THE REVOLUTION is over, I am told.
The children of the Sixties are now living peacefully in the suburbs. They have their careers, their mortgages, and finally, like a headstone to the Radical Decade, they are breaking down and having children.
Like many other members of the Sixties generation, I waited until my 30's before opting for children, but I don't think my recent decision to father a baby is a "sell-out" at all. In fact, it may be my most radical act yet.
There are many reasons given by social scientists for why I decided to have children. Some say my youthful idealism ground down to adult realism. Others say that rebels like myself inevitably wind up modeling themselves after their parents. Still others say that fear of old age and death drove me to fatherhood.
I think that's hogwash. My wife thinks it's hogwash. We both now realize that all attempts to rationalize why people have babies are doomed from the start because the decision to have a baby has nothing to do with reason -- not one tad.
While Anne and were dating in college -- the now cliched period of peace marches, rap sessions and drug experimentation -- we and our friends had a thousand and one reasons why we shouldn't have children. After all, there was the threat of nuclear war, the prospect of global famine, the poisoning of the environment, the gone pool turning into a cesspool.
After Anne and I were married, there were two more reasons not to have children. The first was our careers. The second was "baby worship." Let me give a couple of examples of what I mean by baby worship:
Scene: Mother-in-law calls "just to chat" while Anne is away.
Mother-in-law: Do you and Anne have anything to tell me?
Me: Well, Anne got a raise.
Mother-in-law: I mean something personal.
Me: I've always had a secret horror of pastrami sandwiches. Is that personal enough?
Mother-in-law: You're so funny. You'd make a wonderful father!
A second example of baby worship is when you invite over some friends who have recently been blessed, and instead of a pleasant evening discussing politics and movies, you spend the entire time staring at the little tyke and talking about how cute it is when he breaks wind. It's depressing to see your once stimulating, provocative friends turned into pie-eyed imbecciles.
Like many couples our age, Anne and I were certain that at some definable point would both agree that having a child was the rational thing to do, and then, and only then, would we have one. We weren't going to be pushed into it. There was plenty of time.
Our plan worked out nicely at age 22 to 29. It worked out less nicely at age 30. It completely fell apart as we approached the "fish or cut bait" mid-thirties, and still no decision had struck.
But while we both realized for the first time that the long awaited reason for having a baby was never going to arrive, strangely enough (and most timely), we had the concurrent feeling that we wanted a baby -- a feeling so sure it defied questioning, a feeling so palpable you could put it in a crib and chuck its chin.
So we start about having a baby. After hearing all the scare stories in college about people getting pregnant because of a single indiscretion, Anne and I threw out the drug store paraphernalia and made love as if it were an historical event. We were sure this was the moment!
Three months later -- exhausted and bored from obsessive and clockwork relations -- we were sure Divine Retribution had "done us in" for having put off our duty all these years. In desperation, we followed the rhythm method in reverse -- thermometers, graphs, bleary-eyed sex at 5 a.m. -- and Anne finally became pregnant. Though ecstatic at the news, we swore we'd never make love again.
Cynics will claim we were foolish and stubborn not to have a baby earlier since we broke down and had one anyway. They will see my generation's coming around to parenthood as another example of the self-delusion of the Sixties.
Nonsense. The facts are that Anne and I did get an opportunity to live together alone and see each other's good and bad points before being sidetracked by children. In addition, we proved to ourselves and our skeptical parents that couples can live happy and meaningful lives without babies. I believe this will increase the odds that we'll be good parents, especially Anne, who won't have to spend the rest of her days (like many older women we know) wondering what it would have been like to have a career and no children.
If I have anything to blush about, it's all those years I foolishly tried to rationalize the pros and cons of having children. I realize now that having a baby is an act of pure faith -- a resounding cry of YES to life when all reason tells you NO -- which is why my decision to become a father may be my most radical act yet.