"I'm not sure if I want to have children.
"Maybe we won't have enough money for a new house, or that extension you were talking about. What if I want a TV?
"Didn't you want to buy all that furniture?"
My wife and I are playing The Sims — The Sims 2 to be precise. Technically I'm not playing, I'm just watching, but my wife is playing. I'm bored and I've come to bother her.
My features don't really gel with character creators. It's almost impossible to make a video game character look like me. I have big features, but not too big. My eyes are a bit googly; my mouth has a strange shape. My hair is kind of ginger, but also a bit blonde. Actually, it kinda looks brown some days. I always end up looking far more handsome in video games than I do in real life, like a car crash version of Robert Redford (note: I don't look like Robert Redford. I look more like Simon Pegg.)
Recreating my wife is incredibly easy. She's conventionally pretty. Children smile at her in supermarkets. My wife looks like an exotic Disney princess. She has the kind of features the human race has spent centuries trying to stylise.
But no one has ever really given a shit about stylising Simon Pegg.
Some people play The Sims 2 in strange ways. They concoct Fritzel-esque suburban dungeons and watch people dissolve into madness; I don't play at all, but my wife does, and she plays quite conventionally. She creates herself, she tries her level best to create me, and then we live out our lives in perfect digital bliss. Conventionally.
We build a house. We live together. We fall in love. We have children. We grow old. We die.
"But I want to see what they look like!"
Some people want to see what our babies will look like, not just my wife. To be honest, I'm a little curious myself. My wife is South American, dark-haired, pretty. I'm pale, white, overwhelmingly Scottish. God knows what ungodly manifestation will come of that. It could be a beautiful thing. It could be truly horrific. It seems a little cruel to have children just for that reason, but then I wonder — why do people have children?
"Alright let's do it," I say, as if my decision means anything in the scheme of things. My wife gets to the 'woo hoo', I chuckle for a second and then leave, watch TV, eat chocolate. I come back a few hours later.
I notice 'it' immediately. A toddler, rapidly torpedoing around our comically massive house (my wife uses the money cheat). Clearly the kid has had too much red cordial. It's a she — her name is Ayane. Ayane Serrels.
Hello Ayane, nice to meet you.
Thankfully, Ayane looks like her mother. She has a shock of short, jet black hair and the tiniest button nose. Her eyes are blue, like mine, but sharper. She smiles a lot.
So strange that Ayane feels like she belongs to me — a character, in a game I'm not playing, a scattered collection of baseless information — a jigsaw puzzle put together with pieces I had no part in creating. A clumsy representation based on a random collation of... what? Something that is recognisable as a stylised version of my wife and a pale broken down Robert Redford?
Still, I wish I could hug this little thing. And I don't usually do hugs.
What does it feel like to have children? I might never know. When I watch parents lumbering their children around all I see is the rings around their eyes, a comprehensive list of the things they'll no longer be able to do and the money it costs.
The loss of intimacy. The loss of time. The loss of freedom. What is there to gain?
Little Ayane. You're so tiny.
My friend told me that it's almost too easy to list the reasons why you shouldn't have children, but it's almost impossible to describe the overwhelming reasons why you should. It's something that can't really be described. It can only be experienced.
Why do people have children? I don't know, but maybe I want to find out. In The Sims it’s so easy, to watch this life I might never have played out — the life I’m not sure I even want.
I'm not sure if I want to have children.
What if I want to buy a new television? What if I want to travel or buy a house by the ocean?
What about all that furniture my wife wants to buy?
What about the rings around our eyes? What about the comprehensive list of things we can no longer do? Is it easier to simply replay that life, over and over in digital form?
But I want to see what you look like, little Ayane. For real. I hope you look like your mother. You'll be so cute, with your little button nose, and your shock of black hair. Will you have blue eyes or brown?
What kind of person will you be?
Little Ayane — I can't wait to meet you.
The was written for Critical Distance's 'Blogs of the Round Table', a collection of blogs written around a single topic. Head here to read more!