Jul 13, 2010

No Children

Years ago when I was pregnant for the first time, a new father colleague said to me, 'you'll be amazed to see how the world is really divided into two camps: those who have children, and those who don't.'

I remember noticing the tiny things at first:

The waiter who sets an open glass of liquid right in front of my toddler? No children.

The waiter who hands the liquids directly to me, or otherwise out of reach of the two year old? Children.

The waitress who'd put the hot steaming grease-bubbling pizza face pizza down right in front of my children? No children.

The waitress who waits til its not bubbling anymore to bring it to the table? Children.

It was just a slightly amusing but otherwise benign observation.

Lately I've had cause to make the same observations, but in situations that are slightly more heartbreaking. My son invited a grownup friend of the family over to watch a claymation movie that he'd made--it was about eight minutes long. The friend arrived, chatted with grownups in the kitchen for a bit, and just as the popcorn was being popped, he announced he had a headache and had to go home.
Headache and had to go home? No children.

Aspirin? Aleve? Tylenol? I offered. Knowing it would have little effect on a headache that was apparently so excruciating he couldn't just humor us all for eight (okay maybe nine, with compliments) minutes, but passive-aggressively shoving in his face anyway.

No, no...I think I just need to go lie down.

Go lie down? No children.

My son was heartbroken--and confused. Sure, he's being raised in that 'everyone gets a trophy' age, but this was really a proud accomplishment, this little product of his claymation summer camp. I certainly understand that my children are going to experience disappointment in their young lives--and I get that this is the best time for them to exercise that muscle...much better be disappointed when you're small and surrounded by loved ones who pay for you to do things than when you're older and have no one. But this just seemed cruel.

The grownup left.

My sister-in-law described a time when her own brother promised to take her son out to a movie, then cancelled mintues before. He just didn't feel like it anymore. Her son sat in the doorway, where he'd positioned himself to wait for the uncle, and wept.

Her brother? No children.

I have many childless friends who are over-the-top thoughtful and focussed on my kids. And while I have three kids of my own, I've probably made some stupid mistakes with other pals' toddlers, now that I've been out of the toddler-mindset for a few years.

This past weekend some relatives were lined up to take my daughter away for part of the weekend, to visit cousins. She was over-the-moon excited. On Saturday morning they called to say they'd decided to go up a day earlier, so wouldn't be able to take her. I hardly felt like I could beg them to change their minds, but my heart broke on behalf of my girl--a middle child who yearns for any form of attention that doesn't involve being lumped with her siblings. I want to scream 'don't you know how disappointed she'll be???' but I know that would be pointless. They just don't get it. They have, you guessed it, no children.

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