At some point in my twenties, my desire to have children became incontrovertible.
Uh-HUH. I wanted kids. Fo' sho'.
This certainty necessitated a messy break-up with my 46-year-old vasectomized boyfriend of six years. I'm sorry, Jack. You had not the sperm I needed. Plus, you were kind of emotionally shattered and full of scary landmines. In all, it was a healthy escape, that break-up spurred on by my insistent femme-eggs.
This certainty was born out of an instinctive feeling that having kids would bring me a life where I might romp with the wee ones--in slow motion--through Central Park, helping their little Hanna Andersson-clad bodies to launch kites into the air. We would fly kites. Then we would eat Italian ices before tripping over to FAO Schwartz, where we'd empty my teeming wallet on the purchase of a 7-foot stuffed giraffe.
Oh, yes. I wanted kids for the fun, the joy, the carefree adventures we'd have together.
After a few years of anguish, I got really lucky and had a couple.
Well, hardee-damn-harhar on my Vaseline-lensed visions of parenthood.
Indeed, as has been well documented in this space previously, life with kids is often more about the suck than the joy.
Sure, sometimes we get out kites. Pretty much, the kids get all excited, and then they get impatient during the 8 minutes it takes to untangle the kite string. Their repeated "Is it ready yet?" questions quickly become annoying. After that, the kite finally ready to go, the kids try running, string in hand, and then they trip and get bloody knees, or they can't run fast enough to ever get the too-big kite to fly, or the kite insists on diving straight to the ground time and again until it noses directly into some asphalt and splinters, or there's not enough wind, or, as you can see, some suck overtakes any slow-motioned vision of joy.
Other times, we go to the park, and often it's fun and all, but equally often, there are issues of strings (of snot) and bloody knees and wind and splintering and hunger and sand in the eyes that send us all trooping back home, quick-step, not at all in sun-dappled slow motion.
On average, parenthood seems to run about one (unexpectedly) terrific kid outing for every two stressful, whining, blister-ridden trips to the playground.
Parenthood, therefore, has proven to be about one-third "we're havin' a ball" and two-thirds "are they asleep yet?"
Despite this reality,
there have been surprising gratifications, ones I never imagined back in my empty-womb days.
Specifically, an unforeseen benefit of spewing out and then raising my kids has been the chance to re-process my own childhood from an adult vantage point. While my kids are having different experiences than I did, there is enough overlap that I can watch my daughter stepping into a moment, gauge her reaction, and then fly back through time to a similar day when I was eight, remembering my own reactions. I actually get to be analytical about experiences that just "were" when I was living through them myself. They give me new reflections of my own junk.
And, really, what is having kids all about, if not giving me a chance to think more about myself and how it all comes back to me?
Honestly, though, look at this series of pictures:
Jocelyn, first day of kindergarten, 1972
Girl, first day of kindergarten, 2005
MOOD: "Is there a word for both excited and nervous at the same time?"
Groom, first day of kindergarten, 1976
Niblet, first day of kindergarten, 2008 (Girl contemplates shoving him to the floor by the 5th grade lockers)
MOOD: Mock Brash
Der Wee Niblet, even without formal education, uses body language to indicate he realizes all this hue and cry may ultimately signify nothing.
The photos have it.
We are all uncannily resonating with each other. She is me, and I is her, and he is him, and we is a jigsaw that makes an us.
I look at these photos and have a revelation: all this shizz is just going to keep happening, inn't? In 2028, some other five-year-old is going to get on a bus, right?
And if that five-year-old is my grandchild, I'll look at her and see my grandmother's smile on her anxious face. Later, when she takes up gymnastics, I'll remember how her mother, my daughter, liked to do a cartwheel to approach the kicking of a soccer ball; and how I, in junior high, loved doing leaps in gym class, fully fleshing out the required navy blue polyester shorts in my arcs through the air; and how my mom, in her own navy blue polyester shorts, used to turn somersaults down the hallway lined with the green shag carpet; and how her mom used to dance in the kitchen on the hot days when she would wipe down the walls to cool down the house; and how her mom used to do a handstand in the lake when only the ladies were looking;
and how each of us will echo the other
until the whole place goes black.