Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Way-Back Machine

In other posts, I've made thin references to the fact that, as a child, I never felt destined to drive a mini-van. In fact, I wasn't all that fond of children. Period. Not even other children my age, who I considered to be small, more obnoxious versions of those they called "mom" and "dad". I'm not sure what caused my distaste for all things small and whiny, but I suspect that it all started when my cousin (a year my junior) sat captive in her playpen and screamed at the top of our lungs while our parents and grandparents ate Thanksgiving dinner. If family legend is to be believed, I calmly pushed back my booster seat, put my napkin on the table, stood up and rebuked her by saying, "People are eating here!" I was three-and-a-half. I've recently turned thirty-two and the aforementioned cousin and I haven't spoke in twenty years.

When I was seven, I rashly followed the advice of one of the neighbor boys who tried to school me on the athleticism of going head-first, on a skateboard, down a recently repaved driveway. About three feet from the point-of-no-return (where the rubber on my size 11 Keds would cease to arrest the momentum of my descent), I realized that seven year old boys weren't very smart...and, by virtue of trusting them, neither was I. This monumental discovery really sank in while I sat on the counter in our kitchen, while my mother applied liberal doses of Mercurochrome (aka, monkey blood) to the gaping wounds and road rash on my face and forearms. I realized that kids were not smart and that I had the misfortune of being one. As I sat on the old, beat up ottoman, with a bag of frozen peas plastered to my head, I decided that I wasn't going to be one...and I certainly wasn't going to have any of my own. So, it was with great determination that I looked at my very Catholic parents and said, "I'm not having any children."

Fast forward to today. I have four children! What the heck happened?! I recall being the only girl in Marriage and Family class who called Mrs. Miller insane when she asked us to create a faux baby registry and budget for a family of three. What "three", kimosabe? I planned on being a "one"...a "two" at most. I recall graduating from high school and shaking my head at the girls who couldn't wait to start families. What was the rush?

After my second year in college, I returned home during a summer break to earn some pocket money. My father, being the ever resourceful man he is, had already arranged for me to babysit for some friends of his. The first day I babysat, I spent a mind-numbing hour watching a, then, up-and-coming, purple monstrosity, quite unfairly labeled a "dinosaur", singing. If there is a God and hell exists, surely...that dinosaur welcomes one at the entrance to the pit. I spent the next seven hours wiping runny noses, trying to get the kids to get excited about the endocrine system (I was boning up for Fall semester), and reading "Barney Goes Potty". Needless to say, after two weeks of that routine, I was quite, quite sure that "Kids = not for me."

Verily it came to pass that on the day Orenthal James Simspon went on a joyride across the greater Los Angeles area, I realized that a certain visitor had went AWOL. Maybe it was the talk of blood and missing persons that did it? A quick bit of mental math confirmed what I already knew before the rabbit died (ok...no rabbits were actually harmed, but some will get the reference); I was pregnant.

In 1994, I was Catholic. I wasn't sure why I was Catholic or what that really even meant... but, I did know that abortion wasn't an option for someone of my religious background. Still... I fought with the decision for weeks. By the time it came time to "choose", I realized that my choice had been made. Maybe it was fear? Maybe it was just laziness? Maybe I realized that the choice WAS mine and that, unlike all the other children that I'd been presented with or foisted upon, this time... it was all "on me". And, so I embarked upon a journey and an experiment. Did I hate kids...or did I just hate the kids I knew? Why did I hate them? I chalk my rationale up to pregnancy induced psychosis, but I approached parenting like a science project. I read every book I could find. I observed every parent-child relationship I could see. I made a bunch of primary hypothesis and then... I had this wonderful little girl.

She was absolutely gorgeous. She was awesome. Then, the doubts crept in. As I nursed her on a bench, in between classes, one afternoon... I started to cry. Who was I fooling? I didn't know how to parent and I wasn't even sure that I wanted to. I was just "getting by". I employed the scientific method more often than one should admit as a means of parenting, but...it was all I knew. But, it was the most frightening experience of my life; holding all of that potential and wonder in the crook of my arm. As I sat there, a haggard looking young woman walked up to the bench and threw herself down. At her feet were two crying, runny nosed children...and they were being awful. I looked at my own infant and she smiled. Her first smile! I looked back at the two screaming children...and back to my own smiling child... I did this many times. By the time I was done nursing my child, the poor woman beside me was crying...and I found myself comforting HER. Me. The person who never wanted children...who couldn't stand them... was counselling this woman who was, as it turns out (oh, sweet irony), on her way to Church. I, on the other hand, was headed towards the library to check out a few books. As we parted company, the woman said, "You're a natural."

Stunned, but a bit pleased, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the shade of a pine tree, reading "Intro to Advanced Methods in Microbiology" to my gurgling, cooing infant. As I watched her, I realized that parenting wasn't about having the baby or liking kids...it was about loving yourself enough to allow for trial and error. It was about learning to expect the unexpected and adjusting to compensate for the newness of life. It was about reconciling the past with the present and forming a new hypothesis. I love my children. I love having children. My name is Possummomma...and I drive a mini-van.

29 comments:

Fiery Ewok said...

What a lovely tribute to motherhood! Your possums are very fortunate!

As I watched her, I realized that parenting wasn't about having the baby or liking kids...it was about loving yourself enough to allow for trial and error. It was about learning to expect the unexpected and adjusting to compensate for the newness of life.

Thanks. I needed that!

carolus hereticus said...

PM,

You're an inspiration and a role model for atheist parents everywhere.

However, _I_ still don't want any. More power to you!

CH

lynn's daughter said...

I was the opposite - I wanted children for a very long time but now I think I should have only had one. I like the story of your childhood - it reminds me of the ones my husband has told me. He likewise did not want children nor did he appreciate being one. I loved being a child. In many ways, I still am one.

Sean the Blogonaut said...

Wiping a tear from my eye.

travis said...

That's just amazing! Your eloquence knows no bounds, PM. I'm close to tears just reading about your experiences, and the beauty of parenting.

Sara(sassy) said...

What a great post!

I love everything you said. :)

Natalie said...

I love this post. I never wanted kids either for a lot of the same reasons. And now here I am, married and a year and a half into "trying" to have a child, having just gone through IVF to hopefully get a child, and I already feel like my entire life has been turned upside down. I'm still scared of the idea of being a mom. I hope I can do my child/ren right. I just hope I'm a "natural" too.

evolveintobirds said...

Wow. I so relate. I have never felt comfortable around kids. I only intended to have one but am so grateful to have my three. As an adoptee and only child I feel so deeply, indescribably connected to them. I still avoid other people's kids like the plague and suspect that will never change, but I can't imagine my life without mine.

Betsy said...

Beautiful.

David W. said...

A wonderful telling of a wonderful story, PM. Not too very far from my own evolution into parenthood. It wasn't that I hated kids, I just feel very very uncomfortable around them. Eventually there was just a *snap* in my head and my perception shifted. I don't know what triggered it, but suddenly when I asked myself if we were ready for kids, the answer was yes. Holding my own son in my arms was the first time I had ever held a baby without being scared to death. Maybe it was nine month of prep time, but I think that was when being a daddy really kicked in.

Atheist in a mini van. said...


However, _I_ still don't want any. More power to you!

CH


;) Understood. And, I hope this didn't come off as one of those "everyone should have kids" or "you'll change your mind" posts.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

I love reading the stuff you write. Thanks for the uplift :)

Poodles Rule said...

And, I hope this didn't come off as one of those "everyone should have kids" or "you'll change your mind" posts.

As someone who is childless by choice, it didn't.

I think most of my more secular friends and family are the ones who accept personal choices about family. It is the religions ones in the family and strangers for that reason who have always felt the need to comment on my breeding (or lack there of). Funny.

Poodles Rule said...

religions = religious, if I could spell today that would be great.

Berlzebub said...

That was truly touching, P-Momma.

I think every parent gets the fear of the unknown, before the child arrives. The key thing is to be responsible and do the best you can.

By the way, my wife bought several books, but my daughter has done the complete opposite of what she read. I had two explanations for this.
1) She's my kid. Of course she's a rebel.
2) She can't read.

Thanks for the uplift.

-Berlzebub

erin said...

This is really beautiful. I actually spent the vast majority of my life saying that I didn't want children, too. When I met Shane, I started to feel differently...but up until the moment I held Luke in my arms, I still wasn't quite sure. I'm still a little hesitant on the minivan front, but who knows? Someday I might be joining you there!

Stan said...

I get the impression that we'd have been great friends as kids. I never liked kids, and I never really considered myself one. On the other hand, I'd always had the idea that, even though I don't like kids in general, I'd like *my* kid. It was a leap of faith. And it's turned out to be true.

fubarmonkey said...

Very sweet story. I was that way about children for a very long time until I had feelings for someone who had a kid. After a while, her son grew on me and since then I've had a desire for children (even if they're not my own).

But despite all that's going on nowadays, I'm guessing it's different for women. There seems to be an unspoken expectation that they should have children.

My friend always told me that the people that say they don't want children are the most likely to end up with them.

aimee said...

This is such a change from reading other blogs like "Up on Christian Hill". This person is OBSESSED with NFP and that sex is not recreational, you must always go into it with the mindset that you could get pregnant and that is god's will.....ARGGGGG!!!!!!

Great story Pmomma, I have 3 of my own and wouldn't know what to do without them, even when they are driving me crazy in MY minivan in Denver :p

Mattias said...

Hmm, so you deleted the Madeleine, the Pope, and Harry Potter post? Perhaps, even if you disagree with your thoughts back then, you should have left it but added a comment that you thought it over or something. Just a thought.

redrobin said...

lol, um it's called the 'archives' mattias, the posts do still appear to be there ... and thankyou for the lovely post, P-Momma :) Looking forward to maybe having our own possum one day!

redrobin said...

*well the Madeline one does anyhoo, haven't looked for the others to be honest! Didn't mean to sound snarky, btw Mattias - the 'archives' section is found under Older Posts at the bottom of each page I think ...

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Hmm, so you deleted the Madeleine, the Pope, and Harry Potter post? Perhaps, even if you disagree with your thoughts back then, you should have left it but added a comment that you thought it over or something. Just a thought.


I deleted it because, after consideration, it was overly snarky (considering the situation). I was in a bad mood when I posted it and just... well, was cranky (as one of the commenters rightfully pointed out). It was only viewable for about twenty minutes.

I know that you had posted a comment and I took your words to heart. I'm sorry if you're, yet again, disappointed (today) by my actions. It's just been a very bad day.

Jeff said...

I wish life had an undo button.

Star42 said...

Blech. Excuse me, after reading all this drivel, I have to go vomit now. Kids suck, end of story. Besides, forcing someone to live life is an act of cruelty.

Jeff said...

Hi there "Star42".

Y'know, one of the really liberating aspects of not having to kowtow to some outdated superstition - with all of their contrived "moral" claptrap - is that we are free to follow our desires just so long as they don't interfere with others.

The "Golden Rule" is not a "Christian" monopoly.

You sound like someone who is in need of some simple assistance, or direction. Assuming you have no dependants, nor anyone really close to you, may I recommend these tracts as being of immense potential benefit to you:

This one and this one and this one.

Knowledge is power.

Bless you.

RICHIE said...

Star 42

People first! Last week-end, I visited a 25 yr old lady and her husband at an area birthing center. I've known them as a couple for 7 years and the lady since she was 4. I've watched her grow as the youngeat member of a famiy of 7. She struggled as a kid. She "lived" at our house during many of her younger and preteen years. I can say I watched her grow up, educate herself, marry and now I was visiting her within 40 hours of the birth of Olivia Briel. She placed OB in my arms and my soul lit up with joy! You see, Star 42, we lost our first to a heart condition at 8 days of age. Three more followed, the youngest of whom took "grandpa/me" to visit Beth and Andy. Beth's a PT/Asst. in a nursing home. Andy, her husband is a cop! Together, they witness to a lyric of a Bob Dylan tune = ".....he who aint' busy being born is busy dying......." daily. Star - you don't need to serve a kidlet - if you didn't help create the tike or have a responsibility that fostered or demanded a protectve role. Just the same - you can find joy - as Dylan says, "......cause...you got to serve somebody......" Sleep well - learn - love - live!

http://myspace.com/richiedeadhead

Minivan Mom said...

Hey - I'm visiting after seeing you sign my blog - and I definitely think we could be friends! :) But you probably figured that out already if you read some of my recent posts! Excellent post. I'm going to add you to my blog rounds - like your blog!

BrianX said...

I usually keep my mouth shut because it really isn't any of my business, but when I hear women (generally high school or college) say they don't want to get married or have kids, the thought that usually goes through my mind is "You sure about that? You might change your mind someday." Or, she might not. It's her choice. I just don't like hearing people be so final about it when they can't possibly know how they're going to feel five, ten, fifteen years down the road.

Me? I'm not so sure I'd be a good dad -- I lack patience and a number of other things. But I do have a nephew who I love, and he'll do for now :-)