Intersections – What to expectNicki Salcedo
By Nicki Salcedo
It’s not until you have kids that you realize that having kids is a terrible idea. I was never a baby crazy woman. Growing up, I never liked babies or babysitting. My biological clock was permanently on snooze. Even now, I’m not very maternal despite having kids.
Kids are the reason I don’t like hugging. Hugging leads to sex. Sex leads to babies. Babies lead to kids. Kids grow up. Growing up is a terrible idea.
I hate it when people tell other people to have babies. Babies are great in theory. Pee and poop and projectile vomit are not a bad price to pay for a sweet-smelling bundle of cuddle. That’s what people think of when you have a baby. An immovable, cute, crying sandbag. Everyone should have one, right?
They stop telling you what to expect when your child can pee in the potty. I’m not discounting the importance of the first three years, but what happens at age seven when they ask you why they don’t have a penis? What happens at age ten when they ask you about the Holocaust? What happens at seventeen when they get into a fight? Why must every part of their lives and bodies be recorded and photographed and exposed? Even bad behavior? Even crime?
I admit that I am envious of child-free people. Sometimes my husband and I masquerade as a couple without kids. Near the end of my fourth pregnancy, we’d gone out to eat at Cakes & Ale. Most of the wait staff have known us through the years. We’ve been regulars since their original location. The waiters and bartenders took turns stopping at our table and giving us baby name suggestions.
“How about Olive?” one offered. “I used to date a girl named Carina,” another said.
It felt good getting name suggestions from pierced and tattooed hipsters.
“Congratulations on your first baby,” one waiter said.
I paused. I wasn’t sure how to break the news.
“We already have three kids,” I whispered knowing this is the moment our cool status would end.
“What?” the waiter asked. “How come we haven’t seen your kids?”
“You will never see our kids,” I responded. “This is our place. They haven’t earned this. They won’t see the inside of this restaurant until they graduate from college.”
For a moment, I felt like a bad mom. Then I felt like a good one. I am responsible for raising the offspring, and I am also still trying to raise myself. I make mistakes with them and with myself all the time.
Kids are trouble because we raise them to a certain point, and then they become their own person. At some point when they score a goal, they shouldn’t look to us in the stands for approval. They should be playing their own game.
Our kids can and should find faith and politics without being our clones. They should learn right from wrong and the gray areas. Our goal is to turn them into individuals, but then we as parents feel the guilt when our children make choices that disappoint us.
I’ve been wondering what is the worse: having my kid being bullied or having a kid who is a bully? When an assault happens, there are more than two victims. There is the perpetrator. The victim. And the parents of each.
When I hear about kids gone wild, I think about their parents. Their worry, their regret, their grief. How can we expect what will happen as they grow up? What are we supposed to expect when they walk their own paths?
Sometimes I stop and look at my kids and this world and wish I could whip up happiness like it is pancake batter. I’m thankful every day for my kids. Slightly less thankful on laundry days. It is so much more complicated — not difficult — complicated than I ever expected.
I never tell people that they should have babies. I always cringe when child-free friends make excuses for why their life isn’t as busy and overwhelming as mine. We all are busy. We all used to be kids. None of us knows what to expect from life. I often look at the young people in my community with pity and hope. I wouldn’t go back and do my childhood again for anything. I loved being a teenager, but I was also glad when those days were over. I wouldn’t know what to expect, even if I had to do it a second time.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.