I love children, but I don’t want them. I don’t want them for the same reasons many women don’t want them: I don’t want to spend my time, energy, and money on other people, and I’m worried that I will resent my kids and be a horrible mother. Maybe I’ll regret this when I’m older, but I’ll just have to wait and see.
The only time I doubt my decision is when I see people—adults or teenagers—who have great relationships with their parents, and maybe when I see a particularly cute child fling themselves into their parent’s arms. It must be amazing and fulfilling to be a parent to children who actually love and/or like you. But how does that happen? How does one produce happy children who don’t turn into vicious devils who shoplift makeup and use their mother’s back massager as a vibrator and ruin their older sister’s clothing when they turn twelve? How does one avoid all that? (Yes, now that I am an adult I recognize that my mom might not have been using her massager as a massager either, and that makes me want to shower only in bleach forever. Hot damn though, that thing worked. But oh, gross.)
I am my biggest piece of evidence that having kids might be a regrettable decision. I put my parents through so much. Of course, maybe I put them through so much because of what they, or my father specifically, put me through. Screaming at little kids and telling them they’re stupid can contribute to kids becoming nervous, spacey wrecks. And as they get older they’re more likely to be like, “Yeah, I am not going to make this easy for you” and will maybe actually yell back and embarrass you by wearing vinyl hot pants to school. (Not that I was embarrassing anyone on purpose. Their embarassment over the vinyl hot pants was merely a bonus - frankly, they looked great.)
My parents weren’t consistently terrible though. My mother was often not terrible at all. I was often quite terrible, and yes, I feel bad about it. But I could have been worse. I didn’t set my parents on fire while they slept. And I got it together eventually, so I’d like to think that magically turns my past into that’s just what happens.
There seem like two sub categories to “just what happens”— terrible behavioral shit and exhausting annoyances. Some of my terrible shit was getting suspended and always being in detention, shoplifting often, slapping my mom once and holding a knife at her when I was thirteen. Yes, that happened, a I really wish it hadn’t. I had absolutely no intention of doing anything, but she’d been a real bitch to my friend and I wanted her to apologize. She was angry because my friend and I lit firecrackers and threw them out the window onto our densely populated residential street. Hers was not an irrational reaction. Hers was a smart reaction. But she totally went after my friend for being a bad influence and, as I was already aware that other girls’ moms were telling them they couldn’t hang out with me because I was a bad influence, I simply became enraged and couldn’t control myself.
So there’s the stuff that maybe makes you hate your kid, and then there’s the merely exhausting annoyances. Examples might be the temper tantrums (actually, I hear that makes you hate your kid pretty hard), them thinking you’re stupid all the time and that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and them not being so smart. That last one is what I’m interested in right now.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, my parents were very smart and successful. They didn’t grow up with a lot (my mother grew up with “nothing”) and they both rocked it.
I, however, grew up with more than enough, and I had a lot of learning issues when I was younger. I still have them, actually. I teach at an Ivy League school and I’m always asking my students how to spell things as I’m writing on the board. It’s mortifying, especially because I know at least half of them are thinking, “This is why I gave up my entire high school social life? To be taught by this lady?”
I was a slow learner when I was young and I needed a lot of extra help. I didn’t pay a lot of attention in school, and homework made me extra-fidgety and moody. This was very frustrating for my parents and, I’m guessing, just annoying. I was constantly getting evaluated for education and behavioral problems. I was constantly doing poorly in school. My parents constantly had to meet with my teachers. If I had to do that for my kid I’d be pretty annoyed. Certainly it could be much worse, but I definitely could have been much better.
I ended up repeating sixth grade when I began a new middle school, and even still, my new sixth grade, with real science and language classes, was hard on me. I just didn’t do well. I’d struggled with school my whole educational life, but middle school was when shit really got bad. I couldn’t handle the “work load,” and I had severe social issues and anxiety. I was always involved in fights, and I was pretty immature, and I learned that I didn’t really know how to get along with people or navigate social situations. I also hated the loaded, sheltered, superficial suburban kids I was suddenly dealing with, so I began to drift toward the goth side. And the slutty side. All the bad sides I could drift to, I did, just like it was scripted.
That’s got to be annoying as a parent, right? Once you’ve been raising your youngest for thirteen years you must be ready for a serious break, but I did not let my parents get one. Actually, 95% of my shit fell on my mother, because my dad was already working in Ukraine by that point.
I needed serious help by the time I hit eighth grade, so my parents sent me for a neuropsychological/psychoeducational evaluation—probably the fourth I’d gotten by that point in my life—and I just found the report. It’s so juicy, weird, and a little depressing, but also funny and fine, mostly. After having my issues officially confirmed with various diagnoses, it was decided that I would start taking Ritalin (very unusual for girls at that time) and anti-depressants. I don’t remember how I felt about going on medication at the time, but I’m pretty sure I was okay with it, because I wanted my life to be better too.
I wonder how my parents felt about it. Did they hope that going on medication would make my life easier, and therefore theirs as well? Having a troubled, hyper-sensitive, and weird kid must make you a little crazy, and you must really resent the emotional and financial drain that often accompanies them. I can see why you’d be excited by any prospect of easing that burden. I’m sure I would be.
I know my mother was really fed up with me and angry at my father for sticking her with me, but she wasn’t so fed up that she ignored the issues, and I am very grateful for that. She was a very selfish person, but this is where it’s obvious that she could have been much more selfish. I was lucky my parents recognized I needed help and took it very seriously. I would have gone way more off the rails in a more negligent family.
So here’s the report. Maybe you think it’s really boring, but because it’s about me I’m very into it. Also, it’s interesting to think that my mother had to know me in this clinical yet intimate way. Did this change her view of me? I don’t feel she became more sympathetic. In fact, sometimes I felt like having this scientific evidence of my annoyingness allowed her to resent me more. Anyway, the handwritten notes are hers.