I was recently grabbing coffee with friends when the owner’s small boy came out from behind the counter and began to frantically hop around the shop and wave at us. My friends and I watched as the boy raced around our table, pretending to fall on the ground and become hurt- in the way children will do because they know it will get them attention. As the boy ran by the table I stuck my hand out for a high five and when the boy conceited to my request, my friends looked at me quizzically in a way that clearly asked: “I thought you didn’t like children?”
This isn’t the first time this has happened. In the past, I’ve made it a point to show my disdain for children whenever I have the opportunity. I used to glare at babies as they cried on the train during my commute home. I used to avoid holding or touching babies when asked by my aunts or other friends. I have no skills when it comes to interacting with small children. I think this is mostly because I’m incapable of raising my voice four octaves and smiling and praising a small human solely for existing.
I used to think it was ridiculous in every possible way that someone my age would decide to settle down and start procreating. I would see on my Facebook newsfeed pictures of people rubbing their bellies or writing due dates in chalk next to a pair of tacky baby crocs and I would audibly sigh. ‘Don’t these people know what having a baby means?! It means they’ll never be fully independent ever again,” I would think.
Recently, though, I found my sentiment towards babies changing. I find myself playfully sticking out my tongue at them instead of shaking my head in their direction while their mothers look away. I find myself wanting to hold a baby or push one in a stroller just to see what it is like. I’m not sure the exact moment when my paternal instincts seemed to kick in, but I think I realized they had arrived when I cried while watching 16 and Pregnant.
When I was six years old, my father and I had a night out at the movies. Afterwards, we walked over to the arcade. As I watched on, my father skillfully maneuvered out of a claw crane game a large, white teddy bear. I had never been so impressed by anyone in my life than in that moment. I decided to name the bear Mr. Bear (because I was a very creative six year old) and I began to bring it everywhere I went. The bear represented that special day I had bonding with my father, and it represented just how bad-ass he was at arcade games.
The honest truth is, I can scowl at babies all I want, but I would be devastated if I was never able to have a moment like I previously mentioned with my own child. I need someone to come along in my life and show me what it truly means to be selfless. I spend most of my creative time thinking about my own thoughts and writing about them; it can be exhausting.
I’m not holding out hope that the child has to be genetically my own. I’ve released any and all expectations of what constitutes a family. There is no correct or incorrect way to make a family your own. I think I’ve become so keen on the idea of raising a child because the idea of helping someone grow into a well-developed person sounds much more rewarding than focusing on myself for the rest of my life.
I am in no way ready to start raising a child at this moment in time. I can only begin to fathom the amount of responsibility taking care of another life would be. This morning I ate a stale bag of pretzels I found in the backseat of my car for breakfast. Right now I can barely feed and bathe myself and make it to classes on time. But, I’d like to think that one day I will get to the point where I’m ready.
However, I am afraid that even if I become ready to have a child, I won’t be able to. It is no secret that it is challenging for a gay couple to gain access to the club that is parenthood. I worry I’ll begin to age and the friends around me will branch off and start their own families and I will find myself longing for what they have. I often find myself wondering how it would feel to go through life never being able to win my child a teddy bear from a claw-crane game and experience a look of admiration so strong that comes from a child being impressed with their parent.
And maybe that is why I convinced myself I disliked children for so long. Maybe I was bracing myself for the honest possibility that I may never have one.