Appreciating What I Don’t Have

I have two points to make.

1. I do not want children.
2. I do like children.

And now, in case in ten years I have a couple of pod-people and someone wants to point this out, an immediate addendum to point 1:  I reserve the right to someday want children.

Every now and then (like today) someone asks me when I’m going to be having ‘Zee Baybeeeze’. (They don’t phrase it that way, but that’s how I hear it.) When I reply that I’m not planning to have kids, they respond – with variations, of course – with one of the following:

(a) Oh, you’ll change your mind about that! (Insert occasional winks and references to biological clocks.)
(b) Oh! I’m so sorry. (This is accompanied by a furtive glance at my lower abdomen, as if they could see a faulty womb nestled in there.)
(c) Good for you! Kids are so annoying! (Cue immediate telling of stories regarding how not-cute their own little brood can be. These stories are inevitably cute and I am forced to make ‘Aww’ sounds at appropriate intervals.)

Response (a) & (b) don’t bother me, they really don’t. I realized long ago that the only reasonable reaction to (a) was to think, geesh, that person is completely right. I may change my mind one day! Good thing they pointed that out to me!

And yet. At this point in time, at this junction in my life, I don’t see myself having children. As for response (b), that’s just funny. And potentially mean, so if you’re one of those people, you should stop, in case it someday applies.

The one I want to clear up is – you guessed it! I hope! – (c).

There’s no need to assume that just because I don’t want kids, I dislike them. I think my friends’ kids are adorable as babies, amusing as toddlers, and frankly, the second they turn thirteen I’m going to roll around on the floor laughing as their teenage worlds crumble into THE MOST IMPORTANT TIME OF ANYONE’S LIFE EVER and their parents, my dear friends, run screaming to my house for strong drinks.

So, yeah. I like kids. I will be a great auntie to any child who gets stuck with me – I will have The Sex Talk, pick them up from parties when they’re too scared to call their parents, change their diapers (hopefully not the same night) and love them unconditionally. I will babysit them. I will babysit their parents when they’re scared out of their minds and have forgotten what we were like in our teens. And I can’t wait to do all of these things.

Still, it’s not an ideal choice, not having kids. It scares me, which is why most of the time I don’t talk about it beyond a laugh and a comment on how dogs are cheaper. (Which is still true.) I worry that I will have no one to carry on my line. (Yes. I am aware of how stupid that sounds.) I worry that one day, I will be old and lonely. Let’s face it, the best case scenario for me in my dotage is that my partner lives to be the same ripe old age as I, and we die – healthy enough to live alone, and still happy to be together – within a few hours of each other. Otherwise there will be retirement homes and no one to visit . . . oh, well, except for the miriad of neices and nephews I plan to accumulate.

Hey, that’s kind of cheering!

Anyway. A parent, for all their imagined and sometimes real failings, can always look back on their lives and say that they contributed to the world. And if by some amazing chance their great-great-grandchild solves world hunger, then they have a part in that too. I’m not saying it’s a good reason to have a child – just that it’s one of the small comforts I will never have, assuming I don’t change my mind.

So I’m not making a choice of high lifestyle, here. I’m not choosing a life of non-parenthood just to have more money (though I will) less gray hair (ditto) and more free time (yep).

I wish that I wanted children. I wish that I looked upon that responsibility and that commitment and thought, I want that. But I don’t. And despite how scary it may be, and how uncertain I am of a future without children, I am very certain of this: I should not have a child unless I really want one. I will not have a child just because I’m scared not to. That’s just stupid, and unconscious, and unkind to the child.

That’s all I have to say on the subject, except for this: Thank you to my own mother, who is so truly amazing that I could never, ever live up to the standard of parenting she has set.

If I change my mind about kids, though, you can bet that I’ll try.

Reeeejected!

Gwen,

Thank you for submitting your story, “Payload”, to Daily Science Fiction. Unfortunately, we have decided not to publish it. To date, we have reviewed many strong stories that we did not take. Either the fit was wrong or we’d just taken tales with a similar theme or any of a half dozen other reasons.

Best success selling this story elsewhere.

 – Jonathan & Michele, Daily Science Fiction
PS An almost.

My first rejection from a pro market! Even though I think it’s a form letter.  I’m going to send them another short right now. That’s not sim-subbing – that’s just per-sis-tance, yo.
Also, does anyone know what the ‘PS An almost.‘ bit means? Anyone else had a similar rejection from DSF?

A Short, Untitled Something

Hullo all. Below the photo is a short….something, that I wrote this morning. It’s been critiqued by a couple of lovely people, and I have been wavering on whether or not to share it here, but obviously I’ve decided.

Clearly some of my depression (okay, lots) has it’s root in my father’s death. Since today is his birthday, this is a short…something, about him. And me.

If nothing else, it’s free reading, right? A warning: This is not a funny blog post, or a particularly happy one, and it lacks my usual flippancy. It’s sad. I’ve been told it’s not depressing, and might even cause a warm fuzzy feeling or two, but it’s sad. So if you’re having a shitty morning, maybe just give this a miss.

And now, onward with the posting.

Untitled

My alarm went off a few seconds ago. I remember it beeping insistently; I don’t remember turning it off. This means I have one hundred and twenty seconds before it starts again.

I’m drifting back into sleep, but not fully. This is the place between asleep and awake, where the boundary between the living and the dead is thin, and I can cross from one to the other without effort. I let my eyes drift shut and fall into the dream.

I’m in my truck. It’s a blue Ford pickup, just like the one sitting outside my bedroom window in the driveway. I park on the side of the road facing the wrong way, as I’m wont to do when Im lazy and the roads are quiet.

To my right is a park. I take in the lush green of the grass, the immaculate fencing, the log-cabin style shelter at one end; one wall is missing so I can see inside. Across the road (and parked correctly), my father is getting out of a deep red convertible. It looks just like the Buick Fifth Avenue we had in the nineties, if someone had cut the roof off. It’s not a flashy car, and there’s no doubt that it belongs to my father.

I smile and wave and jog across the road to him. He smiles back, a little crooked as always, a little mischievous – as though he’s about to tell a joke. My father nearly always had a smile on his face. I saw him cry three times in twenty-five years. The first is such a faint memory that it’s almost not there.

He says something but I forget it instantly. We walk together to the park, arm in arm, the only oddity. Dad and I had a lot of love and genuine affection, but we never touched easily.

In the park, there are a bunch of dogs playing and being trained. The woman leading them has long, swinging, dark-blonde hair. Her name is Carolyn. She is teaching my Dad to train dogs. He kneels as a Basset Hound runs over to him and scratches the dog’s ears. When he stands, he snaps his fingers and our dog Lucy runs to him. She died when I was eighteen, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi with all the pride and chutzpah that comes with being fifteen inches tall and certain of your royal status.

The second time I saw my father cry was when we lost this dog.

I hug Dad tightly. I have to go. He Takes Lucy’s leash in his hand and she trots ahead of him to the Buick boat-of-a-convertible. Carolyn is waiting in the passenger seat. She has places to take him. He has a lot to learn.

I wake up with tears running down my cheeks.

I have the feel of his hand in mine as I say my last goodbye. My last “I love you,” surrounded by hospital walls, echoes in my ears. I remember his blue eyes on mine.

This is the memory of the third and last time I saw my father cry.

I’m tired, but awake. I silence the alarm and see that only two minutes have passed. Dad’s quirk of a smile hovers on the edge of my memory as I glance at the date on my clock and, whispering, wish him a happy birthday.  I smile, a smile that reaches my own blue eyes.

END