Thursday, July 8, 2010

on being of childbearing age

I've made it abundantly clear that I would like to have babies. Or, you know, a baby (singular). Someday. You know, before my ovaries pickle.

Peter Pan does not. Did not. Will not. This was the last ice cube to be Jenga-ed out of the igloo of our love.

I've seen the way he looks at infants in restaurants, at his de facto goddaughter, even at his own nephews on occasion. One squeal or whine, and a rage sprouts up in his eyes, a blind and impotent hatred coupled with the complete bafflement of someone who looks at a family and says, "Why, God, why?"

The day I stopped willing him to soften was the day I called 'time of death'. I looked at him, felt a stab of sadness not unlike pity, and said, "I'm won't try to change you, but you've got to let me go." And, since then, since our pile of ice chunks fell apart, we've never been closer.

Now I can laugh at it, watch him squirm in the face of delighted toddler laughter, watch his face fill with dread at the thought of spending more than five minutes in a closed environment with anyone under the age of twelve. We made the right call. And we're better friends for it.

He looks at me, staring wistfully at chubby feet in BABYBJORNs, and just shakes his head.

New York magazine hit the stands this week with the cover "I love my children. I hate my life" and featured an article describing parenting as All Joy and No Fun. The playboys of the social media sphere are posting and reposting this as an everlasting affirmation of their bachelorism-as-life-choice. It's their red badge of proof.

See?! Sociopsychological science proves it true! People who have children are miserable!

Right. Sure. We no longer need to breed kids for hard labor. The modern world has made it elective. But come on. I'm just getting used to the ugly truth that marriage is an antiquated institution for catlady schoolteachers such as myself. You expect me to also relinquish the dream of porch swings and prom night primpings?

I spent some time this weekend in the company of a nuclear family that would put the Kennedys to shame. The original homestead has spread to three houses whose yards converge to form a sort of compound where children and grand children and—ohmygosh, great grandchildren—wander freely, covered in grass stains and Freezer Pop residue. That, my friends, is the point.

If you read that article carefully, you will find the following quote buried on page six:

“Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?”

There's the rub. And the fundamental difference between those of us who do and don't want kids. Me? I look forward to the day I take a backseat for what the article called the "nineteen-year grind" of parenting. (Though I'm sure my mother will relish the inevitable I-told-you-sos.) And, while I harbor no judgment for those who'd prefer to stay up front and joyriding til they're struck down by dementia and hemorrhoids, I look at Peter (looking at his nephews as if he'll burst with love) and I just shake my head.


Phoenix said...

I'm a cross between you and Peter Pan. I'm definitely not Wendy...or, er, maybe I am? Maybe that's why I want to wait to have kids.

You see, I grew up in a house where, even as the youngest, I was the most emotionally mature, and therefore I mothered and took care of everyone, including but not limited to my parents, two older brothers and a handful of cats.

So me waiting to have kids has less to do with a dislike of kids or impatience with them (although I do have a slight terror of all things fragile) and more to do with the fact that I've felt like a mother my whole life and I'm wondering when it's time for me to live MY life - because for my entire childhood, I never got that chance.

Hope that makes sense...

Kathleen said...

All my life, I wanted to be a mother. I wanted it before I wanted any career, any job, anything else. I love all children, their growth, imagination, and ability to laugh. And so I am delighted by my choice and by my sons. I will never regret them for a single moment. I love my kids.

Or maybe just a few moments, such as today, in 86 degree heat, doing the potty training thing with one and juggling a tummy bug with another. Yes. I hate my life.

I admit my scorn and loathing for the "Kids Are Evil" crowd, for the business folk who glare at me as I walk my brood onto a plane, or who roll their eyes when my kids laugh too loudly. But having a child really has to be right for you, and works best when you have lived some of your own life first. Someone once compared having a child to loving with your heart on the outside of your body. You need to be strong.

Anonymous said...

"...what children really do, he suspects, is offer moments of transcendence" New York Mag.

Transcendence says it all. That and such joy, pleasure, angst, delight. Hard to imagine life with out them. Not for all no doubt, but a life focused only on one's own happiness and needs seems a bit empty in the long run.

I'm guessing your ovaries won't pickle for some time so don't worry and enjoy today.

Scarlet-O said...

People write these articles all the time. They're like sensationalist Cosmo crap masked as social commentary. It's unnatural, not to want kids. I don't know. I think it's just some kind of population control conspiracy.

Heather Taylor said...

Having children is simply something I don't ever see happening unless I met someone who would be willing to raise them right with me. I feel like I'd be too busy with work to spend time with a child properly and give them the attention they deserve. I'm still young though, plenty of time in the future to think about this later.