Ticking Clocks

I have probably written about this memory before, so if you’ve heard the story, just bear with me.  If not, here’s a little snapshot of me at 17.

I am sitting in the back row of Mr. Ashley’s Economics class, which I am failing miserably because I pretty much have an 8th grade math level.  So instead of paying attention, and especially because it is now April of Senior year, I am talking to my friends. 

Girl 1: I’m not sure how many kids I want when I grow up.  I’ll decide with my husband.

Girl 2: I want one or two, maybe.

Girl 3: I don’t know, I think I’d like a big family.

Their eyes turn to me.

Me:  I don’t know…what if you don’t get married and have kids, though?

Mouths literally agape, as though I had just suggested the absolute nightmare scenario.  Girl 3, bless her heart, was always kind of the naïve one in the group, and she says, indignant: “But OF COURSE we will!”

And that is the day I realized I am different from the average girl.

Yes, I played baby dolls.  Yes, I played House.  But, I preferred playing School, and I preferred books to anything.  I played those childhood games because my friends wanted to, and I thought I was supposed to.  After all, that’s what filled the aisles of girl’s stuff at Toys R Us.  I always preferred Kevin’s toys…all his action figures had superpowers or cool tricks, and they came with cars and buildings just like my dolls.  So why couldn’t I get them for Christmas?

I asked several people their opinion on being a mother, or living childfree.  I wanted to know if the moms felt they made the right choice.  I wanted to know if those without kids ever regretted it.  Some friends told me their stories, some women commented on my tweet about it, some privately messaged me.  And in nearly every single story, in the end, there was no regrets. This pleased me. It made me feel even more validated in my decisions.

I only ever considered a child though adoption, and this is not only because I was witness to my goddaughters’ birth, which was about the best prophylactic in the world.   I felt like I didn’t need a kid, but if a kid needed me, I could do it.  I would help them.  This is one of the reasons I got into working with children and teens.

But…like I said, I didn’t need one.  I knew pretty early on that kids would be difficult for me for a variety of health reasons.  Just the meds I would have to go off of was scary enough to dissuade me from any potential baby-fever.  So instead, I focused on my “kiddos.”

The constant reader knows that I refer to my stepchildren as such, but they are not the first in my life.  My kiddos are anyone younger than my sister (the queen kiddo) whom I developed a relationship with in their youth.  Bernie was first, because at the age of 13 I took on the role of “back-up mom” in her life.  At 18 came D, my other goddaughter (again, Bernie was first.)  She spent the first few years of her life here in Buffalo with me before moving to NYC for a chunk of her childhood. But I loved the crap out of that baby.  Then one day I got a new job and met…let’s call her Sunshine…I used to.  She was a wild 15 year old with a hard outer shell, but somehow we bonded and she showed me the side of her that was full of compassion and ambition and hope.  Then there were my cousins…Erin, who feels totally comfortable calling me when she is in crisis mode, and knows I can help calm her down.  And G, who, at 11 years old, I call my tiniest bestie…I mean, we play games and share interests and confide in each other…who cares how old she is?  And then one sunny day, came my kiddos.

I didn’t ask for them., they were just part of the package.  I received an anonymous insult once early on (which I’m still salty about….come say it to my face, coward.)  Person went so far as to go to Google, and type in my blog handle along with “dating a guy with four kids? get higher standards,” so that I saw it in my analytics feed.  I mean that is an impressive level of passive-aggression.

So yeah, I got some flack for picking up a whole tribe.  But prior to that, I also got crap because I didn’t have a kid.  How many times did my mother say something referencing her future grandmotherhood?  10,000 times.  And other people, both friends and strangers, had their opinions on it as well.

So, I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.

I think, often, of my kiddo’s mother.  I know she would die for any of them, and I would too, but she has a bond that cannot be broken with each of them.  I’m not jealous or anything, in fact, I am in awe of it.  I never wanted that for myself, but I respect the woman that does. 

I am staunchly pro-choice, again, as the regular reader should know by now, but that doesn’t just have to do with abortion.  I am pro-choice in that every woman has the right to make decisions that affect her body…and whether or not to have a child is decision number 1.  I decided a long time ago that wasn’t for me.  Some of my friends decided the same thing.  Others, they had those babies.  Girl #3 even got her big family.

Me, I got four kiddos who never leave the house without telling me they love me.

I’m all set, thanks.

Sunflower

I don’t write much about the kiddos, even though they are a huge part of my life.  I like to keep a little privacy where they are concerned, hence the initials and a lack of current photos on my blog.  But they are growing into amazing little people, and I just want to celebrate that for a moment.  

This week I spent a lot of time with E.  During the summer, we try to take each kiddo for an extended period…a few days to a week, so that they can have one-on-one time with dad.  When M is here, we hang out periodically though the day but spend the majority of it doing our own things.  When L is here, we hang a bit more, and he likes to go to places like the store or my mom’s house with me.  Still, he retreats to play his game or watch a movie while I clean house or write.  When K was here, Mark had some time off so he was with me to entertain her.  But E was a little different.

Content to do her own thing for a while, she is also ready and willing to do anything else, too.  She even came to take Mark to work with me, something none of the others have deigned to do.  On Monday, we ran errands and such.  I truly thought she would hear the itinerary and say no thanks, but she grabbed her sunglasses and her father’s shoes and got in the car. (Sidebar: she wore these shoes all week, everywhere we went, despite having her own.) 

Tuesday was more fun.  E is a budding photographer.  Nature shots are her specialty…I have included a couple of my favorites below.  I asked her how she would feel about a human subject, and would she be so kind as to photograph me for my future website?

Of course, she said yes.

So we went to the Burchfield Nature Preserve and she took my photo a few times, in different places.  When we finally got “the one,” she asked if we could go hiking.  And so, we spent about an hour wandering the trails, looking out for poison ivy, discovering cemeteries, and trying not to fall in the creek.  Afterwards, we didn’t want to go home, so she suggested we call Kevin.  For the new reader, Kevin is my brother-from-another-mother.  He’s about as close as the kiddos have to an uncle on my side of the family, and they all adore him.  Kev is very good at getting on a kid’s level, be it video games with the boys or letting the girls braid his ridiculously luxurious hair. 

We drive out there and he wants to go explore.  Of course, we are down with the plan.  Also, E desperately wants to ride in his car…she’s something of an auto enthusiast as well.  He takes us up to an overlook in East Aurora, where she takes some photos.  Then we head over to an abandoned developmental center that the county is allowing to be reclaimed by nature, supposedly.  Finally, we ended up hiking along a creek in West Seneca.  It was exhausting, but fun. 

On Wednesday, both of us were tired from Tuesday, so we were very chill.  Still, E was more than willing to help me with some housework, and when Mark got home, we spent some time together on the porch just talking.  Thursday brought with it some more errands, of which E again had no complaint and was eager to accompany me.  Then, Friday.

E mentioned on Thursday how much it sucked that Mark had to work all week.  She said she had a great time with me, but missed her dad.  So, Mark asked off for Friday and got it.  He planned a whole day for her.

She had wanted to go fishing.  This surprised me a little.  Usually when we fish, she is the first to get bored.  She will catch one and be done, or she will catch nothing and get annoyed.  Then she wanders off with my camera to take her pictures.  She is never the one to wake up on Saturday morning and say “Let’s go fishing.“  That’s K or L.  Still, she knows her father loves to fish, and she asked if we could go.  Early Friday morning found us on our way to the Bull Creek boat launch in Tonawanda.  She caught a perch.  She was pleased, but then it started getting very hot.  So, we moved along to our next destination. 

We went to Mississippi Mudd’s for lunch, a sort of funky hot dog stand along the river.  The food was delicious, but the bees were insane.  We ate quickly and then fled.  My fool self got sweet potato fries with honey on them so of course they were swarming my food. 

Afterwards, we went out to Sanborn to visit the sunflower field.  Many photos were taken, and I definitely wore the wrong shoes for the occasion.  Especially when we went out into the U-Pick field.  Mark bought six sunflowers.  A bouquet for me, and a perfect little one for E.  I love sunflowers.  They’re not only my favorite flower, but a recurring omen in my life…I’ll have to write about that at some point, too.

Afterwards, we took her home.  I was sad to see her go.  I had a lovely week with this little kiddo.  I saw truly how much she is growing every day, turning into this beautiful and kind and funny young woman.   I know she would have preferred to spend all her time with her father, but it was lovely getting to share that time together.  I don’t have kids of my own, and I don’t plan to, but I have my step-kiddos, so the motherhood thing is weird for me.  I love them and feel connected to them, but also kind of out of the loop.  So, getting to see just the little day by day things is fascinating to me.  E blew me away this week…so talented, so clever, so compassionate.  I truly love watching them grow.

Kinda like sunflowers.

To mom or not to mom, that is the question.

I awoke today to the sounds of arguing coming from the front of the house.  Given that it’s Monday it took a minute to realize that these noises were not coming from the neighbors or outside but from the several tiny children who have taken up residence in my living room.  As I type, they are watching YouTube videos and eating breakfast, and I am unable to concentrate on blogging because I am in mom-mode.

I think about people who are full time mothers and that sort of thing blows my mind.  I love kids.  I have worked with kids my entire life, and my kiddos are the apples of my eye, but full time, every day parenting eludes me.  I’m 35, and still do not feel ready to have a child and honestly, I don’t think I ever will.  I have never had the desire to procreate, even when I was a kid playing with my dolls.  Barbie was always a jet-setting career girl to me, never barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen.  Maybe it was the way that motherhood was portrayed to me-why would one want to spend their days cooking and cleaning for ungrateful small humans who constantly need you to cook and clean for them?  No thank you.  I will be the first to admit that I am too selfish for all that.  Perhaps it was thirteen years as an only child.  I think about Bernie, who is probably as close as I will get to fully raising a human being.  In her case, mission accomplished.  However, she was a fairly easy-going tyke, and did not present the challenges that, say, the kiddos do.  Four kids are a lot, and for that alone their mother is a saint.

Of course, I adore them.  I often tell K that I fell in love with her before her father, which is true.  She was only one when I met her, and I knew I loved her months before I knew I loved Mark.  M is growing into this amazing young man, who surprises me whenever I see him with some new knowledge or story.  L is our resident comic, and probably the most genuine boy I’ve ever met.  E is tough as nails and always willing to lend a hand.  They are all so different and so alike and so wonderful, and I am sure that being a parent is rewarding, and this knowledge combined makes me think that maybe, someday…

No.

See, I start to imagine a world with a baby but that becomes a world with a toddler, then a child, then a teenager, and that’s a little different.  I’m still not sure that life is for me, and I’m not willing to give it a shot unless I’m sure.  I don’t stand alone in this.  Many women I know have chosen not to have kids, from reasons ranging from medical issues to concern for the planet’s population.  It really doesn’t matter why you don’t have kids, but people need to stop shaming those that don’t.  I recently told Mark that I am asked more if I have kids than any other question, and he was shocked.  He rarely gets asked about his kids, and when he does it’s usually by women who have them.  I am asked how many kids I have before I am asked what I do for a living.  It is assumed, since I am a woman in her 30s, that I have children.  I have seen people react with great surprise when they learn I do not.

What’s worse is asking why.  People ask WHY we don’t have kids.  Like it’s unheard of to decide you’re not suited to that lifestyle.  Or worse, what if you have a medical reason for not having children?  How dare strangers ask you about that?  I have actually had women tell me that as a female, it is our responsibility to procreate.  That is as offensive to the woman who can’t have a baby as it is to the woman who doesn’t want one.  Sometimes I wonder if the women who get all up in arms about me not being a mother really wanted to be one in the first place.  It all has a very “misery loves company” kind of vibe, and you don’t get to pull me down with your mistakes, lady.

In conclusion, parenthood isn’t for me.  Step-parenthood, I’m pretty good at.  I just never really wanted to create a child, I guess.  I like to take care of the kids I work with.  I like to take care of the kiddos.  I liked taking care of Bernie.  Still, I have no desire to procreate.  And as the years keep passing, I don’t think that desire will manifest itself.

So today I will make a cup of tea and clean the house, and it will be nice because for once I won’t be doing it alone, and I will appreciate the kiddos for their love and help and every way they brighten my day.  But I will also spend time by myself, because that’s how I recharge, and I will update my blog and go about my life, because I don’t have some small and helpless being to attend to.  I don’t really care if other women think I am less than them because of it, because they don’t know my life.  The decisions we make should be our own, and no one should tell us how to live our lives

Mommas

Sunday is Mother’s Day.  This weekend we have the kiddos, and then when they go home I’m having dinner with my mother, ergo the likelihood of me posting this weekend is slim, so here it is today:

I am not a mother.  I made the conscious choice to not be a mother.  Were I to one day become pregnant and end up being a mother, that would be fine and we would deal, but as of now, I am not a mother.

I am a step-mother.  I became one in 2016, though I felt like one years before that.  Recently M turned 13, and I thought back to the day I met him.  He was five years old and explained to me the difference between Transformers and Decepticons.  L was four, and I fed him a hot dog for lunch and taught him a secret handshake.  E was two and very shy but watched my every move with those beaming brown eyes of hers while clutching a rubber duck that she eventually placed in my lap.  K was only one and screamed and cried until Mark laid her on the bed and I sang her Too Ra Loo Ra, and she fell asleep, and I fell in love with them, before I’d even fallen for Mark.

Now they are the lights of my life.  M and L are becoming such amazing young men, and the girls are bright and beautiful and talented.  When they are with us, we create this cohesive family that I miss when they’re not around.  I love them fiercely, and until they came into my life I didn’t realize a love like that existed, save maybe for what I feel for my sister.  Which brings me to…

I’m also a Godmother.  I became such at thirteen when Bernie was born.  Technically I wasn’t old enough so I had to be called a “witness,” which I thought was just plain stupid.  Then at twenty I did it again when Beth had D baptized.  Obviously, I loved those kids.  My sister needs no explanation-I lived beside her young self for years.  D was like a daughter to me in some ways when she was young, and Beth was just starting out as single mom.  We would dream together about her future.  Now I look at her and see exactly what I hope the youth of today is.  Not those tide pod eating idiots but real, down to earth, conscious and awake kids who have talent and drive and passion.  I see this in both Bernie and D and I see it in so much of todays youth that it gives me hope.

So, while my “mothers” have prefixes, I still have found places to give that love to.  Likely because I was taught to love, and that is because of the most important mother, my mother, Maureen.

I will not go on and on about my mom because to explain the amount of love she has given me would take years.  It also leaves me speechless.  How can one put into words a love so huge that it knows no depth?  That Is what my mother feels for me.  I like to think that it is akin to what I feel for my kiddos, but I know it’s not.  I know their mother loves them like mine loves me and Bernie, and that is somehow so much more.

I’m okay with not being a mother.  I like my privacy and alone time too much.  Kids kind of squash that out.  I don’t know if I could make the sacrifices that I have seen other mothers make.   Although, maybe I could.  I have seen some women downright rally the moment they found out they were pregnant, driven by an instinctual need to protect the fetus.  Maybe it’s some superpower women have that lies dormant until we’re pregnant, maybe it’s animal instinct.  Either way, the mothers I know are fierce warriors for their children, and I am proud to have made their acquaintances.  So, Happy Mother’s Day, to them, to you, to all of us.

Me and Momma, sometime in the 80s.4973_106984949904_7087846_n