“Do you have kids?”
The beach bar at our little hotel was offering a happy hour and a result, of course, the cozy bar was very, very full. My neighbor to the left leaned in closer, eyes squinty from an hour or so of two-for-one margaritas, and repeated the question.
“So, do you have kids?”
“No”, Gavin and I said in unison.
Every time we answer this question we brace ourselves for the response. This one, though, we hadn’t heard for a while given that we were a bit more wrinkled than our younger counterparts with a loss of waistline that should have indicated that we were, well, not all that young.
She smiled, pointed at me, winked, and with slurred speech whispered “ Hmmmm, not yet…”
Gavin and I looked at each other perplexed.
He answered. “Nope – Not planning on it”.
She blinked. Paused. Blinked again, then said “Huh….. Man, I should have done that”.
The conversation then drifted off to what my neighbor at the bar felt was the next most appropriate subject – why she loves to shoot deer in Northern California.
It is always surprising to learn what people consider normal, casual conversation. I think it is bizarre to ask others about their reproductive choices, especially on vacation. Even more odd is the advice strangers are willing to throw my way when they learn that I actually chose not to have children.
The advice comes from all ends of the spectrum. For example, some parents present me with monologues that seem to come right out of the parenting playbook, their central thesis being how amazing and incredible it is to bring another human into this world. Honestly, fair enough. I think about that quite often. But equally common are the moments of shockingly candid, almost confession-like conversation I have had with some who tell me frankly – if they could do it again, they are not sure they would. Also fair enough.
Here are comments I have heard (again, often from perfect strangers) that I don’t think are fair. 1) Statements that basically insinuate that I will grow old restless, alone, with no one around who cares about me, 2) Accusations that I have no concept of what real love is without a child of my own, and 3) I must hate kids.
Hey stranger, you don’t know me, and you probably never will. I could ask you how often you bother to visit that aging parent of yours. Maybe I learned to love with my whole heart without having to birth or raise a child. And I hate to disappoint you, but I actually adore children, unlike (very sadly) a few parents I know.
But I wouldn’t say that. That would be unfair, right?
Gavin and I, on most days, are comfortable with the decision we made. That day at the beach bar was one of those days. We got to sip margaritas on a beach with a slightly inebriated neighbor gazing at us with not only acceptance, but true admiration. Pretty nice.