I have probably written about this memory before, so if you’ve heard the story, just bear with me. If not, here’s a little snapshot of me at 17.
I am sitting in the back row of Mr. Ashley’s Economics class, which I am failing miserably because I pretty much have an 8th grade math level. So instead of paying attention, and especially because it is now April of Senior year, I am talking to my friends.
Girl 1: I’m not sure how many kids I want when I grow up. I’ll decide with my husband.
Girl 2: I want one or two, maybe.
Girl 3: I don’t know, I think I’d like a big family.
Their eyes turn to me.
Me: I don’t know…what if you don’t get married and have kids, though?
Mouths literally agape, as though I had just suggested the absolute nightmare scenario. Girl 3, bless her heart, was always kind of the naïve one in the group, and she says, indignant: “But OF COURSE we will!”
And that is the day I realized I am different from the average girl.
Yes, I played baby dolls. Yes, I played House. But, I preferred playing School, and I preferred books to anything. I played those childhood games because my friends wanted to, and I thought I was supposed to. After all, that’s what filled the aisles of girl’s stuff at Toys R Us. I always preferred Kevin’s toys…all his action figures had superpowers or cool tricks, and they came with cars and buildings just like my dolls. So why couldn’t I get them for Christmas?
I asked several people their opinion on being a mother, or living childfree. I wanted to know if the moms felt they made the right choice. I wanted to know if those without kids ever regretted it. Some friends told me their stories, some women commented on my tweet about it, some privately messaged me. And in nearly every single story, in the end, there was no regrets. This pleased me. It made me feel even more validated in my decisions.
I only ever considered a child though adoption, and this is not only because I was witness to my goddaughters’ birth, which was about the best prophylactic in the world. I felt like I didn’t need a kid, but if a kid needed me, I could do it. I would help them. This is one of the reasons I got into working with children and teens.
But…like I said, I didn’t need one. I knew pretty early on that kids would be difficult for me for a variety of health reasons. Just the meds I would have to go off of was scary enough to dissuade me from any potential baby-fever. So instead, I focused on my “kiddos.”
The constant reader knows that I refer to my stepchildren as such, but they are not the first in my life. My kiddos are anyone younger than my sister (the queen kiddo) whom I developed a relationship with in their youth. Bernie was first, because at the age of 13 I took on the role of “back-up mom” in her life. At 18 came D, my other goddaughter (again, Bernie was first.) She spent the first few years of her life here in Buffalo with me before moving to NYC for a chunk of her childhood. But I loved the crap out of that baby. Then one day I got a new job and met…let’s call her Sunshine…I used to. She was a wild 15 year old with a hard outer shell, but somehow we bonded and she showed me the side of her that was full of compassion and ambition and hope. Then there were my cousins…Erin, who feels totally comfortable calling me when she is in crisis mode, and knows I can help calm her down. And G, who, at 11 years old, I call my tiniest bestie…I mean, we play games and share interests and confide in each other…who cares how old she is? And then one sunny day, came my kiddos.
I didn’t ask for them., they were just part of the package. I received an anonymous insult once early on (which I’m still salty about….come say it to my face, coward.) Person went so far as to go to Google, and type in my blog handle along with “dating a guy with four kids? get higher standards,” so that I saw it in my analytics feed. I mean that is an impressive level of passive-aggression.
So yeah, I got some flack for picking up a whole tribe. But prior to that, I also got crap because I didn’t have a kid. How many times did my mother say something referencing her future grandmotherhood? 10,000 times. And other people, both friends and strangers, had their opinions on it as well.
So, I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.
I think, often, of my kiddo’s mother. I know she would die for any of them, and I would too, but she has a bond that cannot be broken with each of them. I’m not jealous or anything, in fact, I am in awe of it. I never wanted that for myself, but I respect the woman that does.
I am staunchly pro-choice, again, as the regular reader should know by now, but that doesn’t just have to do with abortion. I am pro-choice in that every woman has the right to make decisions that affect her body…and whether or not to have a child is decision number 1. I decided a long time ago that wasn’t for me. Some of my friends decided the same thing. Others, they had those babies. Girl #3 even got her big family.
Me, I got four kiddos who never leave the house without telling me they love me.
I’m all set, thanks.