The Search for Childhood

When I was young and hated being an only child and also didn’t know how to be anything else, I would sit in my room and tell myself stories about adulthood. I would tell Peter Pan that he was being stupid, that not even he could out run biology for I knew, I was intelligent, I had discovered the undoubtable truth, that we all, one day, had to grow up. There was no use in being young if we all were one day going to be old. This is the wisdom of the eight year old who doesn’t have a lot friends.

As I grew older I would start to see the flaw in that logic. At twelve I was already beginning to long for the simplicity of being six – half my life ago at that point. My baby sister was toddling around and I had fallen so intensely in love with her I didn’t think a human heart had been capable of it. The wonder at which she chewed a Cheerio seemed endless. What would it be when she started asking for things with words, or even one day reading?

By eighteen I had settled into the comfortable logic of – life in inevitable, so enjoy it while it’s here. The Y.O.L.O. that wasn’t Y.O.L.O. I told myself firmly. All it meant was I’d never have a first day at college again so I’d better take my shot now. As a result I made a lot of stupid decisions, dated a lot of stupid people, said some really stupid stuff, and learned a lot.

My mother married my step-dad when I was ten. They had my baby sister when I was eleven, and my baby brother just before I turned 15. My first jobs were baby sitter, tertiary discipliner, shoe finder, face wiper, book reader, diaper bin emptier, receiver of hugs and kisses and spit ups and laughs, player of games, defender of forts, stuffed animal voicer, TV remote finder, game maker-uper, story teller, and lap. I am both so grateful and so angry for being parent number 3 in my siblings lives. It has made me love them more than I’ve known possible, it, also, for a very long time, made me hate the idea of ever having children of my own.

I got my first baby bug when I was twenty. It was purely hormonal and I think was evoked by starting Depo-Provera, a type of birth control that tricks your body into thinking you’re pregnant. That’s all I wanted, was to be pregnant. I wanted a baby in side of me now thank you very much. It was actually super scary. This drive and force of feeling that seemed to over take me, over rule my logic, control every part of me was crazy! I didn’t want kids! I had never wanted kids! But maybe… I possibly… wanted kids?

The bug went away, I graduated college, I started a job, I dumped a Big Ex. I adopted Dani, I met Z, I moved to New York. Z’s cousin got pregnant. I site this as the beginning of the, now, multi-year baby bug that Z and I have gone on together. Z’s cousin’s pregnancy sparked a sudden interest in kids for her in a way that she had never experienced before. Her first baby bug hit her like a ton of bricks, but that is her story to tell.

Now, Z thinks of kids fondly. They scare her in a way they never have me, but not as bad as before. She thinks maybe now someday maybe she could potentially want to have kids of her own. Me on the other hand? I have always loved kids. Smiled at them on the subway, played peekaboo a restaurants. When I was visiting family in Bolivia, my uncles wife – who speaks no English – and I (who spoke very little Spanish) communicated through mi prima. The toddler had no words yet in any language and the two of us spoke through body language and the eye contact of women around how she was doing, how being a mother was, what was her favorite type of game, how best she liked to be cradled. I sat with my cousin on my lap for the better part of two hours. It was amazing.

On Monday I had a call with a coworker who I don’t interact with much. One of the first things he said when got on the call was, “I’m working from home today, so sorry if you hear my kids in the background.” No worries, guy, none at all. Half way through our meeting he interrupts himself with, “Que paso, mi amor?” And through the phone came this tiny little high pitched voice jabbering away in Spanish, too muffled and too fast for me to make out, obviously telling him some distressing story about something or other su hermano had done to her. He placated her and then returned to our call, again, apologizing for the interruption. No worries, my friend, I love children.

You know it reminds you of who you used to be when you were young. I hadn’t even thought about splashing in puddles in decades, but I’ll do it with them.

My heart was set to explode. It was the day after fathers day and here was this guy, this genuine, sweet, good man, being the best kind of father. He spoke to his daughter with utmost respect and you could tell she was the best thing in his life. He’s good at his job and he gives his all to everything he’s got, but she comes first in his heart and he’s not afraid to admit it.

Maybe it’s just that vulnerability in men is such a rare find these days but that moment has stuck with me. Combine it with the tiny little rain boots with frogs on them and the squeaky noises that they make when they’re happy, and the growth my heart goes through every time I see my siblings – I want a kid.

Maybe I want them because I want to remember what it is to be young, to relive that childhood I was so desperate to get out of. But really I want them because of the joy and the wonder. I’ve watched two humans in very close proximity go from clumps of cells to people who can understand the political climate of their country in every nuanced way imaginable. My sister is fourteen and she blows me away every day. My brother is eleven and I see myself imprinted in his brain. Maybe I just want to play God and make a person, I’m a software developer after all, we all have a bit of a God complex. But I think really I want to just be a mom. To mother, to teach, and to bask in the glory of what people have the ability to do. What we have the ability to do.

We were all once small tiny trembling creatures, and with any grace every small tiny trembling creature will grow to change the world.

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