Monday, September 23, 2013

The Other F Word

"The Other F Word" is a documentary about punk rock dads, discussing how some of the icons of punk are reconciling fatherhood with their anti-authoritarian history. It's more than good. It's brilliant. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) made me cry. It's a story about how, for some people, parenthood changes them completely. It's on Netflix. You should watch it.

This is the bit of parenthood that makes me the most envious. It's an emotion I'll never quite understand, and part of being a childfree woman means acknowledging that I'll never have that. Weighed against all I have in its absence, I'm happily choosing my marriage and life as it is, but it is a choice.

Because really? Watch the documentary. Watch your closest friends, the ones who are great parents, and tell me that doesn't look kind of cool. It's pretty cool.

The assumption that many more judgmental parent-types will make about us, the childfree, is that we don't know what we're missing. That we're missing out on something so completely life-altering, that we can't even imagine it. They're right about one thing: We don't know how parenthood would change us. Nobody does. Maybe I would be like my formerly CF friend from the Best Laid Plans posts, and having a child would change my life. Or maybe I would be like my niece's mother. Like my mother. Cold, detached. Resentful. Maybe I wouldn't be able to bond. Maybe something would be wrong with my child and I'd have to go from being a successful entrepreneur to a full-time mom and caretaker. WE DON'T KNOW.

I'm going to be 36 this week, and I see the world a lot differently than I did when I was a 21-year-old childfree woman. One of the things that I'm noticing is that being childfree is a far more deliberate choice than it was back then. I've seen some of my friends' kids grow up. I've seen it change some people, some for the better and some for the worse. But I acknowledge the magic of that change, of seeing your child for the first time. I don't understand it and never will, but I acknowledge that it exists.

But I also look at my husband and know that we achieve a level of closeness that's a lot stronger, and a bond that's much more powerful than many of my friends who have kids. He's my best friend. We go on the most amazing adventures, and we can afford to see the world. Our vacation time is *our* time, and we use it all up, seeing exciting places or leaving on a whim for a weekend away.

Is that selfish? Would it be less selfish if I had a child and regretted not having that freedom? Would it be less selfish if I had a child and shipped her off to stay with others so I could keep traveling child-free? It's important to me as a person.

In the meantime, we spoil our friends' kids. They love us, and we love them. They beg their parents for us to come visit. They invite us to their "friends only" birthday parties because "they're my friends!" Our life is full of children, and we love the ones we're close to. That's enough.

If that's not enough for you, that's okay. I acknowledge that having a baby could change my world around and I would want to give up all the things I hold dear so I could be a good parent like the dads in "The Other F Word". I'm just okay missing out on that. It's a choice I'm making, and I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The New Girl

Any reservations I had about my friends' new foster (soon to be adopted) daughter have been unwarranted, and I couldn't be happier. She's a super cool kid and is fitting in with the family like she's always been there. We've been traveling with this couple for years, and while her presence certainly changed the dynamic on our recent trip, she really did feel part of the family. It was really cool.

She's also become attached to me, which was unexpected. She wants to hang out and spend time together, and she wants to include me in her "girl time" with her new mom. It's been fun hanging out with her and I really look forward to spending more time with her as time passes.

It's still strange, though, realizing that this isn't temporary. Their lives are forever altered now that they're parents. Our vacation sort of made me sad, because neither of her parents wanted to come do the nightlife stuff we've done together for years. They spent their time at the hotel pool instead of at the events we've always gone to together, and they skipped dinner out because she wanted PB&J in the room. Their priorities have changed, as they should, but I'm quickly becoming the childfree friend who doesn't get it, I guess.

And it's hard to see them as parents, to know that they're a family of three now. They want us in her life and we want to remain in her life, but it's changing the dynamic of our friendship in a very different way than friends who have a baby change. It's not bad, it's just… different. When friends have a baby there's an adjustment period. You don't have to watch your language, or make different food choices when they're over for dinner. You don't have to include her in the conversation so she doesn't feel left out. At 11, she's a whole person with feelings. 

At the same time, I'm glad she's here. I'm glad they're giving her a chance and I think they're going to be a really happy family. I imagine it'll take some time for her to feel truly at home, to call them mom and dad (although she dubbed my husband, me, and our other traveling companions aunts and uncles, which was cool). Spending almost a week sharing a hotel suite with her and her family was badass. But I think she's happy, and that's really awesome.

It still doesn't seem permanent, though, and that makes me uncomfortable. I'm sure it's because of the nature of adopting an 11-year-old, the fact that she comes with this robust history full of things we can't even imagine, and she's now being asked to be a part of this family. We're a part of that extended family. We're excited to have her in our lives, and as strange as it is, I'm looking forward to getting used to having her around.