One of the pleasant, unexpected experiences of our trip was living for three weeks in a household with young children. I’ve already written about living with the Labordories in Paris, and building castles with their three year-old son, Nathan. After Paris, we relocated to Stuttgart, to stay with Ben and Dorothea Williams, who have three and one year-old daughters.
Most people go their entire lives living with one, maybe two, families before starting their own. Most of what we assume to be true about marriage and parenting comes from a sample size of one. It was cool to be there 24 hours-a-day, with a couple a few years ahead of us who could say “Take a right here” and “Watch out for that pothole over there.” It’s an experience that would benefit all young couples, but we never would have had the opportunity back in Chicago with our own apartment and jobs to attend to.
Rachel and I enjoy the selfish life of DINKs – Dual Income, No Kids. It’s a status that allowed us to quit our jobs and run off to Europe. And even though we’ve had no pressing desire, I’ve always assumed that one day we would have kids – most married folk do, and even those who have kids under the least desirable circumstances say its the best thing that’s ever happened to them. But prior to our trip, we were apprehensive.
Kids aren’t as scary as we thought. One of my favorite memories from our time in Europe, up there with the cows in the mountains and the tapas in San Sebastian, is the day that Rachel and Dorothea went to Ikea and left me with Johanna, the one year old, who slept in my arms until the girls came home four hours later. How can such a pedestrian pleasure rank with such unique experiences?
It wasn’t all like that. I don’t think we were deceived into believing that it’s always naps and playtime. We saw our share of crying and rebellion, and even changed a few diapers. But our thoughts of having kids have always been centered around the things we would have to give up. Living with children for three weeks made us realize that you get something in return, and that something is nontrivial.
We’re not ready kids yet, but our experience in Europe has probably accelerated the process. And if one day, we do have our own children, Rachel is on record as saying that she will track down Johanna, and tell her that it’s because of her.