I’m just going to come out with it: I’m not cut out to be a parent. I have no problem admitting that. I’ve always had a feeling it wasn’t going to be my thing. Even as a little kid, I entertained no fantasies of being a mommy. I never played house. And while I had a weird obsession with stuff animals, I was never really into baby dolls. I’d ask my mother questions about pregnancy and then be completely horrified by all of her answers. The whole thing sounded like a terrible chain events and I couldn’t understand why people would do that to themselves.
To this day, pregnancy creeps me out. I mean, there is a person sitting inside of your stomach, literally sucking the life out of you. As an adult, I know I should be more mature about the whole thing. But I can’t seem to do it. When my friends first started having babies, I’d actively have to remind myself that the proper response was not, “Oh shit, what are you doing to do?” For the longest time, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that they were actually trying to get pregnant. Like, on purpose. I mean, for the longest time we spent so much time and effort trying to avoid such things. It took me a while to make the switch in my head. I still have my moments. At every doctor appointment, when they ask if I am or may be pregnant, I always respond with a quick, borderline defensive, “Oh GOD no. NO.” And then I remind myself to grow up.
I reconsidered my stance briefly while in my twenties. Right around the time I’d moved to Philadelphia and took a job as a nanny. It was for four-week-old twin girls. Aside from my never really being able to tell them apart, it wasn’t as hard as you might think, at least in the very beginning. When they were little babies, it was easy enough: you’d just put one down so that you could tend to the other. It’s not like they could go anywhere. So apart from the occasional spit up in my hair, it was all cuteness. And I thought, “I can I do this.”
Then they got older and mobile. And there was my first diaper blow out, the kind that requires an immediate hose down and a complete wardrobe change for everyone involved. I didn’t even know that was a thing that could happen, so I was woefully unprepared when it did. The three of us were jamming out in the basement playroom when it happened. Fast forward through the wrestling match to even get to the diaper where I then realize that the business was EVERYWHERE, including on the carpet, on my clothes, and on my hands. I’ll be honest, I panicked a little. I’d changed plenty of diapers but never got any on me. It was while I was rinsing her off in the laundry room sink, cleaning her off with Mountain Berry Dawn dish detergent and paper towels that I had two thoughts:
1.) Nope, I can’t do this.
2.) I am going to be somebody. Some day, I will be somebody who sits on a sofa with Oprah and laughs about my hard road to top (a road paved with baby poop).
I learned a lot from that job–mostly that giving them back at the end of the day was my favorite part. Parenthood is so much work, responsibility, and sacrifice. I’m just not into it. Which I used to have conflicted feelings about. Like, what kind of woman doesn’t want kids because it’s too hard? Well, I’ll tell you: This kind of woman, right here. As I’ve gotten older, I have embraced my anti-maternal vibe. It’s kind of my thing. I’m definitely an adult who speaks to a child the same way I speak to adults. My voice doesn’t get any higher or softer. Only when I talk to kids, I try to remember not to swear (with varying levels of success). Overall, it seems to work. I feel like kids are into it. Or at least, they seem to be into me. Probably because it takes one to know one and they can tell that I’m just a giant kid dressed like a grownup (well, sometimes).
My approach to relating to kids has made for some interesting conversations with my niece and nephew. I was taking my niece to the mall after a dinner at the O.G. She had just finished sharing her thoughts on dating when I noticed that she still had some marina sauce on her face. I grabbed her by her chin and cheeks and while wiping her face with a sock I found in the car, I said, “Come here. People are going to think you’re my kid. And I don’t want them thinking I’d let my kid out in public with crap all over they’re face.”
“You’d rather they think you clean your kid’s face with a dirty sock?” she responded through squished cheeks as I, in fact, cleaned her face with a dirty sock. Touché, kid.
Then there’s her brother. That adorable piece of work. Once, when he was on the verge of turning four, he had said something rude and inappropriate to my mother and I wasn’t having it. I told him to apologize and he flatly refused. I told him that I was going to call his mother to let her know what he’d said. He matter-of-factly encouraged me to do so. He also told me that our plans to go to Chuck E. Cheese were off.
“Chuck E. Cheese is cancelled,” he said. This little punk was trying to beat me to the punishment punch. So not to be out done, I called his mother in right in front of him and told her what he’d said. And then I asked her if Chuck E. Cheese was really cancelled. My sister was good enough to point out to me that he was only three and can’t cancel anything. She had a point but hey, how was I supposed to know? It all sounded very convincing with his proper use of the word “cancelled”. I thought I should double check.
Now that I’m waist deep in my 30s, I feel like I’m bringing a bit more wisdom to the table. I can tell these kids a thing or two about life. I can give them advice, a different perspective, an encouraging word. What I can’t tell them is a bedtime story. I just learned that about myself; that I am shit at telling a story. If I’m not reading straight out of a book, I’ve got nothing. Earlier this week, I was watching a three-month old little lady. That little peanut was crazy tired but just wouldn’t give in to the idea of taking a nap. So I thought I’d tell her a story. Here’s how that went:
“Once upon a time, there were three bears…OH, my God. Seriously? WHY am I tearing up? Dude, get a grip. Ok, right, so once upon a time, there were three bears. A mama bear, a papa bear, and a baby bear. And they were eating porridge…it’s kind of like oatmeal. Doesn’t matter. Um…wait, what happens? I know they go out for a while…yeah, I guess because it was too hot, so they went for a walk. And then this girl, Goldilocks, breaks in to their house. You know what, this isn’t a good one. I’m just going to read one of your books.”
I grabbed The Giving Tree from her bookshelf. I remember that book from when I was a kid. And considering the book is still in print all these years later, I assumed it must be a good one. I read her the entire story: the tree loves the boy, the tree gives everything she can to the boy, the boy takes everything he can from the tree until she has nothing left, the end. As I turned the last page I heard myself say, “Oh and shocking, he never said ‘thank you’. Uh! Shove it up your ass, Shel Silverstein!” What did I say? Not cut out for parenthood.
And that’s fine with me. While motherhood might not be my jam, it turns out being an aunt, godmother, and babysitter is right up my alley. It’s all the fun and games. And then ample grownup quiet time when I hand them back to their parents. All you moms and dads out there, I salute you. I have the utmost respect for all that you do, day in and day out. You’re doing God’s work.
And to all of you nonparents, you want to get drunk later? Because we can?