Happily Even After
An Open Letter to Newlyweds Regarding Children
By Josh Noem
Dear newly married couple:
It has become fashionable on social media for new parents to show the world how hard it is to care for small children—don’t listen to them. They make it sound like a soul-crushing task, but they’re still adjusting to the new people they are turning into. Becoming a parent is one sure way to learn selflessness, and this is not a painless lesson. Having kids is absolutely worth it—they’ll save the world, and they’ll save you, too.
Sure, it’s hard. Of course it is! It takes your sleep and gives you 15 pounds. It takes your patience and gives you a mortgage and the inevitable minivan. It takes your hair and gives you wrinkles. This is not a proposition to advance your standing in the world of commerce and estate. This is not a career move. This has nothing to do with building your brand. It’s much more important than that.
God has called each set of parents to be the only prophets in the world capable of fully perceiving the divinity veiled in the little bodies of their children. It’ll shine out from time to time in flashes of grace, but only you will have the whole vision. When you recognize how holy it is, you’ll fall on your knees, and remove your shoes, and hide your face from it.
You won’t love your kids because they are sturdy, like how our farming ancestors prized their offspring. You won’t love them because they are cute, like how millennials ogle Instagram. You’ll love them because they are good. Warm cookie good. Otis Redding good. Hug your mom good.
You’ll know they are good when you are making dinner and look out the window to see your son dressed as three different galactic crusaders brandishing a lightsaber, bow and arrow, AND robotic arm, storming an army of Wernblots in the backyard like he’s William Wallace facing the English.
You’ll know they are good when your daughter interrupts a nuclear meltdown tantrum to put some dance moves on the big summer pop hit that just came on the radio. She has her principles, but, by God, she won’t let this song go by without some boogie.
You’ll know they are good when you have a teenager who makes the first step towards reconciliation after an argument by writing you an email to apologize.
And, being good, they’ll make you good. They’ll pull it out of you with a special gravitational force. Sometimes it’ll come out with your kicking and screaming; sometimes—the best times—it’ll come out as a secret gift you offer, unseen to the world.
The world needs good people, and it is stunningly simple and pleasurable to make them. Sometimes we make them by accident, and we laugh. You’ll worry about their education and their reading levels and their SAT scores and their girlfriends, but at bottom, they’ll be good. They’ll be decent people who are not unreasonable and who know that it’s worth it to cultivate the slow, hidden virtues of faith and hope and love. They’ll know that love takes sacrifice because they’ll have learned it from you.
They’ll save the world. They’ll save you, too.
So let them quibble over the balloon volleyball game they invented in the living room. The cookies are nearly done, and soon, you’ll sit at the table and dunk them in milk together. You’ll look at them and your heart will grow. Again.