How Many of You Have Children?

“How many of you have children?”

Every hand in the audience goes up except mine. There are knowing nods, eye-contact acquiescence that yes, we have the “special connection,” the misery-loves-company camaraderie among a group of people who share a common, poopy ground. They have children. Young children, old children, children who have children. Adopted children, children from other countries and other cultures. Children on the honor roll, children on the naughty chair, children who don’t have a clue, and children who tell them, the parents , what to do. Mom or Dad roll their eyes and grin at the others in the room. I go along with it until someone asks sympathetically, “How many children do you have?”

I look at them and sigh.

No speaker ever asks, “How many of you have cats?

As soon as the question is asked, “How many of you have children?” I know the rest of the speaker’s comments are for everyone else in the room, not the nameless, invisible, pitifuls in the same room. We are the ones without baby food stains on the hem of our sweater. We are the ones who don’t have to bolt out of the room at 2:30pm to pick up kids from school. We are the childless, marginalized anathema to the continuance of our species, which, as far as I know, does not need any more help in the procreation department. But we vanish from the speaker’s radar, no longer part of the group’s identity. The next set of remarks are for those who understand what parenting is all about. Not just understanding from a book either, but from countless nights walking a crying infant or wiping up the bathroom after three days of stomach virus.

I have no experience with childbirth or snotty noses. There are no hand prints on my refrigerator door. I do not lie awake worrying about MySpace pages. I am not setting up play dates or saving for college tuition. The jokes about motherhood (supposedly) go over my head. You can put a stopwatch on any informal group of women. Within five minutes, the conversation will be about children, their children and your children. Boys, girls, sons, daughters. Soccer teams, baseball coaches, playdates, diapers, doctors, ear infections. It is the grand common ground women are so good at discovering.

“How many children do you have?”

“I have six cats. All rescued”

“Oh.”

I used to get annoyed when people suggested, kindly, that my cats are my children. But I’ve gotten used to it. I understand they are trying to level the field and bring me into the fold, now awkward. But I know the difference between a kid and a cat.

This was never part of my plan, though I confess there never really was one. The stars just never aligned themselves that way. The experience that would bond me with women from all of human history has eluded me. The one thing that women have in common in all cultures: past, present and future, is childbirth. That singular ability to bring forth life (which one of my sisters describes as “s…….g” a football) has passed me by. And now it’s too late. I am in my 50’s and childless. I slept through Christmas. But I still love. I still love.

So abandon me on the ice floe. I still don’t have enough money for college tuition.

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This entry was posted in cats, children, Christmas, soccer, speaker, stars, tuition, virus. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Many of You Have Children?

  1. Bevson says:

    Like the elephant in the room, childlessness is a taboo subject. Yet we are out there and misunderstood. Have you read The Childless Revolution by Madelyn Cain? I’ll look around for my copy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I admire your bravery for sharing those deep seated feelings in hopes to connect with your readers. You’re honest and sincere. Many parents overrate themselves with their continual, most of the time mind-numbing discussions about their children and their superior roles as parents. It’s as if these people define themselves via parenthood. They love to make that “special connection” with other parents to feel a sense of belonging to complain. They are sadly missing the entire concept. Sharing stories does not mean complaining or bragging. Some stories are funny and moving; and I think most people, even those without children can get the moral and the punchline. Parents without children are not morons, they are not weird, they are not displaced, they are’nt loveless. I think society has over-emphasized and over-glorified parenthood, with the millions of books and activities and seminars. It’s overdone now, for God’s sake! Parents without children just arent experiencing some moments first-hand, yet they still love. But most parents with children are’nt experiencing anything else but parenting. Childbirth…yeah, it’s painful, it’s brief… get over it. Recovery from a masectomy is painful, too.Children are wonderful, children are heartbreaking, thank God for kids for they are people too. All I’m trying to do is love and nurture these little people; not to create war stories for parents. You dont need to be a parent to understand, love and nurture children. We were kids once too!!Yes, I have two young boys myself and they are doing well, thank you.Loved this post DJ, write on.-kimmie (fruit from the tree)

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