It was one of those nights I dread from the belly up, when, simply by virtue of mingling with people, I'm forced to spend time with children.
Tonight I attended a dinner party with some of the loveliest ladies on the planet, all of them either pregnant or already well into their careers as full-time parents. 7 children in all, ranging in ages from 3 years old to 12, whooping, hollering and screaming through a house largely fitted with tile.
You would think my overwhelming sense of doom (srsly, I was aware of the theme from Jaws) had more to do with the amount of noise than anything else - that's what I used to think when I walked away from these situations with a sour taste in my mouth - but for me, it's all about the contrast.
Someone's son or daughter will inevitably wander out to the adult realm and say something so hilarious that even I'm laughing. Tonight, a little girl who was fascinated with dinosaurs reminded me of myself at her age, and I had a conversation with her. I've never had a conversation with a child.
After that, there were some explosions. Children colliding with walls like they'd been shot from itty-bitty cannons. Screaming, squealing, laughing, toy-throwing chaos that had me digging my nails into the faded green fabric of a formula-stained armchair. That's the contrast. The harsh, ugly, unpleasant reality of multiple-child households that sends me crashing down from the momentary high of finding a youngster that I connect with on any level.
Situations like this give me reason to consider whether I'm making the right decision, and even though I always land on "yes" every time, it's still apparent that it's not without some obvious sacrifice that I choose this lifestyle.
It's the thing that's bothered me most about my conversations with those who opt for children, when they argue with me and tell me that I'm too young to know what I want. The entire concept of being too young to know what you want is based around being too young to understand what you're giving up, and I do. It's a difficult thing for me to admit, harder still to sort through, because I know that just saying this gives some of the more insistent parents a flimsy yet obvious foothold; they'll say, "See, if you really didn't want kids, you'd never have to wonder if you were making the right decision." I don't know how to combat fool's logic, except to say that it isn't true. There isn't a value I hold dear that I don't frequently revisit to make sure I still know what I stand for, what I want, and what I believe in.
There are less important things in life - owning a Dustfurniture original, for example, or catching the next episode of Deadliest Catch (go Phil, go Phil) - that give me more of a surge of joy than any fantasy of parenthood ever has, and considering how often I've considered parenthood, I know that this means something. It's as though there's this last, struggling particle inside of me that wants to procreate, and every other part of me has grown out of the phase, and knows better.