Or: “A Family is not a Family without Children”*
I have a problem.
Whenever I think of my hypothetical family to be, it always comes fully stocked with children. Plural. They will be beautiful little babies with chubby cheeks who like to cuddle and quickly learn to sleep the night through. They will attend a variety of arts and crafts classes and spend weekends playing Huckleberry Finn at the treehouse I will provide for them in the backyard. They will have lots of friends with whom they will share toys and form lifelong friendships.
When they grow up they will obviously get into trouble of some kind or the other but I will be there for them and we will come through it all without too much trouble. And if something does go seriously out of whack, I will then transform into Rekha from Khoon Bhari Maang and kill all those who did my babies wrong! (Because once you’re a mother, the Law does not apply. Fact.) However, I will first make certain they know the evils of disobeying their mother (Me) by volunteering them at camps, clinics, etc where they can study at close quarters what happens to the sad people who stray from the path of the sober and righteous (as defined by Me).
They will be very strictly brought up so they will mind their manners in company, never throw a tantrum or create a scene in public. They will never whine to go home in the middle of a concert or start wailing in an airplane right next to a weary business traveler trying to catch some shut eye after having been up for fifty-six hours straight on nothing but copious amounts of black coffee and Red Bull.
And since overpopulation is a very real threat and I want a large family with kids all born a year or so apart because I think that just works out better in the long run, I decided in my teens that I don’t necessarily have to birth all these lovely children. Adoption is definitely the way to go unless I’m prepared to be a hormonal mess for about ten/fifteen years or so – which I am not.
At some point in the future, these children will all grow up and become wonderful citizens of the world – they will be musicians and artists and dancers and actors and maybe a teacher or something more conventional in the middle of it to balance it all out. They will be kind and generous and hold the door open when they see a lady coming. They will launder their clothes and take regular showers. People will frequently compliment me on their very existence. And when they all come home for the holidays, I will be the matriarch and look around the table at my lovely accomplished children and feel smug about a job well done.
[Oh, and, er, they’ll have a father around too, of course, who, er, throws a football at them or something. Actually, it just occurred to me that I haven’t thought about a father for these hypothetical children of mine. Not because I don’t think fathers are important or anything, but mainly when I imagine my equally hypothetical other half, it’s never occurred to me to put the two together except in the vaguest of terms so I’m not thinking of him in fatherly terms. Ahem.]
As you can see, I have it all figured out. The only problem with my lovely vision? Children.
Nothing against them, per se (some of them are like family to me), but I’ve watched them for some time now and I’ve noticed things about them – things that give me pause.
They frequently suffer from runny noses, for instance (I guess my mother was right – those hankies pinned to my classmates’ sweaters weren’t the fashion statement I always suspected they were; it was more a commentary on their hygiene. Newton’s Fourth Law: Amrita’s Mom = Never Wrong) and sometimes wipe them on their sleeve. Which is just yucky. Then there is all that cleaning of bum and spit – they can’t help that any more than they can help getting carsick, throwing up for absolutely no reason at all in the middle of the night, getting chicken pox right when it is most inconvenient for the family to be quarantined, and things of a similar nature. But it’s not something to look forward to, is it?
Also, I understand there are no kennels for children where you can leave them and go off on a holiday. Once you’re a parent, it seems you’re stuck with them 24/7 – and if my parents are anything to go by, you’re stuck with them 24/7 all your life. And, in what can only be a symptom of Stockholm Syndrome, you apparently reach a point in your life when you actively miss taking care of the little critters. Imagine that.
[I’m thinking back to all the shit my parents went through bringing me up when it would have been far easier to let me just die already and, um, somebody deserves a thank you card!]
But quite apart from children being children, there is also the question of whether I actually want any. Obviously, I would like those Benetton ad imaginary kids of mine – in the same way I would like Paul Newman circa 1969 to come ask me to marry him (or! be the father of my children! See, making up for lost time!) – but the best part about those kids is that they are Not Real.
They never argue with me, they think I’m the most amazing person on the planet, they do exactly as they’re told, I love all their friends, they have extremely easy teen years, have perfect eyesight and very straight teeth, and I can leave them behind on a vacation, no problem. They teach them early how to fix themselves a meal over there in fantasy-land. Like, when they’re fetuses.
When I think back to my own childhood, this is the person I remember. Being my parent was and is a complete joy as far as I’m concerned – I like me very much and have always been very glad to have me. But I have a sneaking suspicion my parents might cavil at such a wholehearted endorsement.
Shocking, I know! How could they possibly?! But it’s true. I just can’t shake this feeling… and if they feel that way, how will I feel in their shoes?
If only children weren’t actually people, I think my choices would be much more simple. I mean, if someone were to ask me whether I would like a very affectionate doll, I would say yes in a heartbeat. A puppy, on the other hand, would throw me off my stride a bit and I might ask for some time to prepare myself by training with a goldfish first, but I like dogs and would probably be very happy to have one. In fact, I wanted one as a child. I think. I could have wanted a TV in my room. It was one or the other. I don’t remember but I didn’t get either so it doesn’t really matter.
But children? I know every idiot can have one, but the question is do I want one? I guess it depends on the company. I hear Paul Newman was a great dad.
*Insight brought to you by A Grand Old Lady.