Children are a blessing. As I type, our dear friends are at the hospital to have their first baby. We are all so excited and cannot wait to meet the new bundle! What is so amazing about little children, aside from the fact that they are adorable, is how quickly they soak up information. They are little sponges for the first few years of their lives. The things they pick up on are astounding and there is no such thing as a secret if they happen to overhear it!
When my cousin, David, now thirty-eight years old, was a small child he was riding somewhere with my granddaddy when a car pulled out in front of them and Granddaddy had to slam on his brakes. At that moment, David yelled a seven-letter obscenity at the offending vehicle. Managing not to run off the road from shock, Granddaddy said, “Where did you hear that word, son?” His answer? “From you, Granddaddy.” We can’t be sure, but no one in the family ever remembers hearing Granddaddy say that word again. Chances are he initially whispered it under his breath, said it in another room when he thought David wasn’t around, or yelled it at a ballgame. Whenever David heard him say it, it is likely that Granddaddy was not aware. What we say and how we act will come out in the behavior of our children, grandchildren, and other children that look up to us.
One thing that has always been heavy on my heart, in regards to my future children, is what they will watch. Some parents place a great deal of monitoring on what is allowed into their children’s minds; whereas, others do not place as much emphasis on monitoring television, video games, and other media. When I became old enough to get married, this area was one topic on which I wanted to have agreement with my future spouse. I knew if I cared deeply about what our kids watch, and my spouse didn’t, then there would be multiple TV wars after the kids came. Thankfully, Eric is just as concerned, if not more, about what our children will watch and listen to someday.
Discussing the topic of children can be a difficult subject to approach at this stage in your relationship unless one or both of you already has children. Before engagement, talking about children can generate part of the overall marriage fantasy (for women; visualizing your future life together, seeing the house of your dreams, with the spouse of your dreams, and perfect children running around the house in footie pajamas) and the impending fear of drastically increased responsibility (for men; visualizing the increased work-load and responsibility that it will take to support a family).
At this point, it is difficult to cover a lot of topics regarding children because you may not know what to expect. Talking to friends who are married with kids is a great start (or, older adult couples with children your age). Pick their brains! Ask them to make a list of every topic they can think of that they wish they had discussed before the kids came. What surprised them about parenting together? What was the most fun? The least fun? Take their list and begin discussing. Talk about routines, schooling, clothing, friends, entertainment, etc. Some couples even discuss what will be permitted for their teenagers in regards to dating. While some views will change after the children come, it is beneficial to know whether or not you and your boyfriend/girlfriend have similar childrearing views. If one person is very pro-daycare and the other would rather eat rice and beans (i.e., have a reduction in lifestyle so a parent can be home with the children), then there is a big issue to resolve.
Now is a great time to get to the heart of some of these up and coming situations. This is not to say that people will not ever change their views on parenting, but discussing this will give you insight into the priorities of your boyfriend/girlfriend. Is this someone with whom you would want to raise your children?