One of the fun things about getting to do a column like this is that you can write about specific political or city issues if you want – for instance, last month’s take on the police and firefighters pay raise referendum (and, man, was I ever wrong about that). Or, you can write about some aspect of society that interests you and even try and relate it to your own experience.

Just such an occasion happened recently in late April when our daughter Claire celebrated her first birthday, after a year that passed much faster than we ever would have guessed.

Naturally, we threw a big party for her with food, cake (including her own small one, suitable for poking and mashing), balloons, streamers and everything else that looked good at the party store. At the last minute, we chickened out on renting the circus animals, and despite the invitation, U2 apparently had a gig somewhere else.

Of course, Claire probably didn’t really know what was going on, and it really was as much fun for our benefit as hers. Still, she’ll enjoy the pictures and video later on, especially the part where Mom, Dad, all four grandparents, her aunt, uncle and cousins stood in a semicircle around her wearing funny hats and singing “Happy Birthday to You” to her obvious bemusement.

She did seem to enjoy all her birthday loot, much of which consists of items that I imagine are manufactured somewhere in China at the “People’s Loud Electronic Toy Works No. 3.” In any event, she seemed to have a good time, and it was a big milestone for all of us.

On top of being  sometimes scary, often exhausting and always joyful, this whole parenting experience is also thought provoking.

Not only do you look at every issue through the prism of how it might affect the world in which your child will grow up, it also tunes you in to some things that may have seemed of only marginal interest before. For example, you may have heard of the book that just came out, to a lot of media attention, that makes the case that it’s more difficult than many women assumed to wait until your late thirties or even forties to get pregnant. My wife and I are older parents, and we were very lucky, but the fertility statistics are daunting.

The question is, if this is true, is it ammunition for religious and social conservatives who think that women should be more focused on their families at the expense of education and career – that is, subtle anti-feminist agenda? Or is it merely objective science, suggesting that waiting that long to become pregnant may not be prudent? That probably depends on your own philosophy and experience.

A recent study showed that day-care workers are fourth from the bottom in average salary among all jobs, and you often get what you pay for. We should remember, whether we have kids or not, that these are our future leaders, public servants, educators and taxpayers – and also our future unemployed, undereducated and even our future criminals. A lot of what our children will become depends not just on our parenting skills, but on the policy choices we all make.

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