“You’ve really got to get yourself one of these,” my friend’s husband said to me while pointing at his five-year-old daughter.
“I’m going to pass.” I looked at him and smiled, trying to be pleasant. While I’m fairly confident he didn’t mean to sound like having a child was as easy as picking up a pack of sea monkeys from Target, the comment left me bristling.
Sensing my uneasiness, he continued, “I just mean that you’d make wonderful parents.”
“I don’t need to have a child. I can borrow yours whenever I want ” I toasted to his good fortune at having free babysitting and then took another swig of my drink.
This topic of conversation has come up more than once and it always seems to be the men who start it with me. Most women wouldn’t be stupid enough to casually drop that kind of line in public on another woman. It would be kind of like me saying to my friend’s husband, “You know, they’re doing great things with hair plugs these days.” I don’t understand why one would tolerate going bald but I’m not going to question another person’s right to let it happen. Well, I’m not going to do it in front of a room full of people at least.
Don’t get me wrong. I like children. Let me be more specific. I like some children. I have two very close friends with kids who I adore. They are sweet and fun and when we’ve all had enough of each other, I can go home without them. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing of my girlfriends.
For as much as my friends love their children with all of their hearts, there are times when I know they wouldn’t mind trading places with me just for a few hours. Generally, this is when the husband is out of town, it’s 8pm in the evening and one of them is struggling to keep it together between the kids fighting over who ate the last cookie and the dog peeing on the floor.
This is when I get a text along the lines of, “Crap, I’ve run out of gin,” followed by, “Just knock me unconscious now.”
I try to be consoling by writing something to the effect of, “This too shall pass,” and “If it makes you feel any better the cat puked on the cream carpet and I’m drinking warm Pinot Grigio.”
I know this doesn’t make her feel any better but I clearly have nothing on her in the one upmanship department and can only hope to get her to crack a smile.
The reality is that there are times when I wouldn’t mind trading a few hours with her. When her little boy whispers a secret in her ear because she is the only person he wants to tell, my heart breaks just a little. I know that I will never have that hug that only a child can give his mother. It is singular and special and an experience that eludes me.
This isn’t to say that I’m unhappy not having children. I’m truly not. It’s just that there are moments when all of us miss something we don’t have. For my friends, it’s those times before children when the ultimate responsibility of raising a person wasn’t on the table. For me, it’s a relationship I’ve never known.
I’m sure this is what my friend’s husband was getting at that day he told me I needed a child. I understand. I know what I’m missing. What he fails to recognize is that it doesn’t mean I want his life.
I enjoy being the pseudo aunt to my friends’ children. I buy great gifts, I enjoy watching animated movies, I never tire of eating pizza, and I always carry gum. Plus, I keep gin in the house in case any of my friends need a martini. Everyone is happy.
In the end, the moments we think we’d like to trade in seem to be made up by all the ones we never would.