I am not the kind of mother who insists that motherhood is for everyone. When my friends say that they don’t ever want to have kids, I have never once said, “Oh, you’ll change your mind.” Maybe they will – I have a friend who claimed to never want kids who now has three – but maybe they won’t. And I completely understand that.
I have always wanted kids, always. I started babysitting when I was 11, worked as a camp counselor every summer in junior high and high school, tutored second-graders in college. When my dorm-mates and I would make our weekly treks to Walmart in college, I would always make a detour to the baby aisle, looking wistfully at the tiny socks and fuzzy blankets. I struggled my way through a high-risk pregnancy to give birth to Ruby – and motherhood still knocked me for a complete and total loop. So listen, if you don’t want kids, I get it.
But I love being a mom. In addition to the fact that I adore my kids, I think motherhood has made me a better person: less selfish, more patient, less judgmental.
I still remember being at a friend’s house one Christmas Eve when I was maybe 19 and watching her 3-year-old cousin have an absolute shrieking meltdown because he didn’t like the toy her family had selected for him. “What a freaking brat,” I thought. “God. My kids will always say thank you when they get a present, even if they hate it. My kids will have manners. This is so embarrassing.” I kind of cringe, remembering that now, because wow, what a clueless know-it-all teenage jerk I was. First of all, 3-year-olds are tiny little terrorists, even under the best circumstances. And it was Christmas, the most overstimulating time of the year. And it was nighttime, after church, so the kid was clearly tired, too, and possibly hungry.
It’s the same thing with kids’ behavior in public. Pre-kids, I used to think that I would never allow my children to throw tantrums at the store or restaurants, although I don’t recall what brilliant game plan I had worked out to circumvent that. I’m pretty sure I just believed that if I parented effectively, my kids would never be compelled to screech or stomp their feet or run away from me howling, “I want Cut and Style Barbie and the Princess Celestia doll. Whyyyyyyy are you the meanest mom everrrrrrrrrrrrrr???”
I thought if I just took my kids to restaurants frequently and modeled good behavior, they would follow suit, sitting quietly with their napkins on their laps, using their knives and forks and making polite conversation with me as we discussed the various highs and lows of our days.
Ruby, at age 7, is now borderline (borderline) reasonable while out shopping, but I can still think of about 50 things I would rather do than take her to a toy store to pick out a birthday present for one of her friends.
And restaurants? Oh, man. My husband discussed this recently in his blog
, but we don’t take the kids out to eat very often. We’re both food nerds, and so a big part of our courtship was discussing recipes, using words like “fond” and “quenelle,” comparing arcane kitchen tools, hating on Food Network celebrities, and going out to fancy restaurants. Those days are well-behind us. The last time we took all three kids out to eat, we went to China Rose, and the scene was thus: Elliot was playing games on his iPhone, Ruby had gotten up to go to the bathroom and somehow ended up chatting with an older couple at another table who really just wanted her to leave them alone, and Georgia was either standing up in her high chair or attempting to escape the restaurant while Robert and I, both eating standing up, took turns chasing her. As I shoved an entire dumpling in my mouth and swallowed it mostly without chewing while Georgia flailed in my arms screaming, I turned to Robert and said, “The next time I suggest taking the kids out to lunch, just shoot me. It would be less painful.”
So our lives are a little bit different now. But that’s OK. I can honestly claim that this is what I have always wanted.