An only child.
When I was 10 my cousin, Chris, was born and my Aunt Lennie polled the rest of us. Tim, Sara, & Mike were siblings. I was an only child. I advocated for only children on the basis of liking being able to be on my own, of going places with my parents, of not having to fight for every inch of space and time and energy I needed or wanted. It wasn’t, I knew even then, a terribly nuanced, or even strong, argument but my convictions were pure. Chris remained an only child and I understand now that I was soothing fears, not helping to make choices, but I was flattered to have been asked.
I have been called:
Once you reach a certain age people begin to wonder why you aren’t married and they give you lots of advice. The most baffling is always to be less picky. If you would just care less about how you want to spend THE WHOLE REST OF YOUR LIFE then you could be married! Easy!
I used to date a guy...off and on for years. He was never going to marry me and for a while I was sad about that. Then, on a dark and stormy night a couple of years ago I threw him out of my house and was genuinely glad about it. He used to tell me that if I ever wanted to have kids he’d be happy to “help me out” because “we’ve got great genetic material.” He has kids with someone else now and, if all the rumors I’ve heard are true, they’ve been a real eye opener for him and not in the way he’d hoped. I don’t think genetic material is a good enough reason. What’s so special about my genes that they need to be passed along?
Things I do:
Sound out words.
Cut up banana pancakes (I hate bananas).
Dress up like a mermaid.
Bake birthday cakes.
Attend concerts, plays, and awards ceremonies.
Leave the light on.
No, I don’t want to have kids, actually. I don’t hate kids. I hate having to say that, though, because it sounds like I’m defending myself and I sort of am. It’d be easier if I was just anti-kid, but I’m not.
At my Auntie Blanche’s 80th birthday she looked around the restaurant at all the strangers staring at our balloons and cake and flashing cameras. She leaned over to me and said, “They don’t have any idea that not one person at this table is related to me.” Auntie Blanche isn’t technically my aunt. She was a role model for me and for hundreds of others she met through her years as a public school teacher and local celebrity. Single and child-free she dedicated her life to children. She’d pile a bunch of us kids into the back of her car and drive us to the beach for the afternoon. Wearing a wrap skirt over her bathing suit and a white, cloth sun visor she stood up to her knees in the cold, Atlantic ocean so we could body surf until our lips turned blue.
What I’m saying is, I learned at the feet of a master.
I do not:
Regret my choices.
Mourn my differences.
What if I had kids of my own and that meant that I didn’t have the kid-centric relationships I have now? No Kaleigh who takes my dog out for ice cream. No annual visit to Santaland with Rosa. No weirdly fascinating silent narratives at brunch with Felix. I don’t find the mythical loss of kids-I-could-have-had terrifying. It’s the idea of losing these kids I love now that drops the bottom right out of my stomach.
Many years ago Mark and Carolann had a brief lapse in child care so Felix and I hung out in deepest Brooklyn one frigid January day. After wrestling the damn stroller out the door I was determined to take as long a walk as we could stand. Luckily we wheeled by a coffee shop and I decided to thwart frostbite by snagging a table with a view of the sidewalk. I set him free but he was content to watch the world go by and I watched with him. A few moments later I felt a little hand on my thigh so I looked down and he looked up at me as if to say, “Isn’t it nice sharing a quiet moment together?”
Yes. Yes it is. It’s perfect.
*The picture above was the random one that showed up on my computer desktop when I arrived at work this morning. That was perfect, too.