And that’s another thing here, because my cats? Three of them, and then the two turtles? It’s not like we’re taking the best care of them we possibly could, to begin with. I mean, there are weeks the litter does not get scooped, or the turtle tank water evaporates to half its regular volume, or we just feel repeatedly compelled to yell “What, you big, whiny, baby - WHAT?” at one or the other or all of them (OK, that’s mostly Maurice, who often morphs into Mr. Whinypants Johnson for days at a time, and who can blame him what with having the name Maurice and all, but I’m trying to make a point). Do we really think we can transfer that sort of devil-may-care, lackadaisical, possibly traumatizing supervision to a human child? Because, well, yeah, maybe, but we’re The Gay, so people always watch us on that kind of stuff, as opposed to the Normal, Heterosexual People, who can chain their children to a radiator in the basement for years and get boxed chocolates from Children’s Services each Thursday – do you hear what I’m saying? It’s a lot of freaking responsibility! And besides my curmudgeonly, spastic, slovenly ways, Mrs. Nator can barely remember where she put her cell phone, wallet or keys half the time, nor to purchase toilet paper when we are completely out, so... well, to wit, allow me to quote a passage from The Importance of Being Earnest, most particularly some key lines I delivered myself whilst playing Miss Prism in our much-acclaimed and extended high school production:
Lady Bracknell: … Prism! Where is that baby? [A pause.]
Miss Prism: Lady Bracknell, I admit with shame that I do not know. I only wish I did. The plain facts of the case are these. On the morning of the day you mention, a day that is for ever branded on my memory, I prepared as usual to take the baby out in its perambulator. I had also with me a somewhat old, but capacious hand-bag in which I had intended to place the manuscript of a work of fiction that I had written during my few unoccupied hours. In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I never can forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript in the basinet, and placed the baby in the hand-bag.
Jack: [Who has been listening attentively.] But where did you deposit the hand-bag?
Miss Prism: Do not ask me, Mr. Worthing.
Jack: Miss Prism, this is a matter of no small importance to me. I insist on knowing where you deposited the hand-bag that contained that infant.
Miss Prism: I left it in the cloak-room of one of the larger railway stations in London.
I don’t remember much after that, except supposedly all ended well, but every night just before blackout I had to fling myself into the passionate embrace of the boy playing Rev. Chasuble, with a force that broke my granny glasses not once, but twice. Apparently, this was extremely humourous to the audience, but a bit disconcerting to me, especially since somehow I infused said glasses with a good portion of my characterization and, once they were broken, ran around most of the next day trying to scrape up new ones, else I wouldn’t feel all Stanislavskied all up in my Method, or something. Oh, and that I was called Laetitia, which, knowing me, would be a name I would saddle a baby with just for my own amusement. So, you see? I am far too circumlocutory to be a parent, and, what’s more, neurotic and just a little bit mean.
As I said, my partner wants children. What’s more, she insists that I really want them, too, and would make an excellent parent. It’s just that I’m held back by my fears of being good enough, memories of a difficult childhood, &c. In fact, it is not just my partner who says this, but a number of my so-called friends and family members. Apparently, if you asked them, they would tell you that children’s eyes just light up when they see me, and I speak some special language that only small animals and children understand. Moreover, I am so sweet and kindhearted, so intelligent and entertaining, it would be nigh on a crime if I didn’t reproduce or at least raise some little foundling posthaste. To which I answer: Projecting – all of you! And also: Quit having me on! And finally: Have your own damn children, keep your guilty guiltifying and… and… thanks, but – yikes!
See, the thing is, I’m pretty sure that if I’d gotten together with Mrs. Nator and she’d never wanted to have children, I’d be totally behind that. Because I did have a difficult childhood, and I do have self-esteem issues, and I never had much experience with other children except as a child myself, who, quite frankly, did not even understand or relate well to them, then. So, until recently, when I saw a kid, it was more discomfiting than heartwarming to me. You never know what they’re thinking, what they really want or how easily they might break – or break you - in my book. Nowadays, I’ve somehow begun to actually look at some babies and children and think they’re, okay, kind of cute, but I’m not entirely certain that isn’t because everyone’s telling me I’m supposed to, you dig?
And yet… of course I’m worried that what they say is true. That I am holding back my precious love that could nurture little beings due to my own fears, self-doubt and internalized homophobia. That one day, if I don’t have or take in any children, but soon, I will look back and say “I missed out on the greatest joy in life, and I am nothing without progeny to carry on my… me-ness (and quite possibly pay for my in-home senior care nurse/companion).” Not to mention that I’m worried that Mrs. Nator will decide that this all bespeaks some unconscionable flaw in my character and go find someone more interested in increasing the population. (To which I add: “the Earth is drowning in a blood-sucking, environment-and-species-destroying infestation of homo sapiens as we speak, many of whom are fundamentalists and Republicans!” To which she answers: “All the more reason for us to bring up a good one or two to balance things out and do something good,” and I counter “The devil you say – they’ll be ground in the corporate cogs and eaten!” And then she decides she has some important business to attend to involving removing her hangnails, or reading the obituaries, or some such.)
So, it is with all this in mind that, each time I go down to visit the little Natorling nephew and niece, I observe them, their parents and myself quite closely. Here are some of my observations from this past weekend:
- Niece and Nephew Natorling are, as children go, fairly adorable. Nephew is a budding little geekling and niece is, as they say, spirited, which it is alleged is the way I was at her age, which is… I’m not sure how I feel about that.
- Okay, it is true: children do find me hilarious – at least these two. Apparently, I have excellent taste in children’s literature (not surprising, as I was a bookworm, myself). Also, the way I run back and forth and pick them up is, it would appear, a laugh riot. On the other hand, how many ways are there to run around and pick children up, especially if one doesn’t have the history of herniated discs that I do? It ain’t rocket science.
- Children can teach us valuable lessons. Niece taught me, for example, that it is perfectly acceptable and effective to stare lengthily and utterly blankly at someone when they ask you a question until they go away, not because you don’t know the answer, but because you don’t feel like talking to them.
- At age eight, boys seem to be acutely aware that they have penises. They are not acutely aware, however, that everyone else is can see when they are touching their penises, and may not find this quite as stimulating, in a good way. Good Lord, as a card-carrying lifelong lesbian, I just don’t know how I’d handle that one with my own child. I’d be afraid of either allowing him to grow into another Dan Hoyt or, conversely, causing him to become afraid of his own penis and end up telling someone to put the lotion in the basket someday. In Nephew’s defence, however, I will say that, once again, he is only eight and, from what I have gathered from casual observation, this is a habit many grown men not only never outgrow, but parlay into profit in one way or another.
- Having a small child hug, kiss or snuggle up to you can fill one with contentment. Having a small child violently smush your cheeks and call you “squishy!” (or, in the case of GrandMaMa Nator, exclaim “you have a beard!”)… not so much.
- Children rarely like to share. Fortunately, this is counterbalanced by their short attention spans, so if you grab the thing they clung to so greedily five minutes ago, they’ll hardly notice.
- Children can be heartbreaking. The most difficult part of the visit was listening in while Sis and Bro-in-law Nator explained to Nephew that, whereas Niece would share their bed to make room for the guests, he had become too big to join them. Hearing a usually happy and mature kid repeatedly sob “but I would do anything to make you change your mind!” made me want to crawl into my safe space. His parents dealt with it admirably and fairly, but I am not so sure I could have done the same in their place. After all, how do we ever reconcile ourselves completely to the fact that we will inevitably hurt the ones we love? And how much more devastating is that when it is our children we hurt, and vice versa?
- If you cannot smile at a naked, giggling and dancing two and a half year old, you are probably dead.
Such are my most recent observations. I can’t say that any of this has entirely eased my mind or helped me make it up one way or another. I can say, however, that it is oh so much more quiet when there are no small children around, even when the cats try their damnedest to be annoying. So, here’s my thought: Several more cats, for practice. Also, I can test out some toys on my own, to see what it’s like - particularly the computer games. Finally, I suppose if I should be afflicted with the miracle of virgin birth I will see it through, albeit from my cozy perch in a padded cell, no doubt. Until then, I have more observing and thinking to do. Perhaps I will decide by the time I am forty. Perhaps.