About a month ago, my wife and I were asked to be on a panel in front of an under-graduate class at ECU. The class was part of their College of Human Ecology in Education, Intro to Marriage and Family.
I’ve never been much for public speaking so I was dreading this day for about 5 weeks since we volunteered (I was volunteered involuntarily). When the time came, I was a bit late for the class as I had just dropped all 3 kids off at their respective schools and met my wife outside of the class. We went in and all the students were in their late teens or early 20’s and looked as excited to see me as I was to see them.
The professor thanked us for coming and introduced us and another professor that was a Mother of 2 boys. The class was barely 50 minutes long and it seemed to have flown by as just like when I worked in insurance, I was okay with public speaking so long as it was a subject that I was familiar with. Okay, but I still didn’t like it. This time I did, I find my kids far more interesting than deductibles, exclusions and denials. The instructor had some pictures of our kids and the panel discussion began.
We were given an outline of the questions that were forthcoming so there were no surprises…planned. We each gave our introductions and they started asking my wife about delivery. Unsure of how graphic to be, we each described our experience and I ended by telling the class that what people don’t realize is that this whole ordeal of childbirth is very rough on a man and I had to go through it 3 times! The class went silent. It must have been too early as it took them a while to realize I was kidding. The girl that was asleep in the front row didn’t even budge.
So we described the birth of our firstborn, AJ, my wife is so positive that when she went through 24 hours of labor only to realize that she needed a C-section, she stated that this was “the best of both worlds.”
An odd question from the man with the dreadlocks in the back of the class, he says “so if you were in labor for 24 hours, were you pushing the entire time?” My wife just answered yes and we moved on. Weird.
One lengthy discussion included our views on discipline. For me to become a disciplinarian was difficult as I’m just a kid, Dad by default. We were asked if we hit or spank our kids and I responded no. I told the class that it was a shared decision even though sometimes I felt that it might be the only way to get through to our kids. Even though I felt this way, there was no reason to act on it as they’re just children and learning to be a person is a difficult and lengthy process. Recently I was asked by my nephew why we don’t spank our kids. I responded by saying that if you spank or hit an adult for their wrong-doing, do they learn a lesson? The answer is, emphatically, no. If we want to teach our kids not to hit or kick, then we need to act as we expect them to act.
It’s clearly a personal choice to not hit our kids and a controversial one; an important one. This is something that a couple needs to be in complete agreement before having kids.
We discussed also my transition from working for 20 years and then working harder. I like to say, and if you know me, you may have heard me say, I’ve done some hard work in my life but getting the kids up, ready, fed and out of the house with combed hair is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Especially without tears (this doesn’t occur very often).
The students asked how we arrived at the decision to move, I explained that this was one of the things that we discussed when we first met, I knew that mine was no career but that she had promise and aspirations, she knew that I would follow her anywhere. Kind of like some popular country song that she likes but I can’t remember.
I discussed my difficulties when we moved, adjusting to 2 kids and eventually 3. The instructor asked me if I had any second thoughts on the transition and I answered no. This was what needed to be done to keep our family running like a well-oiled, sticky, messy, machine.
I really enjoyed talking with the class, especially the subject matter and having my wife right next to me, in her element as Professor, Wife and Mother.
On the other end of the spectrum, recently, I was told by a friend that he and his wife were considering starting a family. I immediately without thinking said, “Don’t do it!” I don’t know if this was an instinct to an attempt to be funny or if I actually felt that way. One of the things asked by the class was how our lives have changed since kids and what we missed about being DINK’s (Double Income, No Kids). The answer is nothing; we cannot imagine our lives without our kids now and wouldn’t want to.
We’ve discovered that it’s good to have friends with no kids as they’re still interested in talking about our kids. At one point, my wife and I went out with some friends that are kidless (by choice) and I was asked what our secret was. I simply stated, we’ve discussed our financial future and have done nothing to act on it. We are counting on our perfect kids to be perfect teens and get perfect scholarships for being perfect. It’s a gamble given the imperfect NC public school system.
Merry Christmas from FL, NCDad, NCKids and NCMom!!