One of the sites regularly visit has a blog that the women writers contribute to on a variety of topics, from a female perspective. Sometimes, they ask readers to send in essays on particular topics. I've done it in the past and had them use one of mine.
Recently, they asked readers to send in essays regarding the choice to be child-free. They wanted to know when they knew and what the experience has been. Fifteen months ago, I could've written them a pretty good essay. However, life has gotten in the way.
I am no longer child-free. I didn't get accidentally knocked up or impusively adopt a child out of some biologicial urge. No, that isn't what happened at all.
Fifteen months ago, I invited my mother, her much younger sister and her young son to move in with me halfway across the county. My aunt has had a drug problem for the better part of 20 years and her life has been far from easy (even if a lot of it was her own doing). Her and my mom were going to get a place together in California, but just couldn't find one they could afford that was in decent enough neighborhood. So, I thought, what the hell, I can help them out. And that is what I did, I tried to provide my aunt with a safe environment to reinvent herself and give her the opportunity to start over and provide for her son, hopefully on her own at some point in the future.
I didn't think the whole thing through or I probably would've kept my mouth shut. A crowded house, demands on my time and a grocery bill that increased 200% were not things I had thought of while I was making the offer. But, I kept reminding myself that I was doing something good and did I really need all the peace and quiet?
Six weeks ago, my aunt left. There were some issues with 3 women living in one house, but nothing that should have precipatated her demadning a bus ticket back to California. She didn't take her son. He is 4. And I know her leaving him was the best thing for him. Her spotty communication tells us that she isn't doing very well out there and I can't imagine how bad it would be for a small child.
In the past 6 weeks, I've gotten a crash course in being a parent by co-parenting with my mother. Thankfully, she could take time off work to care for him while we figured out what the hell we were going to do. We've gotten our ducks in a row and are establishing a routine. He is doing well and while he misses his mom, he, too is getting used to our routine.
I went from being bored to tears when my co-workers and their wives and my friends talked about their kids, to waiting my turn to tell the story of the cute/funny/goofy thing my new ward has done. I am not sure what to call him under these new circumstances. I have called him my nephew, even though he is my first cousin, due to the tremendous age difference, and I suspect that is what I will continue to call him for the foreseeable future. But, it is different in my heart.
I didn't want kids, ever. I had my tubes tied at 28. I saw children as a barrier to success. My mother was beautiful and extremely intelligent, but as a young woman raising two children on her own in the late 70's, early 80's her options were limited and I suspect her sacrifices to be my mother are greater than I ever thought. I long thought she had to resent us for ruining what could've been a great life with the gifts she had been given despite her swearing different.
Apparently, the universe didn't care what I wanted. I am now responsible for a child. His care and growth and well-being. Bedtimes and baths. Grammar correction and a million "whys". I suppose I could be angry or even ambivalent about it, but I take my new role seriously. I am a mom in all but name and he doesn't care about my plans either... he just wants to know that I care about him. And maybe one day he will know, that he awakened a part of me that I thought died with my brother. That part of your soul that loves someone else without thinking and without doubt.