Yes, I want kids someday. And I’m sure that when I have my own I’ll think they’re swell. But for now, when it comes to other people’s kids who can walk and talk, I don’t like to play with them, I don’t like them running around my feet in stores, and the sound of their shrieking laughter on my street makes me slam my windows shut like a 90-year-old recluse.
And yet the expectation is that I should, because of my age and gender, love all children and act like a mom despite my parental status.
For instance: I’m in Marshall’s. I’m minding my own business, browsing the women’s shirts. The next thing I know, something living scampers beneath my feet, causing me to lose my balance and nearly impale myself on a clothing rack. Just as I turn to kick whatever thing it was that tripped me, I see a Mom. And what does she do? She looks up at me with that universal smile that says, “children are God’s gift to mankind, and while I’m sort of a little bit sorry that mine got in your way, I don’t really give a shit, and so I’m smiling at you with the expectation that you will put my needs and the needs of my children ahead of your own!” To which I guess I’m supposed to respond with a smile that says back, “Yes, children are indeed God’s gift! And because of that I don’t mind that yours almost made me break my ankle. God bless America.”
Of course, what I’m really thinking is, “If you can’t control that thing, maybe pop it back into your vag for a couple of hours while you shop so that it leaves the rest of us alone.”
The same thing happens when a child is running up and down my street and screaming. Sure, there are some families in my neighborhood, but ultimately I live in the city, and so anyone running down the street screaming for an extended period of time is what I would call a noise disturbance, and would typically handle by opening the window and screaming at the hoodlum to kindly STFU. If they’re lucky I won’t throw anything at them.
Yet somehow, I doubt that anyone would take kindly to me yelling at their kids the same way that I would yell at a full-grown person who wasn’t watching where they were going, or who ran up and down my street hollering but wasn’t being attacked. But of course, I’ve never tested the theory, and I probably never will, because the fact that happy children incite rage in me instead of lactation makes me feel bad about myself.
Am I lacking a mom chip, I wonder? Do I hate humanity? Am I doomed to be bitter and angry as my precious eggs slowly but surely wither away and die over the next five years, a meager yet apt metaphor for the same thing happening to my child-hating soul?
Yes, I know that my insecurity stems in part from the bullshit that society has fed me by way of studies about fertility and age, and commercials for laundry detergent. But the feeling that I’m on the wrong side of the biological fence only intensifies as reality begins to mimic advertisements — my friends push out their fully formed fetii, and we gather for dinners that look more and more like my parents’: women in one room with the kids, men in the other room with the TV, and me, the childless aunt, trying to stay far afield from anyone with a sippy cup and jam-coated hands (generally a good life rule anyway).
What’s most surprising, perhaps, in all of this is the way that this take on children makes me feel like I need to be on the defensive. Once people pop out a few (or even one!), they seem to forget that once upon a time it was cool that our lives were different, and that we had each made our own decisions and forged our own paths. Along with that forgetfulness comes the inability to understand the whole point of this post — that I simply don’t like interfacing with other people’s children.
Now, I do have a dog, and I know that’s a meek comparison, but it’s the best I’ve got, so I’m going to go with it: I think my dog is great. I love when she jumps up on me and licks my face. But I recognize that some other people — like, possibly everyone else — don’t feel the same way about her that I do. And so, when they push her off, or tell her “no” (which I try to pre-empt by doing the same) I get it, and I don’t ever say to them, “once you have a dog, you’ll understand.”
Well, it should be the same way with your children. Sure, they’re cute, and buying them very small versions of the clothes I buy myself is all well and good. But I have absolutely zero interest in feigning a smile as they bang repeatedly on a rainbow xylophone, and I don’t give a shit what chalk drawing they made outside my apartment this morning. Here’s the big newsflash: it’s only cute to you.
It makes me feel a lot better to kow that I’m not the only one out there, especially becuase I will cop to the fact that my annoyance with children touches a deeper-seated biological question than I would like for it to. But regardless, I maintain the right to try and muster the nerve to scold those poorly behaving kids, and to look their moms or dads directly in the eyes with a steely glare that says, “MAYBE IT’S TIME YOU TOOK YOUR CHILDREN HOME.”