There was never a time when I didn’t want kids. Sure, there were plenty of times — perhaps even a majority of the hours of my life — when I didn’t want to raise children, but having kids just seemed like part of the normal progression of life to me, like cutting teeth, jumping off the high dive and learning how to ask for a bathroom in Spanish. (Donde esta el bano?)
I remember being a young teenager and realizing that, while I didn’t necessarily envision myself ever being married, I always planned on having at least two kids. My sister and I even worked out a deal on this. My aspirations back then teetered between being a rock star and a tortured poet — ideally, both — and hers were to grow up to own a Volvo station wagon and wear pleated dress slacks from Talbots with sweaters that had ducks appliqued on them and earrings to match — but to never risk getting fat. We decided that it made sense for both of us if I would just have some illegitimate babies and let her raise them. It was a win-win plan. She even agreed to let me name one of them Wolfgang.
Even in my drug-addled early twenties, even when I dated men so wildly unsuited to fatherhood that they were almost a parody of bad boyfriends, I knew I wanted to have children. Even when I woke up in sweaty terror from an honest-to-God nightmare I’d had in which I’d dreamed I was pregnant by my then-boyfriend and would have to deal with him for the rest of my life, I still knew I wanted kids. Someday. Just not with him.
(By the way, you’d think that nightmare would have tipped me off that the boyfriend in question was not Mr. Right. Wrong. That moment only came when he kicked out the windshield of my car. While I was driving. What can I say? I looooooved him.)
So here I am, 35 years old with two children and a third on the way, shocked to find that I’ve spent most of the last decade filling my ears not with rock ‘n roll nor poetry, but with the uber-catchy tunes of the Laurie Berkner band and occasionally having discussions with other moms about how the previous host of “Blues Clues” was “way hotter” than the current one. I still shudder at the idea of playdates and have my kids partially convinced that such things only exist in cartoons — same as dinosaurs and talking rabbits. I truly believe that if you forced me to choose to between receiving a good, old fashioned, Singaporean caning or spending three hours at the park with a moms’ group and a herd of preschoolers, my only question would be, “how many lashes?” Because if it’s anything less than five, I’m choosing the caning.
All of that said, it is equally shocking to me that so many of my old friends have opted out of parenthood altogether, and mostly by choice. Faced with the same options that tempted me into shopping at Baby Superstore and buying a wardrobe full of Liz Lange, they walked back up the bar, ordered another Red Bull and Vodka and stayed blissfully ignorant about the narcotic effect of watching two and half hours straight of “Yo Gabba Gabba”. (And that really is their loss, btw.) Over the years I have deduced that the earlier people entered into the parent game, the less of a choice it was — which probably made it easier to choose. My friends who are in their mid-to-late thirties and early forties and don’t have kids find themselves wrestling with a do-we-or-don’t-we choice. But those who just drank too many Red Bulls and Vodka (or, in my case, Bud Lights at a hockey game) and found themselves knocked up, didn’t have to wrestle much with the question. In other words, the longer people wait to have kids, the more of themselves they have to lose.
(For the record, I was already married and my husband was buying the Bud Lights…)
And I’m glad that parenthood was somewhat decided for us. In fact, the next two kids were totally intentional, because once you’ve jumped off the high dive once, it is much easier to jump a second or third time. And once you know where the Mexican bathroom is, you never have to ask again. And … well, you get the point.
My sister, by the way, has three kids of her own, a rather stylish wardrobe and … a mini-van that she detests. She keeps trying to get someone to hit her and total it so that she can get a new vehicle, perhaps that Volvo station wagon of her dreams. Oddly enough, these days I’m the one of us who does more of the stay-at-home-mom thing and she is the busy businesswoman. Neither of us are rock stars nor poets. And neither of us have a child named Wolfgang … yet.