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l l l My parents are disarmingly understanding about not getting grandchildren out of me. It’s hard to tell if they’ll resent me for it one day, they’re so serenely supportive of the stances I take. As with almost all of my life choices, they patiently let me find my own way. I asked my mother, who wanted to be a homemaker since elementary school, why she had children. “That’s a hard question to answer,” she said. “I can say for my generation it’s just what everyone did and, I guess, expected.” She knew she wanted two children “someday,” a boy and a girl. My parents were married for seven years before I came along. “I think we had reached a time in our relationship and an age to want to nurture,” she stated, characteristically matter-of-fact. “We were more settled and planning what our future would look like; for us, that was a family. “Then came you, little woobie woobie.” Thanks, Mom.
“You’ll end up with a guy who’d be a great dad.” I’ve known men who would make amazing dads. And I’ve felt, in the pit of my stomach, that it’d never work out; that these guys are destined for the higher calling of Daddy Duty, and I’m somewhere outside that trajectory. It doesn’t change how I feel, but it does make me wonder if there’s a difference between sincerely good people, and people who’d raise more good people. But then out of holy blue nowhere a thought crosses my mind like, “We’ll have Taco Tuesdays,” and it’s all up in the air again.
l l l I’ve never felt that nurturing instinct. I’ve felt protective of kids, in the same way one might feel protective of a baby bird — interfering is almost more of a risk than to let the wind knock it around, but you step in because of some existential guilt-tripping. Waiting to cross the street, I looked to my left where a little black-haired boy stood, clinging to a stuffed animal. A megalithic bookstore stood behind us, two lanes of minivans rolling through stop signs in front of us. He looked back at the door; I took a step toward traffic, conflicted. He stifled a sob, conflicted. It was like watching a glass tip too close to a table edge. Defeated, he ran back to hide behind a pillar against the brick store wall. I went back inside to see if there were any frantic parents tearing through the aisles. Nope. Great. I sang a two-syllable “Hi,” and crouched down beside him. “Are your parents in there?” He buried his head in the animal’s plush fur. “Do you want me to sit with you?” Absolutely not, you awkward adult. “Is that a doggy?” He turned it around slowly. “Oh, a bunny rabbit!” He snatched it back to his face. Now people were giving me side-eyed looks. Diffusion of responsibility, nothing to see here; thanks for staring. “OK ... well, I’ll be over here if you need me.” So I sat on a bench across from the door, watching only his shoe sticking out past the pillar and an occasional bunny foot peaking out. Five minutes later, a frantic woman emerged. I pointed at the pillar. “My little boy?” she gasped. A man followed, and immediately started cursing at the child — until she waved a “thank you” at me, and he noticed that I was trying to explode his skull with my eyes. She scooped him up and they silently walked to their car. l l l People react with disapproval, or at least great excuses. “You’ll change your mind some day.” “You’re still young, it’s natural.”