I don’t like children.
It’s one of those phrases that come to my lips the moment someone asks if my boyfriend and I will ever have kids, but it’s rarely uttered. The reactions are nearly always negative and range from a strange look between disbelief and disgust to a twenty minute rant on why children are the best thing since sliced bread and that I’m totally missing out if I don’t sacrifice my life for 18+ years to support a creature with half my DNA.
It’s always been this way.
I was never a child that lugged around a baby doll. My cousin had a little bald, plastic baby named Gracie that she kept swaddled against her and dressed daily. Instead of a stroller or papoose, my room was loaded with stuffed animals. While my cousin had Gracie, I had Whiskers, a progressively piebald stuffed cat who wore a bed skirt-like dress to hide his bald spots. I talked to my stuffed animals as if they were people. I fed them, hugged them, tucked them in at night.
History has repeated itself night after night.
Every night before I go to bed, I take my hair out of its clips and pins, but as I walk through the darkened house, I make note of where my babies are. Edgar is sleeping under my chair in the kitchen, Finny is laying against the backdoor, and Katie right where I left her on the sofa or curled up on my bed waiting for me. Before I go to sleep, I pet each of them and tell them that I love them. A little part of me fears not carrying out the ritual, not reminding them of my love before they close their eyes. As I peel back the covers, Katie with her stubby dachshund legs dives onto me full force before settling at my feet or near my head. Most nights I wake up with at least Edgar and Katie curled up around me, protecting my flank as if I was one of the pack.
Respecting the autonomy of others means no guilt.
My boyfriend and I have never wanted children. I never dreamed of having a family. Hell, I never thought I’d have a life partner until I met mine, but children have never been in the picture. Never did the image of school pictures, birthdays, or trips to Disney with brood in tow come to mind. I’m still at the age where I don’t know whether to reply yay or oh no when someone says they’re pregnant. My reaction is obvious, but I’m quickly realizing that most at least feign joy. It’s expected. It’s the norm. The norm rarely feels like it fits me anymore. In the future, I see myself writing books, going to a gallery opening or event that’s centered around my partner’s art, and doing some traveling. I want a small house with enough room for us and the dogs. Somewhere there will be a house where dogs lounge on the sofa, locking eyes with me from across the room as I read and pet one of their siblings. The floors will be littered with half-chewed dog bones and tumbleweeds of fur.
“To love another person is to see the face of god.”
My babies won’t live as long as yours. At most, they’ll live into their teens and because I’ve rescued them from the shelter, our time may be shorter than I anticipated. Yet their lives aren’t tragic. Their short time on earth puts my life into perspective and makes me grateful for the years I have with them. For all the wet kisses and the adoring gazes that make a shitty day better because somehow they know what I need. Dogs are strange. Part wolf, part toddler, they’re at once all-knowing and innocent. Animals give their love without caveat and present the only true form of unconditional love on earth, and it’s this I crave. I want to love and be loved without judgment. Someday I’d like to be person my dog loves so wholly and able to love as they do.