Sibling Irony

Something I’ve often heard is that having siblings teaching children how to share.

As an (older) sibling, I can honestly say whoever started that belief deserves to be punched.

Having a sibling did not teach me how to share. It taught me how to hoard and hide my stuff because I didn’t want to share. I hated sharing anything with my sister. I didn’t become better with sharing until I was in my late teens and, ironically, didn’t have to share anymore because someone told me to.

But the effects of having a sibling had already been done and I genuinely feel like having a sibling, and specifically being the older of the two, is what contributed most to my lack of any desire to be a parent.

Like most older siblings, I was often responsible for my sister. I don’t solely mean babysitting. If she did anything wrong, somehow, it was my fault. I was expected to know better because I was the older sibling, but somehow, she never was, no matter how old she got. I was actually aware enough as a kid to point this out, but it’s not like I was ever listened to. The bottom line is I very much resented being given the responsibility of a child I had zero part in bringing into the world, and I’m positive merely being a babysitter a few times would not cause that feeling.

Of course, this varies. Some oldest siblings willingly go on to become parents, and my boyfriend is the youngest of his parents’ three children and doesn’t want kids, despite being the typical “spoiled baby of the family” (until a certain age). This came to my mind because I found it ironic and somewhat hilarious. What was supposed to teach me about sharing and being responsible became the biggest factor in why I want nothing to do with parenthood.

More so, my sister has a rather idealized idea of caring for children. She wants kids of her own someday, and I do not knock her for that, but she knows next to nothing about taking care of someone smaller than her. She once asked me how I couldn’t want kids and while I know this is a question sometimes shared by parents, in this case, it came out of the mouth of a 16-year-old whose closest experience with caring for a child had been looking after a baby doll. That question is annoying, no matter who it comes from, but it makes more sense out of the mouth of someone who is a parent and knows they like the experience than someone who’s never done it. Granted, one could argue I’m not very different in that I’ve never been a parent and am saying it’d be terrible for me.

However, there are two differences here. I’m talking only about myself. I’ve never said no one else shouldn’t want to be a parent. I’m saying nothing more than I don’t. The other is, as I said, my sister has never been responsible for any children, whereas I have, and not just her. I can remember being left to after a small group of daycare children when I was about 8 or under (yes, my mothet was present). Her idea of parenthood comes from what she thinks it is. Mine comes from what I’ve done, and with no say in the matter at that.

Today, as an adult, I don’t hate children and, to an extent, I do enjoy looking after them. There are times when I’d genuinely prefer a child’s company to an adult’s. Occasionally, children who come to my register with their parents will talk about something, and one child surprised me when she was so quiet while waiting in line, but started chatting with me the second her parents came to my counter. It’s rather cute, even if I have no idea what they’re going on about, and heaven knows I’d rather hear that than be yelled at by a customer for the fifth time because I can’t do their return.

But all of those are temporary. At the end of the day, the children are gone and I go home. I can have patience with children precisely because I’m not around them 24/7. It’s easier to remember they’re children and they’re acting like children than it would be if I were over-exhausted and hadn’t slept in three days. I’ve heard parenthood can teach you patience – likely because you have no choice except to learn – but it could also very well double my temper, which happens naturally anyway. “Doing your best” isn’t an excuse when what you do causes you to scar your child. I didn’t realize until I was an adult my own mother was practically winging parenthood the whole time. She tried, but her “best” was only good when everything else was good. If not, hell reigned upon us.

In the end, along with lack of interest in parenthood, I’m not interested in playing Russian Roulette with someone’s life. At least, I can argue I wasn’t willingly given the responsibility of my sister. That was my mom’s doing. But my child? 100% my fault. No room to complain about having to share then! I’d brought that kid into the world. I’d better share!

Another Holiday

Tomorrow, August 1st, is a day known by some people as International Childfree Day. It’s not a day I particularly care for and I often forget it because there seem to be a lot of “special days”, such as National Donut Day, and I simply don’t have any feelings for them. Plus, so many special days, even if they’re not major holidays, make the idea of special days alone not so special anymore.

However, I’m mentioning this day in particular because despite my feelings about the holiday, I do occasionally think about how different, and how much worse, my life would be if I did have children. I’ve spoken before about how I compare my life at this age to my mother’s when she was this age. Let me clarify right now there is no feeling of superiority. I have never felt that. What I have felt since I was a child is motherhood is a route my mother shouldn’t have taken, but time can’t be reversed.

No, I don’t go around, parading happily how I don’t have children. For what? Like most of my thoughts, these tend to come up at night, when I’m lying in bed and not yet asleep. What often comes to mind is what I’d lose or not even have if at some point between the age I became capable of reproducing and now, I’d become a mother. That includes my own sanity and that is not a joke since I’ve been heavily suicidal in the past. In fact, I strongly fear becoming pregnant, and if that were to happen, my immediate thoughts would shift to self-harm before I thought about terminating it. I believe that speaks for itself.

If it’s not my sanity and mental health, it’s the loss of relationships I’d experience. I’ve read when you have children, you learn who your real friends are, but on the other side, I’ve talked to people who did try to keep in contact with friends who became parents and they couldn’t because those friends would stop responding altogether. Obviously, I don’t know exactly how busy a day with a newborn is, but if it’s busy enough to leave no time to take five minutes to send a text message, that sounds less like “not real friends” and more like the friendship simply faltering due to no time to care for it. That happens to any kind of relationship that’s given too little or no attention. It’s why I lost friends when I switched school districts as a child. We couldn’t keep in contact. In short, it’s natural.

Being honest, I have to admit the above is something that scares me. My friends do want to be parents and I absolutely want that for them since it’s what would make them happy, but I do feel sad at knowing it could spell the end of our friendship because they lack time or I do, and I’d feel selfish and like a pest if trying to keep in touch with them only made their days harder.

My relationship with my boyfriend would be non-existent. We wouldn’t know each other, let alone be a couple. This is because he doesn’t want children either, so if I had a child, neither of us would’ve had a chance with each other. Of course, if I’d never met him, I wouldn’t know any different, but since I did, knowing I could’ve missed out on what’s been and continues to be the most loving and one of the healthiest relationships I’ve had in my life saddens me. We did nearly miss each other, but that was due to not checking messages. That was easily amended.

The third top thing I’d lose due to have a child would be my body. Now, before the cries of vanity come, looks are not what I’m referring to. I try to keep myself neat, but I do not have any care for dressing and looking like I just finished a photo shoot. I’m talking about the effects pregnancy and childbirth would have, such as tearing and having to be stitched up, and bleeding continuously for several weeks. And that’s if it goes well. Heaven forbid it goes awfully because at worst, I’m dead. I don’t care if the stitching and bleeding is “not that bad”. Don’t touch me!

On the list of smaller things I’d lose, there’s my collection of things like Disney and Pokemon, and certain outings I’ve been on. Yes, I know it’s possible to still go hiking, to farms, and to amusement parks with children, but it’s also more expensive and requires more planning. When I was invited to the farm, for example, I didn’t even have to think about saying yes. I hadn’t made any other plans, so I could say yes right away. If I’d a child, especially a small child, I definitely would’ve had to make some arrangements, like finding and being able to pay a babysitter for that day, and having someone arrive early or drop my child off early and return home to be picked up. In my eyes, that’s a pain in the behind. Those things probably seem insignificant and I wouldn’t disagree they aren’t the most important things, but they’re small things I enjoy.

While I still have no plans to do anything in particular for International Childfree Day, I will say the day is a nice reminder of a choice I’m happy to have made for my life. No, my life’s not perfect and I’m positive it never will be because perfection doesn’t exist and life enjoys stomping on people at every turn, but to know I have control over, at least, one aspect of my life is assuring and indeed makes me happy.

An Angel I See

This past Saturday, my eight-year-old cousin came to visit. I don’t see her often, but I love spending time with her. She’s a sweet, typical kid. Loves cartoons, loves to play games, loves being silly, and she’s fairly quiet, though she seems to be growing out of that. She was quieter when she was younger than she is now. The first time she ever came to visit (I think she was five), the only sound she made was when she cried about simply walking to the back room alone. Now, she has no problem with our house and will respond without trouble if you talk to her.

In my eyes, my cousin is an ideal child. Well-behaved, patient, able to sit quietly and occupy herself, polite. Out of all the times I’ve been with her, she threw a tantrum one time. And she had reason because she was tired and had been abruptly woken up. I couldn’t blame her. Nobody likes being woken up, especially not in such a rush.

Every now and then, I think if it were guaranteed my first child would be like my cousin, I’d consider being a parent. However, experiences like the above knock me back down the Earth. I don’t doubt my cousin is well-behaved most of the time, but in truth, I can only make that judgment based on the small amount of time I spend with her and what my aunt (her grandmother) tells me. At most, I only spend a few hours with my cousin when one of us visits the other. I see the sweet, playful side of her because, unless she ever feels like throwing fits for a day, there’s no reason for her to behave any differently in the few hours I’m with her.

Even if I spent a full 24 hours with her, I may not see much difference in her behavior. She would have people to pay attention to her, she knows she is wanted and loved, she has plenty of things to play with, and she has more than enough to eat if she’s hungry. The only way I’d see anything different from what I know of her is if someone or something agitated her, which, from what I hear, is rare.

It’s unrealistic to expect anyone to be proper 100% of the time, let alone a child who still has a lot of growing and learning to do. Most kids stop throwing tantrums around my cousin’s age, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to deal with unpleasant feelings. If I spent a week with my cousin, chances are I’d see fits, some stubbornness, and some sadness or even anger. No matter how angelic I see her as, the fact remains she is human, not a flat character in a TV show. Spending 24/7 with her is much different than a few hours, especially if she spends that time occupying herself and not needing or wanting someone’s attention.

When I was a child, I often got upset at myself for not being perfect. I actually thought something was wrong with me (being asked by an adult what’s wrong with me didn’t help either) because I couldn’t be perfect like everyone else seemed to, or I couldn’t be good like I was the previous day. When I was old enough to seriously think about parenting, I envisioned my child always being happy and loving because they’d have no reason to ever be upset. I hadn’t yet learned that nobody is perfect and it’s okay because perfection does not exist. Children are going to act out from time to time, no matter how well their parents are raising them, because people make mistakes. I wish someone had to told me as a child, “It’s alright you feel this way. You just can’t [whatever I did that was inappropriate].” Honestly, even as an adult, I don’t see the point in punishing a kid because they’re unhappy.

My little cousin reminds me of childhood and what it was like to be so young, innocent, and joyful. And while I know it can’t last forever, I do hope, unlike me, she is able to grow and mature at her own pace instead of having to be hurried into it.