Wednesday, September 30, 2009

..."childless author" Sue Fagalde Lick says ...

Hey! How come every article about German Chancellor Angela Merkel has to mention that she's childless? Does every article about President Obama mention that he has two kids? No. Does every mention of media billionaire Oprah Winfrey preface her name with the word "childless"? No, and why should it? It's irrelevant. Surely Merkel has other qualities. When she was running for election the first go-round, women protested that she couldn't possibly understand the needs of families--couples with children--because she didn't have any of her own. Come on. She doesn't live in a bubble. Do the women on our U.S. Supreme Court have children? I don't know. I don't care. What matters is their ability to do the job. So let's leave Angela alone. Besides, sticking an adjective in front of a name is just bad writing.

I discovered the Childless Stepmums Forum, an online group based in the UK for women who have stepchildren but no biological children. Check it out for some fun chatter. Two other groups have grabbed my attention: Stepdivas and the Childless Stepmoms forum at the SecondWives Club. It's tricky raising someone else's kids when you've never had your own, but it helps if you can share your thoughts with someone who understands. Take a look.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Don't Hate Kids

My sister-in-law thinks I don't like children. Not true. If I flinched or made a wisecrack whenever parents and small children invaded our space during our recent visit, it wasn't the kids that bothered me. Most children are charming when they're not shrieking. I love their freshness, the way everything is new to them, the way they seem to learn and grow so quickly. No, it's how their parents behave around them that drives me nuts.

Having been surrounded by wee ones and parents on my trip to California this last weekend, I saw a lot of behavior that made me grit my teeth. Why do some parents feel the need to narrate every moment while others let their kid kick the back of my airplane seat all the way from Sacramento to Portland? Why would a mother bring a noisy toy to a restaurant and encourage her to use it, oblivious to the other customers' growing annoyance? Of course, I saw good parents, too. On the way home, I sat behind a couple with the world's most attractive little boy. They did an excellent job of teaching and disciplining him and supporting each other without being obnoxious.

No, I like kids and wish I had one or two. And yes, I would probably be one of the most annoying parents on the plane instead of the grumpy grownup I appear to be.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gladiola among the poppies

Gladiola bulbs in my front yard shoot up green spearlike leaves every summer, but they don't bloom every year. Many years, the leaves are all I get. But when they do bloom, the tall salmon-colored flowers outshine everything in the garden.

We childless women are like those gladiolas. Unlike the poppies that consistently fill my garden every summer and fall and are now blooming from the cracks in my driveway and hanging out over the sidewalk, the gladiolas rarely reproduce. Perhaps it's because I'm a negligent gardener or because the weather is too intense here. I get one bloom per plant and then it disappears, but oh that flower is special.

Maybe the book I'm reading, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, has influenced my thoughts today, but I find myself content with things as they are. My life, although different from that of most people, a puzzle to my family and friends, is exactly what it was meant to be. I have never followed the usual path, and that's okay.

Instead of bemoaning our lack of children, let us consider that you and I are gladiolas, unique and glorious all by ourselves.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Know the Feeling

Yesterday at the post office, I met a woman I interviewed years ago when she was the single, carefree skipper of a charter boat in Depoe Bay. At that time, Shelly only had to worry about her perfectly behaved German Shepherd. Last year, we met again at dog-training class, where she had a new Shepherd and I had my two giant lab/bully dogs.

Much has changed for both of us over the years--and not just dogs. My husband lives in a nursing home, and I'm alone with the dogs. Shelly is married and has two little boys. She has given up her fishing business to be a wife and mom. Alas, sometimes children can be as exasperating as puppies. When I entered the post office, Shelly and one of the boys were on the floor under the mail deposit box. The boy was having a tantrum while his brother leaned against the counter laughing, showing his tongue and two missing teeth.

"How are you?" I asked the beautiful blonde, freckled mom.
"I've had better moments," she said, struggling to hold the wild-eyed child.
I nodded and went on to my P.O. Box to collect my junk mail. I could hear her saying some of the very things I might say to my dogs: Stop it, sit up, keep still, be quiet. But in the middle of a tantrum it doesn't work any better with kids than it does with dogs--and I have the cuts and bruises to prove it.

Parenting is tough. I'm not equating dogs with children. Kids grow up, but both take a lot of energy when they're young and early training is vital. I wonder if sometimes Shelly remembers those days out at sea on the Lady Luck and wishes she were still there. Maybe she does at times like the one in the Post Office, but I'm sure there are other times when she looks at her sons with love and pride and wouldn't trade them for all the crab and salmon in the sea.

I attended a party the other night with people from church whom I don't know very well. Somehow we split up into women around one table and men around the other. I soon found myself the alien in the group. Not only did I not have a husband to bring, but I don't have children. All of these women seem to have grown children and grandchildren to talk about. It was a long evening. The division between the Mom Club and those of us without children never ends.