Michael Ashcroft

February 6, 2024

Signing my children away

It turns out I can want something and be scared of it at the same time — who knew?

As I was passed yet another consent form for a podiatry treatment this morning, I joked that I was signing my children away.

The podiatrist laughed. I laughed. The podiatrist applied liquid nitrogen to the sole of my foot. I stopped laughing.

Yet, despite the pain from my frozen verruca, I felt a gentle warmth spread across my chest. I don't have children, but for a brief moment I had spun up a little world where I did. It occurred to me that it felt good to make that joke, and it would have felt good if I were in fact a father.

What was unusual about this little fantasy was that I didn't quickly find myself in a tangle of tricky emotions. There was none of the usual "oh I should have children", "what if I regret having children?", or "we need to get on with it if we do want children". I landed straight in a world where my having children was already a fact, and that world felt good and right.

I would say that I wonder what this means, but I know what it means. It mean I've been feeling into all the feelings of fear around having children, and I found myself on the other side experiencing a clear desire that I do want to have children.

This is all happening in the context of an intense online course I'm taking — "The Great Decisions Course", from the Art of Accomplishment — and a commitment I've made to stop avoiding feelings that make me uncomfortable.

I have complicated feelings around the decision to have children. I have a lot of fears, resistances and concerns. Whenever these unpleasant emotions would come up, my habitual response has always been to numb or distract myself from them.

As I allow myself to feel those feelings fully, all the way through, I find that they start to dissolve. I always half-consciously assumed that these fears and resistances meant that I don't want children, but with some of the noise out of the way, I can see more clearly that I do in fact have a desire to have children. I just also have a bunch of fears.

It turns out that the desire to have children and the fear of having children are both valid feelings that can co-exist. Being scared of having kids doesn't mean I don't want kids, it simply means I am scared of having kids. And from what I hear from parents, being scared of embarking on the life-changing project that is raising children is a perfectly sensible fear to have.

I've been playing with this kind of stuff for a while, yet it continues to surprise me that suppressing feelings I don't like also suppresses the feelings that give me access to my deepest wants. There is only one master volume dial on experience, and I keep turning it all down. I'm done with doing that.

And I want to have children.