2006/12/24

Thoughts On Returning Home

The End of the Line

Tomorrow, the Frogette and I head to West Texas for the holidays (something we don't do very often) and to throw a party for my parent's 50th anniversary. More about that later...

In 1978 both sides of my family--a very widely dispersed bunch--got together for a rare reunion--parents, children, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, even great-aunts and great-uncles--and all 18 of us where there. Next week we'll be together again for the first time in almost 30 years, and there will be 15.

I was always told that families are supposed to grow with time, and it would disingenuous of me to claim that I don't understand what's going on, but I do. My generation, with the exception of two of the first cousins, has had no children. Oddly enough my hobby is genealogy, and so I'm in a position to see how our family has shrunk over time. Is is sad? Maybe. The Frogette and I don't regret the decision we made, but sometimes I ponder the irony of being the chronicler of the end or our line.

13 Comments:

Similar story here: my folks had four sons, and a grand total of two grandchildren. It is kind of sad, in a way (most of all for them), but I don't think any of us regret the way it turned out.
Hubby and I were just discussing how different our lives would be if we didn't decide to become parents to BabyGirl and the still gestating Baby to Be. We really couldn't answer that question b/c children soooo completely change your life... in very good ways and in some bad ways, too. I'm one of 3 sisters, and so far, my parents have recieved 3 granddaughters, 1 grandson, and 1 "sex undetermined" grand-fetus. I know life was really hard for my parents at times (money could be VERY tight and we could be whiney and hard-headed kids) but I also know that my parents dearly cherish their grandkids and adore the time the have with them. And watching my parents' joy with their grandchildren does truly fill me with incredible joy. It is kinda nice to give all of that joy back to them with none of the yucky stuff that they had to deal with their own kids. And like my wise old dad always says when one of the grandkids is throwing a temper tantrum: "The best thing about grandkids is that you get to kiss them, wave goodbye to them when they act bad, and go home to your own quiet house."
Tom, I think that a lot of families are deciding to have fewer children. Money, time, worry about the future all seem to be factors in that equation. Certainly for the Frogette and I, they played a part.

Tina, you really must forgive me. I broke this post into three as you were writing your comment, and appears that you addressed both the first part (that I'm planning to repost later) and the third part.

I'm not sure why my generations seems to have bypassed raising kids? Circumstances? Probably. I actually think that my relationship to my parents may be a little closer for not having had children, and I hope they themselves don't regret it. They never said anything, but Who knows.
Ya, know, parenthood is not necessarily for everyone...and passing along the blood line is mainly the province of kings who have something worthy to pass down...that is if it could be considered worthy.
Kvatch, you are a great chronicler. Someone's gotta do it. End of the line or end times.

As a godless liberal myself, I'm wishing everyone a Happy December 25th! Safe Travels, D.K.
Thanks for the Sea's Grea's Santa Kvatch. As with you, I've no offspring and am actually quite glad for it.

I've one step-daughter whom I love as dearly as I can imagine though, and even though her mom and I have realized that both of our hearts were bigger than our brains and are no longer together, it melts my heart to still be greeted with such love as I feel from m'kiddo, both in her regular emails and every time I visit.

Is not like I was passing on the "family name" anyhow. I changed that with my first marriage in part because her patronymic meant so much to her. Alas, was during that time that the docs told me kids o' my own "ain't bloody likely." I've got to admit that the knowledge may've foolishly played a large part in my decision to remarry as I did. Especially considering that my s-daughter's mom said she never believed it, and our empty efforts at disproving the prognosis played at least a smallish part in our split.

Silly, silly humans... eh. Is part o' why that I feel that my head-shaking chimp fits me so well.

Have a wonderful Reunion out in West Texas, Frog! Don't forget to keep the libations flowing. I hear its also quite a "Dry Cold" out yonder, and such can't be good for amphibious dispositions!
You raise an extremely interesting aspect of America not many touch on. Tina was right....children do change your life forever. I'm one of seven children; I had two. Well actually, my wife had two; I just helped get the party started.:) Many seem to look upon childless couples as somehow "unnatural" in some aspect, and I've never understood that. Raising kids is a huge responsibility!! But so is overpopulating this planet until they all starve. And, I must say imo, not everybody is cut out to be a parent, frankly, and that's not a dig at you or your wife. Where I live, I often see children treated in a manner much less than respected and loved, shall we say. Part of it is the general educational level, parts of it is religious. On that last theme....the Evangelicals are "making up" for you.:) They are very actively asking folks to have a large family.....on the pretext that "eventually God will have his way in the world", read: we'll be in control. Now there's one hell of a reason to have children! Children are human beings, not litters of puppies that can be profited from. Thanks for letting me spout off.
I have two wonderful children and couldn't be happier, but then my ex and I decided to wait until we were ready to be parents to have them. And even though things haven't worked out the best between us, we still love and share our children. The nice thing about kids is that there will someone to be with us when we grow old.
But I'm of the belief that parenting is a choice, and not one that everyone should enter into. I have a brother who is a bit older than I who has chosen to remain childless, and while other members of my family chide him for his choice, I respect the fact that he realizes that he just doesn't have what it takes to be a good father.
Lew, TFWY, Windspike...thanks gents for the gracious words. You're right that many aren't cut out to perpetuate the species. Though I suspect that the Frogette and I would probably have made passable parents.

The thing I find mystifying is how pretty nearly a whole generation in my family decided this at once. I mean...given my hobby, I know that my families roots in America run deep. Mayflower deep, Confidence (1638 to Massachusetts Bay Colony) deep. My namesake goes back to 1700 in Virginia. Did we simply loose steam? Did we loose our belief in the American Dream? It's almost as if we need to be replaced by families with more vitality.
D.K., Happy "December 25th" to you as well and thanks for the kind words.

MB, actually the dry air is good for me, or at least I'm used to it.

Sounds like you have a wonderful relationship to your step-daughter. Now there's something to be thankful for during the holidays, huh? Merry Christmas you old chimp you. Pound a few banana daiquiris for me! ;-)
Someday I may "Go Home" to Texas, I'm an Air Force Brat I have many homes.
My parents would have had their 50th anniversary this year had Dad lived another 9 months.
They represented an unbroken string marriages in my family going back over 200 years that lasted 50 years or more.
Both of my parents were from families of 13 children each, they had four and in my generation there have only been 4 between the three surviving siblings.

Not having children or having children is not the measure of a marriage in an educated, prosperous society in fact it is quite the reverse, not having more children than you can rightly care for is a sign of responsibility not selfishness.

My grandparents were lonelier than my parents, and my parents lonelier than my generation.
Kvatch, I suspect you and the Frogette would have made excellent parents. It reminds me of something someone said to me in my younger years when I had decided I was never going to have children, and that is that too many smart, capable people make the decision not to breed and too many of the less-so don't make any decision at all; they just breed. There's some truth in that.

I had decided in my 20's that I would never have children. Also, after a disasterous young marriage, I had decided to never marry again. But then I met Mr. Pink, and eventually we got married (it's a legal contract, you see?). But we were determined not to have children. I think there is something to that biological clock thing, however. Eventually, we decided to have one child. But kids or like cats: one leads to another....

I would say this to anyone contemplating having children: make sure you really, really want them because it's hard and it takes over your whole life. I really wanted mine and planned both, and it's still hard. And no matter how hard you work at it, every night you go to bed feeling like you're doing it all wrong. Fortunately, they bring joy, too. :)

AND, they are SO expensive!

In my family, we're two for two. Two of my siblings have children (two boys each), and the other two don't.
I have noticed, also, that the people who make a conscious, considered decision not to have kids are usually thoughtful, principled people who would have been good parents had they decided to go that way. I respect you and the Frogette for your decision.

I would never dream of criticizing someone for the decision not to have kids. First, it's none of my damn business. Second, there are many people that I wish would have made that decision! And to call them 'selfish'? Ridiculous! It's selfish to have them and not be good parents, that's what's selfish. Who are they depriving by not having kids? That has always seemed like a very bizarre argument.

I was one of those people determined not to get married or have children, as my dad was married 3 times and I had an unhappy enough childhood that I had no intention of inflicting that on someone else. I had no 'role model' for a successful marriage or effective parenting. I figured my brother and sister would do the honors. I was a rock chick (still am), and could not imagine myself as a parent - I was never one of those people who cooed over babies. They were like alien creatures to me. I didn't particularly dislike them - I just had no interest in them.

Then I met 'the right guy' - someone I could trust, and we got married. When my first son was born, and I looked into his eyes, I burst into tears. I had no idea what that kind of love was about until it happened to me. I was amazed to find out that it could actually be fun to have kids. Nobody told me that! I actually got to have the childhood I wanted by giving it to my kids.

It's not this way for everyone, but I think I needed kids to make me a better person. They 'grew me up' and made me deeper and stronger. They also made me politically active, because I have a stake in the world that I didn't have before kids. I love the way they connect me to both the past and the future.

OF course, x-jblue is right - they take over everything, and it is really hard. I thought I knew what work was before kids - I had 2 full-time jobs. Now I go to work to relax! But it's going by so fast. It seems like just the other day they were babies - now our oldest (of 4) in halfway through college and our youngest is only 10 years away from college - not that long, considering! But to have kids because someone 'guilted' you into it? Wrong, wrong, wrong!


The funniest thing about it is that my 'normal, stable' siblings only had one kid each, and I ended up the brood mare!

Pardon the screed, but that's an interesting topic.

About the genealogy - I'd love to hear how you go about tracking down your family. My father's mother (now deceased) always told us that we were related to Matthew Thornton, the last signer of the Declaration of Independence, and she has a list of family that goes back that far, with names and birth dates, but I have no way of corroborating this. What's a good way to get started?

Whew - what a grotesquely long comment!

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