The kids decision revisited

Dear Readers: I am always fascinated to hear diametrically opposed yet equally valid viewpoints. Such was the case with the following two letters, which both appeared in my inbox on the same day in response to “Undecided in Ohio,” who isn’t sure whether she wants kids. Read on.

Dear Annie: I have often read this column but never responded to an article. Today is different. I’m an 83-year-old man. When my wife and I married in 1973, neither of us was interested in having children, though it was for different reasons.

We are now well beyond the opportunity to change our minds on the subject. We also are now in a position to have a much different perspective on childbearing. We have no immediate family, no one to have shared our blessings or grief with and, above all, no grandchildren to celebrate.

My wife would have been a wonderful mother, as demonstrated by her giving spirit and treatment of the many children who have come our way over the years. I might have even been a pretty good dad, but that isn’t for me to decide. We both did exactly what we wanted to do over the years, and it was wonderful then. Were we to go back in time and be confronted with this weighty decision knowing what we know today, we might make a different decision. — Different Perspective

Dear Different Perspective: I appreciate your honesty. That takes courage. I think many of us are too proud or afraid to admit our regrets. But please read on for a different perspective.

Dear Annie: I do not have children, but I have nieces and nephews and now great-nieces and great-nephews to whom I give love and attention and who give me love and attention in return. I had a fascinating career and an interesting life filled with travel and adventures.

My nieces and nephews joined me on many of my travels and adventures. My brothers and sisters always accused me of planning my life in such a way that I enjoyed the best parts of having children while avoiding the tantrums and midnight trips to the emergency room. I agreed with them.

I loved my surrogate children. I loved spoiling them. So I say to “Undecided in Ohio”: You do not have to give birth to children to have children in your life. Enjoy the children around you. Treat them as if they were your own. I am 80 years old, and when people ask me whether I have children or grandchildren, I tell them yes, I have children. — Children of Love

Dear Children of Love: Beautifully said. Thank you for writing.

Dear Annie: I am 71 years old and live in central Florida. I grew up in Chicago during the 1950s and ’60s. The advice columnist at that time was Ann Landers. I’m sure you have heard of her. In one of her columns, she asked her readers, “If you had to do it all over again, would you have children?” Seventy percent of respondents said they would not have children. I’m curious about what the response would be today. Would you be able to ask this same question in one of your columns? — Steve

Dear Steve: This is serendipitous; after hearing a few very different opinions on this issue recently (see the above letters), I was actually thinking of posing this question to my readers flat out. Your letter seals the deal. So, readers: If you had to do it all over again, would you have kids? I’ll print the results of this unscientific poll in a future column.

P.S. Ann Landers is my biggest inspiration.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.