I want to hear your best advice for those of us raising kids.
To quote the drama plagued heroine of Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith Grey, seriously? Do you know who you’re asking? Is there anyone left on God’s green Earth who isn’t well aware of my conflicted feelings on this subject? Kids – I love them. In fact there are two in particular, 9 year-old KK and almost 2 year-old Rosebud that I find exceptionally appealing. KK and I in fact have a particular bond that stems from my heavy involvement in her formative years. Rosebud and I have not had as much opportunity to become bffs as she a) kind of hates people (so like her mamma at that age), and b) we can’t see one another as often as I would like.
In fact my complicated reluctance to fulfill my “female destiny” (so named by my ever hopeful mother-in-law) has nothing to do with my disdain for the little ones. If I were being honest, my fear is of myself. I don’t want to bring the dysfunction inflicted on me as a child to anyone else, and have thus at times decided it is safer not to risk it at all. At the same time, I still feel very much like a work in progress, into my 30s though I might be. There is still so much I want to see and accomplish. Hell a month from now I won’t even have a job. Does this sound like someone who should be having babies? The third driving factor, and perhaps the darkest and most secret, is that I don’t know how I could stand to love someone that much in a world full of pitfalls. Allow me to provide an example from Fall 2001, an incident that still hounds me and wracks me with guilt. KK doesn’t remember, but I bet Jen does and it is while thinking of what she endured that I feel the most shame.
Fall 2001 and KK is not quite 2. Jen and I are roommates and she hasn’t yet met her wonderful husband. She is a single mother and her ex is in the military stationed somewhere out of the country. I have fogotten where – Korea? KK catches the flu in a bad way, and over a period of days appears to go further downhill. By the end of nearly a week, she is unable to walk and Jen takes her to the emergency room at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Jen is barely 21 years old herself, and has the soundness of mind to take this step. And a good thing too because KK was suffering from sepsis, an infection of the blood.
KK spent almost a week in the hospital, and for the first couple of days, she was in very bad shape, enough for both Jen and I to fear for her life. Jen stayed at the hospital nearly round the clock, missed work and dealt with the gripes of her superiors. Nothing was more important to Jen than being near her baby. KK and Jen were, and are, everything to me, but where was I? Completely unable to deal with the situation, my stupid 23 year-old ass was out boozing, tripping the light fantastic with my crowd of gay friends, stopping by the hospital daily, but never staying long, prefering to check in with Jen by phone instead. Even as I write this, I want to cry for how selfish and incompetent I was as an auntie, a human, and most importantly, as a sister.
Jen had no one else. She was divorced, and our parents were not in our lives. She had me and she had KK. Period, and I let her down. She went through the whole ordeal totally alone, and I have yet to forgive myself. I readily consider this one of the lowest levels to which I have sunk in my lifetime. What’s worse about it is that I have always sort of considered Jen to be my child. Therefore I failed myself, I failed as a mother, and I failed as an aunt. It was love and fear that caused me to behave the unaccountable way I did, but that is no excuse. I still don’t know how Jen was able to absolve me. Whenever my mind wanders toward the idea of Eddie and I becoming parents, I remember this terribly awful episode. I am not sure I have the strength and endurance that it takes to be a mother.