“Just wait until you have your own kids; you will see,” a friend’s mother claims. “Kids are such a joy.”
Within ten minutes, I experienced that joy firsthand. As my college buddy and I attempted to fritter away a lazy Saturday, his kid was having a bigger meltdown than Chernobyl. First, she hurled a toy at her young brother. And when that flying projectile didn’t connect, she opted for a solid right hook. That connected — and induced a shrieking cry heard ’round Seattle.
“Maybe, it is time for Uncle Matt to exit stage right,” I laughed — exchanging merciful, pitying looks with my college buddy.
As I watched him and his wife alternately negotiate, cajole, and plead with their toddler, I thought that this resembled — eerily — a hostage standoff. “Sweetheart, put down the toy. We need you to put down the toy,” my Chicago friends cooed in a sugary tone. I half-expected KOMO-TV to lead their nightly news with reports of a full-blown standoff outside the Space Needle.
Smart aleck comments aside, I wondered whether I was this much of a handful to my beloved mother. The answer: Yes — but in the careless “I forgot my homework in my locker for the sixth time this week” way. And, then, I wondered whether why anyone would subject themselves to temper tantrums and teenage angst. Willingly, I might add. The answer — according to my college buddy: His kiddos are adorable when they are not transforming toys into weapons of mass destruction. And, yes, we have a lot of help. And, finally, I wondered whether my ambivalence toward a lil’ Matt is selfish, sinister, or something in between. The answer: Well, read on.
Growing up in Iowa, family life is more romanticized than your latest starry-eyed celebrity couple. From smiling families dotting community centers to kids’ sporting feats breathlessly covered in my hometown newspaper, the emphasis is on family. And, more specifically, when are you going to start one?
Hold off on baby names and onesies, cowboy. At least right now.
While I love kids — at least from a distance (whether that means a couple time zones away is still up in the air), there is a complicating factor: my mental health diagnosis. While my mental health trials and tribulations have waned — or maybe you just caught me on a good day — I question whether I can be emotionally available for my offspring. As mental health consumers, we know how emotionally demanding our mental illness can be. Like many readers, there have been days where my daily activity has consisted of hide and seek under the bedcovers. At 12:30 PM.
In addition, I worry about passing on my hereditary genes. While I would love lil’ Matt to have my kindness, humor, intellect (the list goes on for a while), I am worried he may get a side of depression and anxiety with his order. And as a loving, devoted parent, this would devastate me. Judging by this article, my concerns are legitimate — as other mental health consumers likewise struggle with parenthood versus (self)-preservation.
While those smiling visages in your community center romanticize kiddos (don’t you know — it is all graduation parties and birthday celebrations?), kids — like your mental illness — are a part of you. And while there is no right answer to the kiddie or kiddie-free question, there is a right answer for you.
Don’t become a hostage to society’s expectations. It is much easier, after all, to reason with your friend’s mother than a stubbornly defiant toddler.