. He decides on cheese sticks as an appetizer with wings and fries for the main course. Our drinks and the cheese sticks arrive. He is all smiles and knocks down a couple of the sticks. I grab my drink, look up to the big screen TV, and suck down a couple of ounces. I turn back to him, to check the happiness level, and he is turning blue. We are sitting right next to the bathroom, so I snatch him up and step in. I can see half of the cheese stick, so I know the Heimlich is not going to work, I have to go in. I tilt his head back, curl my two finger into a scoop and get ready to go deep. He coughs twice and pulls the gooey cheese out himself. At this point, I am freaking out. He catches his breath and with a calm voice says to me, “Well, that was weird.” I tell his mom the story and she tells me that sometimes happens with gooey cheese foods. That is information I could have used.

Little girls are way different. I haven’t spent much time around five year old girls. Oh my, do they ever stop talking? The restaurant of choice is Chick-fil-A. We get our food and take a seat. For the first time, since we left the house, she is eating and not talking. My ears are enjoying the rest when an unexpected question is thrown my way. “Uncle Chris, would I still be pretty if I only had one arm?” I choke on my chicken sandwich and assure her she would still be pretty. She eats another chicken nugget and throws me the next question. “Uncle Chris, would a man marry me if I only had one arm?” I assure her a man would still marry her with one arm. At this point, I decide that not eating is my best bet for a few minutes. She finishes with a statement. “Great, I am going to be a pro surfer when I grow up.” I am lost at this point. I would find out later, that she had just watched the movie about a pro surfer girl that gets her arm bitten off by a shark.

We leave Chick-fil-A and head to Walmart. After much thought, she picks out a few things that keeps us close to my planned budget. One of the items is an Elsa wig. I carry most of the items, but she wants to carry the Elsa wig. She cradles it in her arms and dances down the aisles repeating, “I can’t believe I have an Elsa wig.” Her joy is amazing to watch.

These two experiences left a lasting impression on me. First and foremost, parenting is crazy hard. Not only are you paying endless attention to their physical well-being, you are also guarding their fragile emotional health. Second, anyone can have a lasting positive or negative impact on kids. Those of us without kids need to be careful how we behave around kids.

I am in no position to give parenting advice, but I will throw out an observation and topic for a future discussion. In raising your kids, do you strive to mold them after your beliefs or do you raise them to approach life with an open mind? I am not talking about core values and difference from right and wrong. I am talking about all the other things in life that can be subjective. Should you strive to teach your child to be objective or mold them in a subjective way to match your thoughts? I find more parents go the subjective route. I would dare say leaning more to the objective route better serves the kid and society. At the very least, allow them to form their own opinions.

Whatever your thoughts, just remember, kids are highly impressionable and anything you do could have a positive or negative impact on the rest of their lives.