Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The World Before Them

Another friend announced her third pregnancy on Facebook this week. It's funny how once three kids sounded "totally insane" but now in my circles is becoming quite the norm. I remember how having two kids sounded totally insane. Hell, I remember when one sounded insane!

I keep picturing those moments I had thought about before having two, or any kids - both screaming in the car, par example - and how awful I thought that would be, but how really not a big deal stuff like that becomes. So yes, parenting two kids looks just as I pictured it would. But it does not feel like it looks. 

It's interesting to me that when I post something funny/negative on Facebook like "a day without baby poop under my fingernails is a good day", my childless friends comment how they could never handle being a parent...yet they post daily pictures of all the things their cats and dogs have destroyed, all the vet bills they've racked up, all the poop and pee they've had to clean up. They don't see how similar this is - if you've had a high maintenance pet, you've been a parent, period. I've done both, so I know!

I'm sort of saddened and yet gratified when I think how far flung so many of my old dance friends have become in the last two years, people that I saw at least once a week and considered my inner circle for fifteen plus years. Part of it is my having children and not going out much - but honestly, none of those people are going out, either. Everyone has scattered - either coupled up, moved away, gotten heavy duty adult jobs, had kids; now we pretty much only see each other at my event, or on Facebook. Which again makes me so glad I got on the mommy train when I did. If I were still relying on my dance friends to meet my emotional needs right now, I'd be having a major crisis. I so often ask myself, during the good moments or during the bad, what else I'd be doing with my time - probably some semblance of what I'd done with my time in my mid-late 30s; travel (but not much, since I can't afford more than one-two trips a year), futzing with the house (again limited by budget), writing thinly veiled short stories about how lonely I am and how panicked that I'll never have children, and participating in various other self-indulgent activities to keep me occupied while everyone else moves on with their lives. It pains me to write such a dark and somewhat condescending portrait of who I might have been, but I write it because I know myself and I know it's true. 

I used to say it was only my final crappy breakup paired with my aunt's death in the fall of 2010 that got me on the single mother path, and that had it not been for those events that I never would have done it. But I don't think that's true. I'm pretty sure the idea to create a family with a sperm donor would have dawned on me sooner or later - but most likely a bit later in another pit of despair, and if so, a second child may have been an impossibility (no baby Theo!). But I would have at least tried for one.  I don't think I'd be the type to let parenthood just pass me by with a sad "oh well". That's kind of not my style.

In addition to my dance social scene being a bit of a skeleton of its former self, my east coast relatives are experiencing a bit of a crisis that may really change the dynamics of our family - and in a few years my sister and her husband will retire to Florida which means I may never visit the northeast again, finally closing the door on a whole life that came before me. My mother and aunt used to talk longingly about the house on Seneca Lake their grandparents had where all the cousins would congregate every summer; my sister and I never got to know that world as it was long gone by the 60s and 70s, and it saddens me that my two boys will know nothing of my childhood in "the old country" - summers and holidays at my grandparents' place in rural Connecticut, my 70s and 80s childhood in Boston and New York when those cities were dramatically different than they are now. All they'll know is Los Angeles and modern technology and changing family structures and gender roles and whatever else happens in the next twenty years. I wish I could extend my past through them, but I can't. As my old worlds wind down and come to a close, theirs stand wide open, waiting to be written.


  1. What a great post! I am so grateful for where I am compared to where I would have been if I hadn't pursued parenthood.

  2. What a sweet, sweet photo. And a great post.

  3. What a beautiful post. You have given voice to many of my own thoughts and feelings here. My own mother moved across country to live here in my town two years ago, closing a chapter on a life and access to many friends I had in that area for several decades. Although of course I will likely visit there again one day, it will be as a visitor. It will be a very different feeling. I grapple with what kind of familial roots I will give to my son too. It is something that will be the result of what I build for him and as a result of him. I often think of what I might be doing if I didn't now have him and I shudder to think of it. My little boy is the best thing that I have ever done in my life and I am so deeply joyful to have him. I am all but writing a blog post of my own here! Thanks for sharing the whole picture. It is one reason I love reading your writing. Love this picture too. You must be so proud of your two babies. Katie

  4. Ohhhh, that last sentence. Love it. So beautiful, and poignant. And true. And, love the pic, too!