Four years ago, I couldn’t wait to have a child of my own.

The desire started the first few days I lived in Japan. I have always thought that Japanese women were beautiful. Some would say that is typical American. I disagree. That is an easy answer with very little reasoning built into it. The truth is that I am a sucker for dark hair. Now that is something I can’t explain. Some men like blond hair. Why? I don’t know. I suppose it is akin to the reason some people like strawberries and some people like apples. It is just the way we were created. But back to the story.

I love dark hair, and of course, the Japanese have dark hair. It is not the only reason I love the Japanese. It is just one of them. To me, dark hair has a sense of beauty attached to it. As such, my first few weeks in Japan was quite a shock. Everywhere I went I was struck by the beauty of the people. None more so than the little children in school. Kids are pretty cute in general, but Japanese children take it one step further. And then children have that knack for abandon. They live without restraint, full of emotion and energy. That is infectious. Several times I walked into an elementary school feeling rather dull and mellow. It only took one class with a few first graders to change that. Their enthusiasm and wild glee was infectious.

I loved all my classes, but those elementary school trips were something special. I rarely walked out of school without feeling a palpable love for those children.

The final straw came my last year in Japan. I was growing older. I was in love. I was beginning to feel the stirrings in my heart to have a family of my own. I wanted to take life to the next level. At the time, I was teaching at an preschool once a week. The youngest children were three, the oldest children six. The children were adorable. They could barely speak Japanese, let alone English. I didn’t care. Our communication was non-verbal. We played tag and fruit basket and drew pictures of bright vegetables and slurped up miso soup between big smiles. I walked through the halls and out in the courtyards with trains of exuberant youngsters tugging at my pants and every finger clutched by a different child. I would have adopted every single one of them if their parents would have let me.

That was four years ago. Now, I am much wiser (at least I like to think so). I realize that most kids are adorable…until you have to spend more than an hour with them! Then you begin to see how much work they can be. My first true experience with a youngster came not long after my sister gave birth. I love my niece immensely. She is the cutest thing since little cuddly puppies. But when she doesn’t get her way, or when she wants mommy, she can be a handful.

I also realize that the personal schedule goes out the window. With a baby, you don’t make the schedule, the baby does. You may want to sleep in on Saturday, but the baby has other ideas. You may want to go out to dinner with the family, but if the baby is sleeping, you might just have to sit in the car while the rest of the family eats dinner without you. And forget about going to the movies with your wife, unless you have a fantastic sister that will watch the baby for you.

Yes, I think I can wait to have children for another four or five years after all!

Honestly, I have great respect for mothers and fathers. It takes special people to be good mothers and fathers. And being a mother is a full time job. Hands down, it is one of the toughest jobs out there. I know it can be tough, but I do imagine it is also one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. That lure is still there, even though my enthusiasm might have been temporarily tempered.

So I was on four or five years until just yesterday. Enter in Karis. Karis is an adorable little three year old who loves her mommy very much. Sunday, her mommy was listening to the church service and Karis was missing her very much. The tears were streaming down and we were just about to call her mother out of service to tend to Karis. That’s when they called me. I thought they just might need a little help pouring apple juice or handing out goldfish crackers. Nope. They wanted me to quiet Karis.

Sure, no problem. Maybe I’ll just amuse her by speaking Japanese. I didn’t. I spoke English and she responded. I talked to her for about ten seconds and then she put out her arms for me to pick her up. I did and she cried for maybe another minute, then settled right down on my shoulder. I spent the next hour holding her and she found my shoulder comfortable enough to fall asleep on.

Now one little girl is not enough to erase all my memories of how difficult children can be. But it did go a long way. It might not be so bad after all to have one of my own.

© Seth Crossman