The game of life Part I
I decided to try most things life offered. Not all things but most. And I’ve tried some things, like rolling my car, that I didn’t really want to do at all.
That philosophy allowed me to surrender my freedom to marriage. There’s a lot of writing about pros and cons on marriage. But something that’s not mentioned enough is that the real benefit and purpose of marriage, is to raise children. And I don’t mean any children, but happy, prosperous and contributing children.
I once saw an interview of a famous actor, possibly Art Linklater, who didn’t spend much if any time talking about himself, but was focused on how terrific his children are. And it is important to have successful children. Maybe not successful in the way you envisioned, but successful. One friend of mine married a woman who was unbelievably lazy and without a shred of self-discipline. My friend tried to pick up the slack, but was unable to overcome his wife’s inertia, and his children are not successful. They are not a joy to him, but a burden. I married someone who has a LOT of self-discipline, works so much harder than I ever could, and who understood the basic principles of child rearing. It’s not really principles, it’s just “principle”. That one principle is “Have some rules, and then follow them consistently”. I have three hugely successful children. By hugely successful, I mean “Moved out.”
And let me say my children are a joy to me. Real joy. Because at the end of the day, or at the end of the life, you look back at what you have enjoyed doing. What you will find is that it is things you have accomplished that provide real satisfaction. Doing a purely pleasurable activity, such as eating, drinking, or laying on the beach, is typically without satisfaction. Doing something well and accomplishing something, may be tough and painful while you are doing it, but leads to real satisfaction and happiness. And raising children is painful and tough and LONG. It’s awful when they are sick. It’s unbelievable amounts of time spent on various unrewarding and boring efforts of all kinds. It’s huge amounts of money on food, baby accoutrements, pink medicine, books, toys, doctors, driving, clothes, schools, bikes and the list goes on.
That’s not to say there aren’t fun moments as you go. There are. You just have to recognize and enjoy them when they come. I remember playing “The three little pigs” with my daughter and as I begged Aileen the wolf to please not eat me she admonished me to “Stop whining Daddy”. My son screaming “Thank you Santa” when he discovered a play station under the Christmas tree. Enjoying a day on scaffold replacing siding with my other son.
It’s also quite important to have the right attitude. I specifically remember a day when my wife informed me that we were taking the three children to the beach for an afternoon picnic. This was not on my Saturday list at all, but I was trapped. So, there I was sitting on the beach, baking in the sun being unhappy, when I decided that I might as well try to have as good a time as I could. I then proceeded to have a good time. Really. I could have decided to have a bad time and would have been successful at that too. But choosing to make the best of the time you have improves your overall enjoyment.
Where am I going with all this? I’m telling you to find a good spouse (worker, self disciplined, understands the child raising principle) and have children. I’m telling you to stay through the whole process because getting divorced and losing the children 10 years into it will be really painful for you because laws are set up to screw the dads. (A cousins’ ex-wife accused him of pedophilia and he was only permitted supervised visits after that. I didn’t believe the charge for a second, but the laws are not in our favor, and he was considered guilty on her word alone.) You will pay through the nose if you get divorced and many women use the children to hurt the father and try to turn the kids against the father. These things will also kill a lot of your satisfaction. I also know divorced fathers that have good relationships with their children so it’s not always bad, but it can be.
This puts real pressure on choosing the right partner in all this. Let me say that I got infatuated and married without doing due process with my wife. So I am saying do as I say, not as I have done myself. It could have gone a lot worse for me, but I was lucky.
Back to the game of life. Spouse and children are the largest, and most important part of it, but what else is there?
Enjoy your career. Whatever you do enjoy it and be good at it. You get that same type of satisfaction you do with the children. You can look back and say “Man I was a pretty good project manager, or carpenter, or salesman” or whatever. This again is satisfaction through accomplishment, not through pleasure.
Pleasure is fleeting, but satisfaction is permanent. Choose tasks and goals that provide satisfaction. And try to look at the positive even while you are suffering through the present.