I like babies, and I love little kids. They thing is, I’ve spent most of my life assuming that everybody else likes them more than me: that I—by comparison—don’t like babies etc. Too, I grew up being matter-of-fact around babies; I was helping with babies as soon as I could safely hold them, taking care of my siblings and volunteering in the church nursery while I was still in elementary school. I thought that helplessness around babies was something that only existed in screwball comedies.
When I was in California for my sister’s wedding, my mom gave me an unsolicited parenthood pep talk. (At the time, I’m pretty sure that she thought I was secretly pregnant, but I believe she’s over it now.) She told me that she’s never liked babies or little kids—which makes me wonder why she had four and wanted more, but that’s neither here nor there. She said that I should hurry up and become a mom because I’ll enjoy it in a way that she never did. She was talking, I think, about the fact that I would be happy to fingerpaint or build pillow forts or help a toddler help me make pie. I’m tolerant of untidiness—probably a bit too much so, but we’re none of us perfect—and I’m not frantic about routine. (These are all qualities that my mother does not share.) Lord knows when I’ll be an honest-to-God, for-real mother (I have hopes to be pregnant by Christmas, but we’ll see), but I feel a deep and quiet happiness when I think about it.
I worry about jinxing myself here. I also already worry about being a terrible mother, about having sobbing meltdowns because futurekid won’t stop screaming. But it’s true that there are things I don’t worry about. When I was a teenager, I worried that I’d be abusive if I became a parent—I was abused, albeit not grotesquely, and my incomplete understanding of how these things play out led me to assume that I’d kid my unlikely theoretical future kids. After a great deal of therapy and a little introspection, I realized that I’ve always turned those feelings inward, and while self-flagellation is less than ideal, it certainly makes me a safer caretaker than my mother was. I worry about not being able to figure out what a baby needs or wants—I mean, I can certainly run down a list of obvious picks like milk or a diaper change or, I don’t know, I’m already out of ideas. Maybe this theoretical kid is bored? Or gassy? I am getting anxious just writing this. I don’t want to break the baby. But I imagine I’ll keep telling myself what I kept telling myself about childbirth the last time around: stupider and less worthwhile women have made it through this just fine, so I’m going to make it too.