If you are currently trying to decide whether or not to have kids, there are some things I should tell you to help inform your decision.
Children will try to kill you. If you are not up for the challenge, don't have them. But if you do, understand this: Babies are genetically programmed to try to end your life. The only reason any parent survives is that small children are as wildly ineffective at homicide as they are at just about everything. But they try.
Here's an example: Somewhere around 12 months of age, children go through a phase where they fixate on shoes. They have to touch your shoes, pick them up, and then move them all over the house. After that, all children go through a phase where they are infatuated with flashlights. They will find every flashlight you own, run down the batteries, and then hide them all.
What is happening - the shoes, the flashlights - is that your children are systematically trying to deprive you of each element of your earthquake survival kit.
Chances are that you will not be harmed by this, but it's not for lack of effort.
Some toy manufacturers have attempted to satiate toddlers' relentless appetite for flashlights by creating toy versions which automatically turn the light off after a few moments. Fools. Young children smell decoys like dogs smell fear.
The other day, when I was trying to sneak out of the house early to go to work without waking anyone up, I could not find my keys. I wanted to look for the keys in my bedroom without turning on the ceiling light and waking up my wife. So I needed a flashlight. Every single flashlight in the house was missing or out of batteries except one, the only one our toddler doesn't care about: A heavy green flashlight with googly eyes, the head of an alligator, and a body shaped like a hippopotamus. This was not helpful in keeping my wife asleep. When you activate the light, the jaws snap open, and the flashlight says, "CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP! MMMMM! YUM! YUM! YUM!"
In the meantime, I managed to nearly puncture my foot by walking on a die-cast metal spaceship. Then, while hopping around trying to my stiffle yelps of pain, I stumbled into a toy broom which taunted me with a perky, "It's fun to clean up!"
Of course, children are not limited to setting traps. They will also try to injure you in more direct ways, such as by beating you with a whiffle bat or lowering their head and running at your crotch.
In fact, evolutionary biology explains this behavior. The head-lowered ram at your pelvis is a straightforward adaptation that allows children to try to prevent the introduction of extra siblings into the household. What is true for baby birds straining for a regurgitated worm is true for humans: The fewer children there are in a family, the less competition there is over a limited supply of essential resources, including food, parental nurturing, and whiffle bats.
What is not so clearly explained by evolution is why children try so hard to kill themselves. In fact, when your children start trying to kill you, it tends to come as a relief, because it usually means they have moved on from trying to kill themselves.
Some prime ways children try to kill themselves are by climbing up stairs so they can then fall down them and by attempting to dart out into traffic. Young children look forward to walking hand-in-hand with you just so they can seize the opportunity to try to wrench their hand free and run in front of a car.
Of course, as soon as you get home and there is no present danger, the same child will fiercely hug your leg and go limp to prevent you from walking away from them - for instance, to keep you from doing something utterly selfish, such as using the toilet.
The top way children try to kill themselves is by putting things in their mouths. Small things, shiny things, dirty things. Many children will put anything in their mouths except a vegetable - unless you count moldy brown leaves found under the welcome mat to be a vegetable.
One thing children love putting in their mouths - and in my experience this kicks in around nine to 10 months of age - is shoes. They especially like to put their tongue on the sole of a shoe that you just wore into the public restroom at a train station.
When I explain to people that children put things in their mouths in an effort to kill themselves, I often get someone explaining to me how putting an object in the mouth is just a child's way of learning about the world. I'm sorry, that is absurd. True, children start putting shoes in their mouths right about the time they start trying to stand upright and walk. But learning about walking by putting shoes in your mouth just is not going to work. If people could learn about things by putting them in their mouths, I'd be a Ph.D.-level entomologist after all the gnat clouds I gulped down this summer while mowing the lawn.
Speaking of which, I gotta go. I think that's the sound of my kid trying to start up the lawn mower.