I just recently came across a poem titled "You Should Avoid
Young Children" by Claire Keyes, which is truly an ironic
happenstance as my wife Gillian and I just welcomed our first child
into our little apartment home.
At 6 pounds, 1 ounce, our son Simon came screaming into the
world. His voice filled up the room as my eyes filled with the
expected waterfall of tears. Healthy, happy (once he was given to
his mom), and full of life, he really is bringing a windfall of
change to our lives. I am sure many of our readers can relate to
these statements. A new baby is everything wonderful with the
world, yet it is also quite possibly the most exhausting thing one
I do not know much about the author of this poem, other than she
apparently has keen insight into the impact little children have on
our lives. As a brand-new dad, I am not going to try and draw
grandiose conclusions as of yet of the impact our son will have on
the life of my wife and me. We are almost three weeks in and the
only thing that seems clear enough to conclude is that, for the
foreseeable future, my life will assume a pattern of sleep, diaper
change, and eat ad infinitum.
The author is right - we really should try to avoid young
children. I can tell already from my limited experience that little
children have a unique ability to uproot every single habitual
exercise in our lives.
Eating a meal is no longer a fork in one hand, knife in the
other exercise. In fact, someone should write a book called the
"baby-holding diet" that highlights recipes you can both prepare
and eat with one hand.
Going anywhere requires checking and rechecking a bag full of
baby things. And now my wife insists I use the turn signal on the
car because "I am a parent now so I should learn to abide by
traffic laws." Which, if she reads this and she undoubtedly will, I
appreciate your constant efforts to keep me alive - I do appreciate
it and I love you.
There are probably some parents out there either agreeing with
me or rolling their eyes, saying "you ain't seen nothing yet, boy."
Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly agree. I haven't really seen
anything yet and that is both an exciting and troubling
And that truth is what brings me to the lesson of this
written-on-three-hours-of-sleep blog post. We really should avoid
young children, unless, of course, we actually want our lives to be
Parenthood has many parallels to monastic life. But this is
where I think it most closely aligns. When men join the monastery,
they commit themselves to a whole new schedule and a whole new life
that is completely different from the way they were living before.
The change uproots every single habitual exercise in their lives so
that their day becomes focused on building up the kingdom of God in
their school of the Lord's service.
I firmly believe parenthood does the same. Things awaken in you
that you never knew existed. Your days become realigned and focused
on a much greater mission. As generations and generations of
parents I am sure can attest, it probably does not feel like that
most of the time. But it is true nonetheless. Parenthood uproots
you in the best of ways and so do small children.
So, avoid them if you want and approach them cautiously if you
dare. They are miraculous little nuggets of the most immense joy
and they have the uncanny ability to change your life forever.
You Should Avoid Young Children
Because they fill their diapers
with reliable ease, sitting on your lap
or spread out on your best mattress.
Guilt is as foreign to them as vichyssoise.
Because they spread sticky fingers
over the piano keys, looking for you
to hoist them onto your lap. They slam
the ivories for the racket they can make.
Re-think your nap.
Because they are blank slates
on which so much waits to be written,
their eyes opened wide to take everything in,
including the lines around your eyes,
the pouches under your chin.
Because they manipulate the controls
on the TV, finger the holes in the electric socket,
stomp the cat's switching tail only to smile
and gaze at you as if you held the keys to joy.
Because you can embrace them, but
you can't bind them. Because they have nothing
to give you-and everything. Because
something loosens when they come around.
Something opens you didn't know was shut.