The Children

IMG_3192
The Children’s Museum, Madison, WI

I drove to Minneapolis tonight, handed my friend a bottle of port, to which she replied, “I’ve kind of had a baby inside my belly for three months, so I will not be having any port.”

Mind. Blown. I thought she was screwing with me, especially since I wrote the rest of this post on the ride up. She wasn’t.

My friend Michelle thinks it’s creepy that I capitalize The Children. Yes, Michelle, that’s kind of the point. They scare the crap out of me. And not in The Children of the Corn kind of way. Though in all fairness, that movie is creepy as hell. Especially when you live within close proximity of cornfields.

When I was a senior in college, I made one of my Top Ten Hugest Mistakes Ever. My boyfriend-at-the-time and I were hungover/still drunk and bored one fateful Sunday and thought it sounded like a super neat idea to get a kitty. Like a living, breathing, actual cat, though neither of our apartments allowed animals and I don’t particularly love cats. I’m 100% sure we did not think at all past that initial thought, because a few hours later we came home with not one, but two rescue kitties. Five minutes later, I shut them in an empty room with a litter box, curled up into the fetal position on my bed and began to hyperventilate.

Those two little mewing kitties could not make it on their own, locked in that room. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t turn on the faucet when they are thirsty. They can’t dispose of their own poop in a sanitary way. Or in any way, except for that nasty box I have to clean. They technically can’t even be in this house. They need me.

Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. How did this happen? How did I get here? I can’t take care of these things! I can barely take care of myself!

That’s sort of how I feel about The Children.

I know there are all sorts of wonderfully amazing reasons why people bless the world with more life. But no one can deny some people have kids for less than awesome reasons. Like they are bored. Or they feel their marriage/life is missing something. Or, my personal favorite, to fix a failing marriage. Now, I’ve never been married and I don’t have kids, so perhaps I have no idea what I am talking about, but I am willing to bet A LOT that a tiny, helpless baby cannot, and will not, fix your marital problems. Some people “accidentally” have children to guilt another into marriage, or because they yearn for something to love them unconditionally (please, just get a dog), or to keep up with the Jones’, or to achieve that “perfect” storybook life, or because they want someone to take care of them when they get old.

I mean, damn. That’s a lot of pressure to put on an infant. Welcome to the world little human!! Your role is to entertain us, fill this giant hole in our lives caused by things much larger than you, fix all of our marital issues, bond us for life, make us the envy of all our friends, and then take care of us when we become old wrinkly babies! Don’t screw it up, or we will ruin your life. Ha…jk, jk. We’ll probably do that anyway.

Don’t you think it should go more like this?

Spouse #1 to Spouse #2 (or #3 or #4, I don’t judge): I am so happy. I love you so much. We have the best life, but I’ve been thinking. The ONLY thing that could make this even more awesome than it already is? A tiny us.

But what do I know? I can think of three horrible reasons of my own to have a child, none of which should be used to create an actual child:

  1. I want to be preggo. It’s the one thing we ladies can do that men can’t. And I think that’s awesome.
  2. I have kept a journal since like 3rd grade in which I chronicled everything: what I wore, what I ate, line-by-line conversations with every boy I’ve ever talked with, even noted if one so much as LOOKED in my direction, every fight, every pubescent drama, every feeling, ever. Sometimes I imagine my hypothetical 13-year-old daughter screaming at me after some traumatic adolescent experience, telling me I just don’t understand and I don’t know what it’s like to be her. I imagine tossing Volume 8 of My Life at her, calmly directing her to the date October 16, 1994, page 46, third paragraph down and having her read it, her face going between disbelief and awe. I then imagine saying, “Yeeaaaah. I know exactly what it’s like to be you,” and dramatically walking away.
  3. I totally want to be a grandma.

A few years ago, I found myself sitting on an airplane next to a motivational speaker for a NCAA college football team. He was fascinating, and I draped myself all over every single word of his inspirational tales. Then he asked me my age, marital status and if I had The Children.

“Me? Oh. No. I don’t think I want kids.”

He gave me That Look and patted my hand. “Oh. Yes you do.”

“…..”

“Well, of course you do.”

“No, I…I mean…I..I don’t.”

“You do. Children are life. There is no life without them.”

With all due respect, sir, please do not tell me what I want. That was the life YOU chose and the life YOU love. YOU wanted children. YOU think they are what makes life, life. I think they are sticky, messy, loud, needy, expensive, committal, scary, but incredibly awesome little creatures who are fun to hang out with for a few days and even more fun to give back. Besides, what if I couldn’t physically have children and it was emotionally easier for me to say I didn’t want them instead of admit I couldn’t? It’s such an invasive assumption to make, and right now, Mr. Motivational Speaker, you are motivating me to discontinue this conversation.

Put simply, you either have kids or you don’t. With two pretty amazing life paths open for business, I choose option B. I don’t think you’d be better off without them, so don’t assume I would be better off with them. It’s just not what I want for my life. Part of me keeps waiting to “grow up” and become like the grown ups I always thought all the grown ups were like when I was ten. I’m just now starting to figure things out. I am much too selfish with my time to devote all of it to someone else, to essentially start living for someone else, but at least I recognize that. And if we’re being honest, the decision to have a child is pretty selfish too. It’s being an actual parent (a good one) that is selfless.

photo
my nephew

And for the record, just because I don’t want them for myself doesn’t mean I don’t love kiddos. My niece and nephew are two of the raddest members of The Children I know. I mean, a five-year-old on a snowboard?

goats
inside my nephew’s mind

Come on. And a creative genius too?

Not to mention, my favorite person in the world right now drools, poops her pants thrice a day, pulls out chunks of hair for fun, and thinks it’s cute (it’s pretty cute) to smear food all over her face and clothes in public.

I have no doubt in the world that children provide the joy people say they do. I have no doubt there is no love like the one between a parent and a child. And I realize that is something I will most likely never experience. I think about the possibility of regretting my decision in 20 years. But this is real life, and not just mine. I can’t have a test child to see what it’s like on the other side. I am making a choice, one that is much easier to live with than the alternative if I am wrong.

As for those cats, they’re up in kitty heaven now. Oh, relax…semi-natural causes, I swear. I have witnesses.

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