‘So when will you two love birds be starting a family?’ my sister-in-law asked me for the second time during a family get-together last weekend.
‘I can’t, unfortunately,’ I answered sadly. ‘Babies scare me. I was attacked by a pack of them when I was little, and have never gotten over it. Their teeth are like needles when they’re young. They gang up on you, especially when you start running. It’s…’ She held up a hand for me to stop talking and rolled her eyes at my lame joke. Then she handed me my two-year old niece, who has absolutely no interest in me.
‘Well I don’t think you know what you’re missing.’
Another phrase we hear quite often is: “It’s possible for two women to adopt, you know”. Or: “You could always get a donor.” As if we’re completely oblivious to all the ways for us to have children in this country that thankfully allows it. If I snap after having to defend our choice over and over again, my attacker will look at me as if I’m the unreasonable one.
Why is it that, as soon as you’re in a stable relationship and of a certain age, people start pressuring you into having babies? As if it concerns them personally? As if it will affect their own happiness if you don’t? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a baby-hating asshole but I do happen to prefer puppies. My wife does too and so we agreed not to go down the children-route together.
Unfortunately, people around us refuse to respect that decision. They will hand me their babies at any given opportunity and tell me ‘it suits me’. I’m not sure what that means. My new shades suit me too but that doesn’t mean I want to commit to them for life. What the baby-naggers fail to see is that babies are just as uncomfortable around me as I am around them. It’s like they can smell the fear on me. They take one good look before they start crying and waving their little arms around, desperately searching for the safety of their mum. “Get me away from her! Now! She doesn’t know what she’s doing!”
Besides the fact that babies don’t like me, I’m not very good with them because I’m not used to being around them and I don’t know how to communicate on their level. It makes me extremely stressed, knowing that I’m responsible for the safety and wellbeing of such a tiny creature. Maybe I’m traumatised due to my failures in the past. The first time I looked after my godson, I forgot him on the tram and only realised he was still on there in his pram when it drove off and an angry woman yelled after me to come and get my damn baby. I’ve never ran so fast in my life. When I looked after a three year old in the South of France a couple of years ago, he arrived at school with chocolate around his mouth, different shoes and his sisters’ sweater on inside out. He seemed so capable that I just assumed he could do everything himself and it didn’t look all that bad to me.
During our family weekend, I took up the challenge to bond with my little niece. I don’t see them very often and I wanted to prove that I was perfectly capable of having a good time with kids. My wife is great with kids and they always seem to like her immediately so I observed her and tried to put myself in their shoes the way she did. Four days is a long time so you would think they eventually warm to you if you just try hard enough, right? So I tried. And I tried. Clay? Lego? Barbies? “No!” was the stern answer to everything I suggested. I gave up on day three after I asked her if she wanted to go outside and feed the ducks. She looked me in the eyes and said: “Leave me alone.” Her mother was beaming with pride because apparently, that was the longest sentence she’d ever constructed.