If you can't say something nice, at least make it funny!

Thanks for visiting Tinfoil Magnolia, a blog about my life, times, marriage, friendships and all the strange things that happen to me and with me. I hope you find something here that will encourage you, inspire you or at the least entertain you. And if it doesn't today, check back tomorrow because, my life? honestly...

Wednesday, May 26

My Soapbox for the Week

From time to time I am asked to defend myself on certain beliefs that I have. Not that surprising since I pretty much buck the conventions of what society considers to be normal on everything from my religious beliefs to the equality deserved by every citizen of this planet, regardless of race, sex, religion, orientation etc. However, the one thing I am asked to defend more often than any other is my decision not to have children. Less now that I am in my 40's but when we were in our 30's it was almost constant. Not just people asking why, but people actually trying to convince me that I "had" to have a child. Oh, I could write an entire dissertation on that one.

It is something on which I deliberated much, mainly because I just didn't like being around children. Ever. Even when I was 3 I wanted to hang around with the grown ups and talk with them. I baby sat in high school and during college I was a nanny. But I didn't know what to "do" with these kids–how to talk to them or how to entertain them. One time I turned on Pee-Wee's playhouse on a Saturday morning and the 5 year old girl wailed, terrified. The older the kids were the worse it was. So, I would load them into my convertible Fiat and go to Baskin Robbins for ice cream. They loved me. I was like a rock star. All the Belle Meade moms wanted me. I felt like a fraud.

I still figured I would have to have kids simply because that's what women did. It was "the thing to do", the societal norm where I came from, even in the late 80's when staying home and having kids was declining in popularity nationwide as more women entered the workforce. However, when I got out into the real world I started to realize that a lot of people had kids who had no business having kids. They weren't capable of loving them, educating them, or even feeding them sometimes. One summer during college, tired of my nanny jobs,  I got a summer job working for the Dept. of Human Services office in my Kentucky hometown. Looking back, this was probably one of the best experiences I could have had  in my young life. It was a real eye-opener and I came out of it realizing two things. Loving your kids and having trouble providing for them is one thing. Everyone needs help sometimes. That is something that can be overcome in time with persistence and hard work. But having kids, just for the sake of having them, just because you can, not knowing how to treat them, discipline them or care for them, not wanting them and letting them know it, now that is a horse of a different color.

The reason I am posting this now is because I was already thinking about the fact that I am childfree (thanks, SS for the great blog post) and what people's judgements are about that and about me as a result. Some people don't even understand it enough to make a judgement. And then yesterday in the grocery store, I saw something that just tore me apart inside. There was a mom with 4 kids, ranging in age from about 3 up to maybe 8. (I don't know...I'm not good with ages) Now, let me say that being childfree, I am the first to notice when kids are misbehaving. I am the first to glare when they are running and yelling and acting like they are in the Wild, Wild, West Show. And I hate when parents just ignore them and let them run wild through the grocery, Wal-Mart, or where ever. I'm kinda judgey that way. Don't even get me started on restaurant behavior. I am thinking of lobbying for a no-child section. I will breathe smoke, thanks. But I digress. These kids, let me be clear, they were not making ANY noise. They were being so good, I would never have know there were 4 kids in the next aisle over. But the mom? Oh, yeah, her I heard. Loud and clear.

I heard a constant stream of things like "Stop that, you are acting like an idiot, stupid, you are just stupid, stop acting stupid." *smack* "You want another one, Im gonna give you another smack upside your head, you just keep acting stupid." I just stood still in my tracks until they came around the aisle into the one where I was. The mom was leading the pack of 4 of the most adorable cotton topped children I have ever seen. But bedraggled is the word that immediately popped into my head upon seeing them. They reminded me of the kids in all those WPA depression photographs, just looking like they have given up on life at their tender age. They quietly followed her in a line like little ducklings after the mama duck and I still never saw what any of them were doing to offend her but she continued in her overly loud voice. "Cut that out, act right!" *jerking little one by arm* "What the hell is wrong with you, stop it, stay here with me, don't walk ahead. And you, stop dancing around like an idiot. You look like a moron." (the one daughter had twirled in a circle, from what I could see out of the corner of my eye) "Ya'll are acting like a bunch of idiots, what the hell is wrong with you. I will beat your ass if you don't act right. I mean it I will f*cking beat your ass, you hear me. Goddammit, I can not go anywhere, you want me to beat your ass? I will beat you f*cking ass you hear me?" Yes, she said the F word. Not in front of her children but to them.

It continued throughout my 20 minute shopping excursion. I did my best to stay away from her because I could feel it bubbling up in my chest. I know it isn't reasonable to say something to someone like that, but I knew if I didn't stay away I would. And the other thing? The mother barely stood 5 feet tall and was skinnny as a rail, but I was scared of her. She probably could have beat the crap out of me. She grabbed the littlest one by the arm and I heard the whack on his diaper 3 or 4 times. "There you go! I beat your ass and I will do it again you idiot, what is wrong with you?" Then she walked past me and said "All these people lookin' at me like I am crazy, ya'll are crazy, shit. You act crazy and then people look at me like I am crazy. Bust some ass, that's what I will do."

It kept on and on throughout the store. I was sickened. I just wanted to take those kids and give them hugs. Tell them that life doesn't have to be this way. Call for help. Take them home and clean them up and show them what life is like when someone actually loves and cares for you. It just breaks my heart that some children have to grow up like that. It breaks my heart to think that the mom most likely grew up like that, and someday so will their children. As I rolled my cart out to my car I saw her pull out of the parking lot, the children bouncing up and down in the back, not one of them in a car seat. I thought briefly of pulling out after them, following them, doing...something. I had no idea what so I just got into my car and sat in the sweltering heat for a moment, letting the anger swell up in my chest.

I have always been this way. One lesson my mother never tried to teach me was "you can't save everyone". I learned that on my own. I grew up with parents who tried to help kids and families who they thought needed it, adopted stray dogs, picked up hitchhikers. I always fought for the underdog. The weird kid in school, the abused kid or wife, the dog that got kicked. I never said I didn't have mothering instincts. I never said I don't think kids can be adorable. I am just saying I don't think I have what it takes to live with them every day. I am saying that the ability to have and raise kids isn't just a right. It is an enormous responsibility, one which should be a conscious choice.

Now, I am not saying that the reason I don't want kids is that I think I would be mean or abusive or anything like that. I personally like having a life without kids because we are not tied down and can live life as we please. Some say that is selfish. I am just saying that it is more selfish when people have kids if they don't want them, can't handle them, or just plain don't like them. We as a society should stop pushing that version of "normal" onto people without regard for whether they want it or not. The conscious choice to have or not have children should be one that everyone regardless of social, racial, and economic background should have the education and opportunity to make. *stepping off soapbox*


  1. John has made the same restaurant suggestion - and he has kids!!

  2. you might enjoy some of this gals writings: http://www.grist.org/article/2010-05-17-how-green-are-the-childless-by-choice

    I love her thought process. And I agree wholeheartedly with you.

    While I've spent the last 22 years surrounded by kids - I had made a decision in my early 20's to not have children...but sometimes things work out differently than planned....I still never thought of myself as a 'good' mother - but they all turned out okay in spite of me..

    Another observation I have - and I see it often considering where I work - is a pregnant woman with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and a kid or two in the back seat....now I realize smoking is a choice and if you want to kill yourself - that's your business, but when you enclose a couple of little kids and your pregnant - well - you just need the shit smacked out of you.

    And that's how I really feel about it.

  3. Sarah, I agree with the smoking thing. I saw that article earlier in the week, very interesting.

    I haven't been there every moment, but I think your girls all turned out exceptionally well and they would not have if you and Steve weren't both exceptional in the parental department.

    Love ya so much, girl! You're a superwoman!