Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ramblings on not having kids

What is it about my parents that inspire such ugly, angry sentiments? Pull up a chair and set a spell. I'll tell ya.

Tonight was a classic example of a typical family dinner...except this time it was blown up much more than usual. Dinner pretty much comes down to this: the rest of the family, and then me. The rest of 'em talk about politics, rant about Obama as if he's the downfall of this country of ours, and otherwise engage in conversation the likes about which I could really give a shit. Even the subtle nonverbal behaviors often imply that I'm not really one of "them."

But tonight was really beyond. I really was pretty much ignored during the whole meal. There was company over, which may explain a bit, but really? Rude not to include everyone in conversation from time to time, right?

My big news: I tried out for four solos during a choir retreat this weekend, and landed one of 'em. Thrilled about it - it's a fun one, in a wacky Marx Brothers-inspired ditty called "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." So I told my parents about it. Mild congratulations, at best. Then when I mentioned the name of the song, not only did they immediately say the name of the song wrong (and one thing I've learned is that you don't correct your elders), but they went on to talking about "John the Tattooed Skier," who was spotted schussing down the slopes sans shirt, exposing his ink for all to see. And it went on from there, leaving my good news in the dust. (I somehow suspect that my stint in the local gay men's choir also contributed to my news' lukewarm reception.)

It's behavior like this from my parents that really reinforce the idea that having kids is really just not for me. My old college roommate mentioned a few years ago that he was gonna be a dad, and I was thrilled for him and his wife. Their daughter, of course, is adorable and perfect - and I say that with as little saccharine inflection as I can. They've really done right by her. But I admitted to him that the responsibility of being a parent would be overwhelming to me. I'd be obsessing over every little tiny minute detail, wanting to make sure everything was just so, and freaked out about how said details, if neglected or mishandled, could irreversibly send the kid on a path toward a terrible fate of some sort. He heard me, but he also said that, well, these little buggers are pretty damned resilient, and you just do the best you can. I've heard the former, and I do kinda believe it. But that second part? Not good enough for me.

My parents did the best they could. I have to assume that. On nights like this, it's awfully hard for me to believe that, though. After 35 years, I still feel like a pariah in my own family. What the fuck? If they did the best they could, and this is the result, I sure as hell don't want to do my best and still end up alienating any kids I might have.

I was never breastfed, and as such, lost out on an essential part of my growth. I deal with more colds and such than I should, I have had more illnesses than many - heck, my health just ain't where it should be in general. Also, if my mom actually stopped to consider the bond between her and her baby simply by breastfeeding, she might have done it. Especially knowing how things have been ever since then. (Why wasn't I breastfed? I was adopted, and, well, if a woman hasn't been producing milk, why bother, right? I can't tell you how much that statement is WRONG.)

I sometimes think I was awfully rebellious as a teenager. As a kid, apparently I was "the perfect child." Never cried, never wanted for anything, easy-going, relaxed. And then hormones kicked in, and I transformed into, well, into a regular teenager. Were I in another family (perhaps even one consisting of my actual birthparents, were they up to the task), I might have been handled better. My parents thought that my rebellious streak was me reacting to them. Well, perhaps some, but they give themselves too much credit. It was not about them necessarily. It was about me trying to carve out my identity. Unfortunately, my identity and their values were at odds. A lot. So it was a very unfortunate coincidence. (In contrast, my brother and sister, who were blood-related within the family, became typical "rebellious" teenagers, but because their values were so similar, it usually was a non-issue.)

So yeah, adopting ain't for me. I'd hate to adopt a kid and unwittingly screw that kid up for life.

I'm also fucked in the brain enough that I don't think I'd make a good, effective, and solid father. Loving? Yes. And God knows I'd tell that kid as often as I could that he or she could do anything - ANYTHING - they wanted to. (A message I never heard. Oh, wait, scratch that. I was told "If you're gonna be a ditch digger, be the best damned ditch digger you can be." Yeah. Thanks for the lesson in ambition and being a success.) But giving a kid what he or she would need to actually go out in the world and be functional, successful, and as completely evolved as possible? Not terribly likely.

Also...I would not want to raise a kid with my current (and possibly lifetime) partner. I tolerate many of his habits that I feel are self-destructive, because I know their influence extends only to me, and I've learned to mitigate his influence over the years. (Health is also a huge issue, in general, and Mr. Man is just not healthy at all. And OH MY GOD is that a subject for another post or seven.) But were we to welcome a new bundle of joy into our lives, thence would begin much fighting and anguish. Our sometimes-opposing values would be sorely tested. And it might mean the end of us. (See above about trying my best and still fucking up a kid's life.)

Incidentally, about the whole choir retreat this weekend: tons of fun. Our cabin was small, but the six of us had a blast talking about everything under the sun, from ghosts to Family Guy. LAUGHED our asses off. And became much more tight-knit friends. It was glorious. So to come from that to a dinner where I was a mere afterthought at the table, all but ignored, was a huge slap in the face.


Gleemonex said...

Oh, this hurts my heart -- tales of bad (not necessarily even abusive, just -- not good) parenting make me just ache for the good and wonderful people who were the victims of it. The generous, loving, thriving man you've become speaks volumes about the character within you, despite the proper tending you didn't get. May I Internet-hug you? [HUG}

Adoption shouldn't make any difference in how a child is loved and valued in his/her family -- that it sometimes does is a pile of suck a mile high and six miles deep. And I hate that for you, too.

As for parenting: No person is perfect and EVERYONE fucks stuff up now and then, but to enter into it with wholehearted love should be a basic requirement. I think where a lot of people go wrong is with an unwillingness to put the kid first -- I don't mean, for example, that every outing has to be For The Child, just that there must be a recognition that you -- the parent -- are no longer the point, for now and for the next couple decades. You caused a new person to exist, or undertook to raise someone else's new person -- you owe him/her the best of your heart, actions and intentions. People are selfish little fuckers -- it's a hard thing to realize and to put into practice, and some people are frankly not up to the task, or unwilling to take it on.

I suspect most don't realize it till they're already in the thick of it, and that's a tragedy.

Anyway: It's a good thing to know this about yourself, and I would never try to persuade anyone into parenthood, but if it ever becomes something you really really want, don't psych yourself out of it -- self-awareness and an abundance of love to give are the best tools you can possibly have, going in.

PS: That sucks that they couldn't be happy for you & pay you some attention -- I say CONGRATULATIONS, and that is fucking AWESOME!! :-)

Uncle Spike said... you for such support. Very humbling. And sad, but at the same time, life deals tough cards to everyone. You just gotta play them out the best you can.

And watch for it...there may be a YT video of the performance in late May! No guarantees, but.