The four-year-old is a backseat driver. Apart from advising us on speed limits and the need to turn on windscreen wipers as soon as dark clouds beckon, he orders his parental chauffeurs to park in lots where there is ample space at the sides.
This is so that he can open his door fully when he exits the car. “I like a lot of space,” he explained, adding, “And you need a lot of space because you are fat.”
Isn’t it cool? Once you have kids, there is no need to kid yourself about anything. They are voices of reason, of honesty, of cold, hard, brutal, truth. And that is why, when my kids talk, I listen. I call these my lessons from the vertically-challenged, or the ‘everything I learnt about life, I learnt from my kids’ sessions.
Parenthood, they say, is one of the most rewarding vocations ever. It’s true, but only if you are not thinking of rewards that come tagged with a dollar sign. That’s because putting a monetary value on what having children can teach you – as a parent, as an individual, as a human being – is beyond numerical comprehension. Here are some reasons why:
They make intangibles concrete
Children personify cliché’s like “unconditional love” and “love at first sight”. Feelings are made concrete. They become so real that you end up living a life of emotional extremes, moving from insane exhilaration to manic depression and back within the space of a toddler tantrum.
They examplify unconditional love
Even when you have confiscated their favourite train set because they misbehaved, nagged at them for the 376th time today, and refused to buy them a Happy Meal. Come bedtime, they’ll still do a run-and-fly leap from the bed to you, wrap their little legs round your waist, shower you with 20 million grubby little kisses and announce, “I love you!”
They help you to K.I.S.S.
That’s Keep It Simple, Stupid. A baby pops out of the womb and “whoosh!” the world shifts. That’s what it seems like because almost immediately, you have 20/20 vision. Everything becomes clear. As the husband explains, “What we want and what we need are now distinct. You don’t confuse both. Once you have kids, you realise that there are very few important things that you actually need in your life.”
They’re in-house laughter therapy
Every day is a comedy show because kids really do say the darn-est things. At night when they are asleep, we trade stories about the kids and the things they say and do, and laugh the day’s stresses away.
They teach you what guilty means
Of course, the guilt. The GUILT. How can you not the happy every single moment? You have children. You have healthy, beautiful children. You should be happy. Other people don’t have half of what you have. What are you whining about?
They think we’re heroes
Cast out the superhero costumes that are stashed at the back of the cupboard. You are their hero and they will remind you of that frequently throughout the day. You are the only one whose hand they will hold, the one whom they love the most. Unfortunately, because you are such a hero and they only love you, you are the only one who has permission to wash their poopy butts.
They keep us on our toes
Having a baby is easy; being a parent is hard. No matter how much you read about it, you will probably never be prepared until it happens. And if, when it does happen, you feel lost and confused as to whether you are going at it properly, don’t worry. We have no idea what we’re doing either.
They bring miracles to life
Finally, whether you’re a religious soul or not, they make God real. As the lyrics of a Live song put it: “I don’t need no one to tell me about heaven / I look at my daughter, and I believe.”
I believe, do you?