On that note, a few things occurred to me as I smoked a fag out the window of my non-smoking room. At the age of 27, my ...
... mother had an annoying four-and-one-half-year-old (1986).
... aunt was eagerly awaiting her firstborn, particularly since her younger sister had already produced the first grandchild (not the same year my mother had the annoying four-year-old, mind you ... there's a four and one-half year age difference between the two--1982).
... my maternal grandmother had two daughters: my aunt was seven; my mother was three (1962).
... my paternal grandmother had one son--my father, who was one year old (1949).
Clearly, I am much better off than the two generations before me. But if it's a contest, my paternal grandmother was the best in terms of putting off the firstborn as long as possible--though, oddly enough, she had more children than anyone else in my family on either side.
On the occasion of my cousin Jennifer's wedding in 2003, Grandmother Vivian told me that, given another chance, she was sure she wouldn't have four children, and possibly not even one. She was born in 1922--clearly not a member of a generation that hoped to put off children as long as possible (though was sort of forced to, what with WWII going on and all). Even still, both grandmothers had careers: Baba was a nurse, and Grandmother Vivian was a teacher. The former was a product of east Tennessee near-poverty; the latter, a product of east Tennessee privilege. The births of their children were but short interruptions to their lives' work. Even my mother, who resumed her college education when I was seven, brought herself out of semi-hausfrauitude to obtain jobs that have greater than seven words in their titles. And most recently: while pregnant, Dr. Peres tempered every sentence about her then-unborn son with at least two sentences about her career. Dr. Altman, while rightfully proud of her genius progeny, sometimes claimed she didn't know how she ended up with a seven-year-old who had the mind and demeanor of a fifty-year-old (Dalton desired nothing more than to meet Garrison Keillor in person before the age of ten--I'm not exaggerating).
I guess some women might argue that there was something amiss with those I have just admired. With perhaps the exception of Grandmother Vivian, all these children were/are adored--WITHOUT being the be all/end all of each mother's identity. Please don't get me wrong: I have no contempt for women who raise their children and desire nothing more. However, I do hold a special place in my heart for women who have done exactly as they wanted--WITH children.
So, knowing that having a career and children are NOT mutually exclusive, why might I desire the former but not the latter? If you ask me, I'm a genetic fuckup. Though I still pride myself on my childhood attempts to build Lego structures for my impossibly tall Barbies, I can't deny that I was very much a girl in spirit and heart--and that this has much to do with my upbringing. Even at the late age of eighteen, I claimed I would stop smoking when I fell pregnant with my first child--with little concern for whether or not I actually WANTED such a thing to happen. At the time, not having children was something that had not crossed my mind. Though I obviously was not prepared for such an arrival at eighteen, I harbored little doubt that, one day, babies would shoot out of my vagina. I needed an additional six years to vow that I, Lacey Fleming, cared too deeply about the health and emotional well-being of children to ever bring a single one into this world. Why? Simply put, I am very, very selfish.
I like children, believe it or not. I pride myself on being one of the few habitual babysitters who actually plays with her charges--and enjoys it. (If anything, most kids have yet to realize that I relate to them so well because I'm as "immature" as they are.) I just couldn't endure one of my own for the bare minimum of eighteen years. Balls to the wall 24/7 isn't my style.
At the age of twenty-four, I vowed to become the Cool Aunt. Being an only child, this desire presented a particular problem. My cousin, who is practically my sister, will have children. I hope they will know me as Aunt Lacey. My dearest friends have--or will have--children. I hope they will tell their children there is a woman who loves them very much despite the fact she isn't related to them--I hope that they too will know me as Aunt Lacey (or just Lacey--if they prefer). I"m not that particular. I'm only particular on the subject of having any of my own.
Je suis enivre a la moment, donc je me ferme la bouche. Bonne nuit.