"Everything about your life is going to change!"


This is the response I have been getting, almost invariably and usually verbatim, from my friends and co-workers when I tell them my wife Patti and I are going to have a baby. In reality, Patti will do the actual having of the baby — I’ll just be in the delivery room, lending emotional support and trying not to faint.


This is the first one for both of us, and of course, we’re thrilled, especially as it’s a little in later in life for us to be parents compared to many people. It’s truly thought-provoking and humbling when you think about what a singular and random-seeming chain of events have to happen for two people to get together and have a child, and how that child is such a unique result not just of those circumstances but also of whatever combination of genes happened to cross paths at that one particular time.


Needless to say, we’re very happy and grateful, but this month’s column really isn’t all about me and my budding nuclear family. I can see already that, just as my friends have told me, my attitudes are going to undergo something of a partial transformation. Issues that previously seemed somewhat remote to me and of only academic interest now seem much more personally relevant.


For example, the whole controversy about content of music, video games, television and movies now strikes me as being of more than passing interest. While I’m still pretty much a hard-liner in support of a broad interpretation of the First Amendment, that view has a little more nuance now as I consider what these media can bring into people’s homes and how parents have to cope with that. Even more importantly, everything that falls under the heading of education issues looks like it’s going to loom larger and larger for us.


I’m told that this is a common reaction (fortunately, or I’d question my sanity), but I’m already mildly concerned about how to put my as-yet-unnamed and gender-unidentified child through college and graduate school. We also now need to start considering preschool, kindergarten and elementary school, especially which ones and where. Since I owe a lot to my own education, and being sort of a fanatic about what a quality education can do for you, I can see how parents must perform a complicated balancing act between a strong philosophical commitment to the public schools, which I certainly have, and what they believe is best for their own children.


I’m a fervent believer in supporting our public schools and am leaning that way for my own child, but I can already see that parental involvement and scrutiny at the school and the district level is essential.


Finally, I know that there has been some discussion in the media lately about people who remain childless by choice and who argue for a "child-neutral" society. It’s true that government tends to favor child-bearing, for example by allowing income tax deductions and imposing taxes to support the schools, and employers provide benefits and time off for parents that others can’t always take advantage of.


However, it seems to me that society has a strong interest in the raising of children into productive adults for all kinds of reasons, from paying Social Security taxes to keeping our economy productive to serving in the Armed Forces, all of which benefit all of us, with or without children. In any event, we’ll try to muddle through and do our best to be good parents.


I just hope I can get a little more sleep than I’m told I will.  


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