The little family stood out because of the mixed skin colors but mostly because all three children were so young — enough to keep both parents constantly dealing with one or another as they ate dinner at Chick-fil-A in Birmingham on a Saturday evening.
The parents were both white and appeared to be early to mid 30s. A boy who appeared Latino was about 4 years ago. A black boy and girl were both about 2 or 3, I’d guess.
The table was a constant buzz of talk — children asking questions and wanting help, parents correcting and guiding. But it was all orderly and the tone of voice was always loving and kind. One of the boys seemed fascinated by my MacBook and he had trouble understanding his mom’s explanation that it’s impolite to stare at strangers.
After they ate, they pulled out little books and read together. Each child had a different book. I couldn’t tell what the books were all about, but I saw the younger ones pointing to cows and dogs and pigs and correctly identifying each. Both parents worked with each child from time to time.
It was like controlled chaos, but full of love and happiness.
As they were leaving — and the parents were working to get everybody headed in the right direction — I jokingly said to them, “Having three kids that young all at once must really take over your life.”
The dad smiled a huge smile and said, “Yes, in the most wonderful way.”
Then they walked away, talking about whether they wanted to play outside when they got home. And I sat there smiling and feeling happy inside about what I had seen and heard.
I know a lot of people today who really don’t want to have children. I don’t blame them. Having children takes over your life. It’s expensive. The experience can even be heartbreaking, because you never know what will happen. You will hurt when your children hurt. You could lose a child to death. There can even be broken relationships and the pain of losing what you had nurtured and cared so much about.
But for some people, the risks are all worth it — and the payoff is there.
I hope I’ll have the chance to experience the obligations and joys of being a father. It’s something I want very much. I’d like to experience both the burdens and the happiness that I saw in that joyful little family just a few minutes ago.