Having waited until at least 38 to start a family, I’ve had a lot of time to think about being a parent without having to actually BE a parent. Had I become a father when I younger, it would have been during a period in my life when I was most energetic and healthy. Since I wasn’t a horrible person I probably would have been an okay parent. But I was not ready because I didn’t have much of an idea how the world worked or that my perceptions about the world were not the same as how the world actually was. While not a dangerous or necessarily delusional, it was detached enough from reality to make passing along irresponsible.
Most of us begin to gain insight into who we are beginning in the late teens and it will continue to develop so long as one has enriching experiences that reveal the self. The more self revealing experiences one has, the greater their self awareness will be. As individuals each of us is on a different path – some will become completely self-aware before they are 20 while others will only become 5% self-aware in their entire lifetime. What matters in not age, but experience and the interpretation of these experiences. The brain adapts to life events in much the same way it adapts to movement – by becoming more efficient with increased repetition. If we have more diverse experiences that present a challenge to our world views, our understanding of the world will become more robust and a better reflection of reality. Reading, talking, therapy, introspection, meditation, exercise, diet, etc… are all things that can help us experience clarity.
I have had most of my enlightening experiences in the last 15 years, from the age of 22 on; right around the time many people are coupling-up and starting families. While I was reading books and chatting with my brother about thinking and how my the underlying narrative sets the tone of my thoughts, my married peers were sleeping 2 hours a night in 20 minute blocks because a child or two needed feed, or to go to the bathroom or do one of the 1000’s of things that children need to do. I was able to build myself while my same-aged peers where building children. “I” became the thing I put my energy into because I knew I needed to and because I was able to.
This is a blessing and a curse. I do believe that self aware people will have an easier time with certain parts of children raising – if I start a family now, I’m doing so KNOWING what I am about to do. I fully understand that my personal development will be slowed dramatically as I shift my focus from me to them. Having this knowledge BEFORE embarking on making a family will go a long way in insuring that I offer my children and wife the benefit of complete attention that should provide the entire family with an enriched environment from which each of us can grow. However, waiting until almost 40 to start a family means that I may not have as much energy as I would have had in my 20’s – I won’t be teaching any of my children how to ride a half pipe or do rail-slides down the stairs of the local library because I’ll be 50 something when they are able to ollie high enough slide that rail – I’ll be a spectator in their pursuit of adrenalin sports; not the participant I could have been had I started a family at 20.
The very thing that will make me a decent teacher to a child is the very thing that will make me less of an activities partner, my age. While I have a lot of experience with abstract things and have a good understanding of emotions, it has taken me almost 2 decades to formulate this understanding, and these were 20 of my most energetic years. While I wouldn’t have been a great role model in terms of appropriate behavior, I’m pretty confident that anyone who was able to keep up with me physically would now have a remarkable level of fitness and skill on a snow board or a bike.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter. I’m not 20 so starting a family young is not going to happen. For one reason or another I have delayed having children until at least now so I’ll be looking at the positives when the time comes. I think my level of maturity will make for an easier experience because at some point I will tire of personal development and will welcome the opportunity to create something more than a different me.