Let's be blunt: those of us who have survived certain stages in life find it hard not to be condescending to those who have yet to do so. Part of it is simply a function of age, but a much larger part of it is experience. A perfect case in point is children, or more specifically, having children and getting them to the point of launching them into the world.
When our kids were very young I used to HATE the condescending "You just wait" comments from parents of older children. Now that I'm on the other side I totally get where they were coming from although I try not to be condescending in the same way to my friends/coworkers/family members with younger children. I'm not always successful, but I do try.
What prompted this is a piece in Vogue written by a man who was considering the implications of the development of a male version of The Pill. Here's an excerpt:
Later at dinner, she brought it up again. The initial flush of panic had cleared. The idea wasn’t threatening, just amusing. She suggested that putting the male in charge of contraception would just embolden him to have sex with random women, and riskier sex at that; unlike a condom, the pill would do nothing to prevent disease. Could be, I said, but I was lost in thought. Not about that. I was thinking about the strange spot we’re in. We’ve been married a little over a year. She’s 28, and I’m 31. I run a small soccer magazine and she’s a grade-school teacher. We’re paying off her loans from grad school. In other words, this phase of our life together will end when we have a baby—it’s what we’re working up to, the fact that underlies every move we make, what jobs we take, what city we live in, what house we rent. I mean, she recently ordered prenatal vitamins because her sister-in-law said it’s healthy to start a regimen at least a year in advance. That was a surprising trip to the mailbox!
The goal, eventually, is to have a baby, and yet having a baby before we’re ready seems like it would totally derail the plans we’ve laid to achieve the goal. That’s pretty weird. Other thoughts crept in. Hey! Yo, dude! Have you packed for your trip on Thursday? What day is today, anyway?
“Excuse me, darling,” I said. “What day is it?”
She gave me a look. You’ve seen one just like it. Her eyebrows posed the question before she did: “And you want to be in charge of the birth control?”
When I finished the article my reaction was bemusement. Why? Because I wanted to find this guy's number call him up and tell him, "You'll never be 'ready' for kids. It's an impossibility in the same way that you'll never be 'ready' for a tornado. You can prepare – drawing your little life maps and to-do lists – but when the reality of Hurricane Kid reaches your shores you'll be laid bare like every other parent before you."
Yes he and his wife should do everything they can to try and put off the inevitable until they think they're ready, but my advice is for them to not sweat too much about it because no matter how hard they try they'll never be truly ready.
Oh, and that part about who's best to take control of contraception? Sometimes it doesn't matter because you could defy the odds like yours truly and his significant other and conceive children on two different occassions while she's on the pill. 99% efficacy is great unless you're not in it; believe me that's not the 1% you want to be in.
As a middle-aged dad entering the territory of overtime (kids in college, destined to move back for a while) I merely want to say, "You're so cute with your little worries? You ain't seen nothing yet."
Damnit, it's just impossible not to be a condescening ass in these situations.