Saturday, December 17, 2011

What shall we tell the neighbors?

"When are you going to have kids?"

"When you have kids, you'll understand..."

I'm 34.  My husband is 33.  By pretty much everyone's standards (most everyone we come into contact with, at least,) we should have children or be on the verge of having children.  Heck, by our standards we should be having children or be on the verge of having children.  All of our friends are, by the bushel full, it seems.

It follows, then, that people would be curious about our child-free status.  When we first got married, people would pretty much just ask when we were going to have kids.  It didn't seem nearly as painful then, just sort of nosy.  But who hasn't asked a couple when they're going to have kids or when they're going to get married or one of several questions that you probably shouldn't ask, because if you have to ask, they most likely have a reason for not telling you.  We've all done it and we've all been asked these questions.  I digress.

My point in that now, with us being married a whole 4 years and all, and with both of us rapidly approaching our *gasp* mid-thirties, people have stopped asking and started sort of dancing around the subject.  Comments like "when you have kids..." and "pretty soon you'll know what we're talking about" are pretty common.

And what do you say?  Do you stop the entire conversation and explain that you may never have children?  Do you say why?  Do you then list out all the reasons you've come up with why it might be nice to not have kids?  (You get to sleep in on weekends, you don't ever have to deal with a screaming child that you can't hand back to his/her parent, etc.)  Or do you just sit uncomfortably and nod and smile and hope the subject passes reasonably quickly?

We chose the last option last night at a gathering we attended.  There were several of us having dinner, talking, laughing, and generally having a good, kid-free time.  (Everyone at the table but us has multiple children; they were not in attendance last evening.)  They were talking about kids and telling funny stories, and it was entertaining and I was not thinking about not having children at all until "the comment" came.  "You'll see when you guys have kids."

When put in this situation, what in the world are we supposed to say?  Should we try to explain what is really happening in our lives, something that is deeply personal and hard for us to talk about with even each other?  We do talk about it, but it is not fun and it is not easy and it is honestly pretty crappy.  So do we bring that crappiness to the party, in this case literally?  I think not.  No, we nod and smile and pray to ourselves that the topic changes quickly, that people jump back to talking about themselves.  It usually does, but a part of me stops.  From the point that it comes up, a part of me remains with that frozen smile on my face, fearing that someone will see that something is wrong and at the same time almost hoping they will.  Because at least then I could talk about it.  I could stop trying to hide it, to smile over it like it is a shameful secret.

More than anything I wish people wouldn't have to hint or ask or assume, that they would just accept us as the people we are.  And the people we are would like you to know that if we want to talk about it, we will bring it up.  And that if you want to know something, you should ask, not hint.  Hinting is rude.  And if you ask, be okay with the answer, even if that means a crying girl at a table in the middle of a dinner party.  Then give her a hug.

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