5 Gifts That Children Give Us

Let’s look at some of the pleasures and benefits bestowed by children.
5 Gifts That Children Give Us
From the crib to their high school graduation and beyond, children bring a lifetime of joy. (Biba Kayewich)
Jeff Minick
In “Why Bother Having Kids?” Jim Dalrymple, a writer for the Institute for Family Studies, kicks off his article with kindred remarks made by Pope Francis and Elon Musk. Two very different public figures, yes, but with birth rates declining in so many countries, particularly the more affluent ones, both men believe the world needs more babies.
Pope Francis says that without children, “civilization becomes aged,” while Mr. Musk seconds that notion, “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble.”
Maybe so, but Mr. Dalrymple rejects what he calls the “Social Security argument.”
“Who is going to have kids to save Social Security (or the economy, generally)?“ he asks. ”No one.”           
Mr. Dalrymple then proposes several other motivating factors for having and raising children. They’re an investment in old age, for example, meaning seniors look to their offspring to care for them, and the child-parent relationship is “an essential human experience.”
These are valid reasons for having and raising children, but they’re still big-picture arguments unlikely to win the hearts of couples considering parenthood. To answer Mr. Dalrymple’s question “Why bother having children?” let’s examine some pleasures and benefits bestowed by children on the rest of us that are a little closer to home.
From the crib to their high school graduation and beyond, children bring a lifetime of joy. (Biba Kayewich)
From the crib to their high school graduation and beyond, children bring a lifetime of joy. (Biba Kayewich)

Your Very Own Reality Show

We’ll start with some snapshots.
The baby smiling for the first time. The toddler in diapers and a onesie bouncing up and down to Christmas music. The first day of school. The 12-year-old who hits a double and knocks in the winning run. The high school sophomore who has her heart broken. The boy who returns from boot camp a man. The daughter proceeding down the aisle to say her wedding vows.
These are just a few of the highlights from the best reality show on the planet. That show goes on even after the actors have left home and stepped into the wide world of adulthood. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other mentors who remain close to a child will experience a life-long series of comedies, tragedies, and everything in between.
Engage, stay involved, and you become part of a powerful and beautiful drama.

Ice Breakers

Take a baby to the grocery store, and the little munchkin draws people to you like a magnet. Drive your 8-year-old to his soccer game, and while he’s running up and down the field, you’re on the sidelines watching the team and talking with other parents. Your daughter is performing in “The Nutcracker,” and during her classes and rehearsals, you befriend the parents and relatives of the other dancers.
If you want new friends, children will bring them your way.

Growing Up

As adults help a child mature, they themselves mature as well. The process is much more subtle for the parent or mentor than for the child, but all those tiny acts of responsibility and moments of anxiety ripen adults as surely as they do children.
In the wonderful old novel “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” a no-nonsense schoolmarm with bedrock principles, “the terrible Miss Dove,” suffers a life-threatening illness requiring surgery. As she lies reminiscing in her hospital bed, she realizes that the children she’s taught all these years, who are now adults and caring for her, have come to love her, and she them.
Teaching and mirroring the virtues to children as Miss Dove did strengthens those virtues in us, while the responsibilities implicit in caring for others—our children, our aged parents, our friends—act as leaven for greater maturity. 
We help children grow up. Children do the same for us. 

The Sequel Is Just as Good as the Original

This one’s for grandparents. You put in the time and did all you could to raise your children to be principled, solid adults, and your efforts paid off. Your grown sons and daughters make you proud.
And now those kids are having kids of their own.
For many grandparents, this is where the real fun begins. Not only can you draw on the experiences you gained as a parent, your successes and failures, but the stress and strain you felt as a mom or dad disappear. This time around, you can play catch in the backyard without worrying whether the kids have done their homework or serve up root beer floats for no reason whatsoever. And if you’ve ever wanted to feel like a superhero, now’s your chance. 
“What a bargain grandchildren are!” said comedy writer Gene Perret. “I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure.” 

Monuments of Love

For many grandchildren, memories of their grandparents are likely to be remembered for a long time. (Biba Kayewich)
For many grandchildren, memories of their grandparents are likely to be remembered for a long time. (Biba Kayewich)
Several people I know well have no children of their own, including two close friends. “Uncle John” is the unofficial godfather to my daughter’s eight children. With the exception of the newborn, he’s a key figure in their lives. He hands over bags of treats when he visits, plays cards with them for hours at a time, and lends a sympathetic ear to everyone from the 6-year-old to the recent high school graduate. John’s relatives refer to this lively crew as “his second family.”
My other friend brings her passion for mentoring and mothering to her young relatives and to the inner-city Sunday school classes she conducts. Like John, she is helping children grow. And just as my grandchildren will remember John for the rest of their lives, these children will likewise carry this woman in their memories for as long as they live.
Like my two friends, all of us involved with children have the opportunity to make our mark on the future and the world, and the memories and lessons we leave behind become our monuments.
“My grandparents dancing at my wedding was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.” “Aunt Ginny told me time and again to always work hard and never give up.” “My dad taught me how to fish, just like I’m teaching you.” “My mom’s friend Sadie Beth could make me feel better no matter how terrible I felt. Let me give you a Sadie Beth hug.”
The children we have raised and guided will keep us alive beyond the grave. If we have shared with them the best part of ourselves, we will live in them and their descendants long after we are gone.
In this way, truly, love is stronger than death.
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.
Related Topics