Sunday, May 7, 2017

An Open Letter From a Childless Adult to Those With Children

Her hair was windblown, the color of sand, and slightly stiffened by the salty tears that she'd shed just hours earlier. It felt so brittle as I gently brushed it to the side of her face, knowing that the frailness of her tear-stained hair matched the current state of her heart. After fighting in the foster system for longer than she could remember; after time and time again suffering the disappointment of hoping for a child and feeling the anguish of that dream being ripped from her hands, she found herself retreating into the safety of a hobby. A place where she could let her heart grieve and also allow it room to mend. In what felt to be her safest space, a friend stopped by, and after a quick "hello", made an exit with the phrase, "it's so great that you have time to do these things because you don't have kids. That's awesome!" In that moment her heart silently shattered into a million pieces.

Everything in me wished I could take that pain away. And everything in me wanted to shout, "WHY?" from the rooftop nearby.

If only this were a one-off thing..

"You're lucky that your car is so clean! It's because you don't have kids."
"You must have so much free time because you don't have kids."
"You have no idea what it's like because you don't have kids."
"The kids kept me up so late last night. You must love not having to deal with things like that!"
"If you had kids you'd understand."

All are things that have been said to me and/or childless friends of mine. One of the harshest things I had to witness was at a church retreat over a decade ago where I was sitting with a friend around the campfire, someone who I knew had just found out she would be unable to have children, and through a series of events a random person calls over to her across the fire, "Thank GOD that YOU don't have kids!" I didn't even know what to do or say for fear of revealing my friend's hidden battle. It was as if I could audibly hear her heart being stomped on by someone who made a flippant comment - not at all intending the pain that it unknowingly had inflicted.

And so I pen this: an open letter to all parents

At one point you, too, were single, or even married, without a child of your own. Maybe you used to ride bikes with your friends as a kid; showing off your skills by jumping "so high!" off of the apron at the end of the driveway - staying out till the streetlights came on or someone called you inside. Those summer nights passed, and you grew. Friends of yours fell in and out of love, eventually finding themselves on a new track for their lives. The day came when you did to. Whether planned or not, another life began to grow and you were part of it. That joy and nervousness of finding out morphed into days, weeks, and months of monitored growth on every level. You may have documented every appointment, every sickness, every craving, until one day you finally held the reward of your labors. Your child. Yours. Once a child yourself, you now found yourself in a new stage of life; caring for another human who was entirely dependant upon you. One of life's greatest rewards.

Not everyone has that same story. Some are penned differently. Plot twists are thrown in and decades pass.
Granted, not all women want to have kids. To those who know with complete certainty that they do not - more power to them! There is no shame in knowing what is right for you. And if you know that about a person, then by all means feel free to joke about it if you know they are alright with it. But, just know, that those people -women especially - are few and far between.

In my circle, I can easily say that most of my single friends have more experience working with, and caring for, children than a lot of new parents. So many of my childless friends would give everything they had for the opportunity to be called, "Mommy" by a child of their own (whether by blood or through adoption), but for whatever reason, even though they've "offered themselves as tribute", the odds have been anything but "ever in their favor". 
To the surprise of some, I want to assure you that those of us without kids of our own are actually very self-aware people. We realize that children can be a handful. We know that their demands are time-consuming and, well, ALL encompassing of your life the majority of the time. It's no surprise to us that you nurse through times when you'd rather be asleep and you're constantly needing to lay down your own wants and needs to tend to the ones who depend on you for theirs. Even if we slept 8 hours the night before, and you slept 3, it doesn't mean we have no idea what that is like. For some childless women, they'd give up sleep for years just for the *chance* to be "inconvenienced" by someday caring for a child of their own.

There's no doubt that childless friends - the ones who honestly LOVE kids - make some of the best aunts, uncles, and god-parents that ever walked the earth. Their ability to change their schedule to help you in a bind is, at times, life-saving. In turn, for them, the love and involvement of participating in the life of a family is both healing and important, when healthy boundaries are established. It's a powerful expression of community in every sense of the word!

But everything encouraging and life-building that happens in those relationships has the option of being crushed by a single, off-the-cuff, remark about their childless state. You see, what people don't stop to think about is that childless people are rarely unaware that they are. We don't need to be reminded that we have a lot of free time, or that our cars don't have handprints on their windows. Our hearts and minds know that truth very well. Our refrigerator doors are covered with baby shower announcements instead of fingerprint paintings and report cards. We don't really need that fact pointed out to us by others as well.

Whether the parent of twelve or the parent of none, we'd all do well to be kinder and more considerate of the words we often dish out haphazardly. If you find yourself on the verge of saying something about not having kids to a man or woman who doesn't have them - maybe take a second to reign it in and find out *why* you want to offer that nugget in the first place. Maybe it's not out of gratefulness for their position in life at all.  Perhaps it's from a place of frustration or jealousy even.  These things can mask themselves in the sheep's clothing of our words, but can be recieved as the wolves they really are.
Love, your childless pal,
Simply Miss Taken


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  2. Thank you, Miss T! Love you muchly.