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The Place I Was Before - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The Place I Was Before
Talking to our neighbors Jonathan and Erin tonight about their move to a bigger house -- they now have two small children and want another -- we exchanged comments about how acquaintances without children frequently can't understand the reality of our parental lives. It was the sort of conversation you have with people you don't have much in common with besides parenting. I participated willingly, but felt guilty afterwards.

Is the divide between couples with children and couples without children really that absolute?

I don't want it to be. But I do sometimes look back on our pre-Skylar years like a person trying to imagine a time before Christianity. It's so hard to put aside the reflexes that spring up when you become a parent: the alertness to danger, the need to put on a façade for one's child, even the facility for coordinating loads that you would once have dropped in seconds.

Take this picture for example. It captures Kim on a Seattle bridge during our July, 1996 vacation centered on a week of backpacking excursions in Olympic National Park. As Dan correctly pointed out, you can see the snow-covered Olympic Mountains in the distance.

As I examine the image, though, I can't fully indulge my nostalgia. There's a voice inside my head saying, "Where's Skylar?" It makes me sad to think that she wasn't there with us.

I realize that must sound absurd. But that's what parenting does to you. It reshapes the past until it matches up with the present.

Mode: back-looking
Muse: Maine Island Lovers - Okkervil River - Down The River Of Golden Dreams

4 comments or Leave a comment
From: batdina Date: April 2nd, 2004 05:38 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Just spent part of the evening with Brad and Kathi and three year old Helena. Sometimes I find that being childless feels selfish, but then again, sometimes it means I'm the one who has to make the call or the connection and invite myself along to a family thing that I'm more than welcome to join, but sometimes they don't want to invite me because it feels weird. Not only am I childless, but E is not down here either.

Mostly though it's worth it. I love kids. My choice not to have them was pragmatic, not ideological.

But yeah, the divide is pretty absolute in ways that are difficult to define. If it were either simple to define or malicious, then I might buy the "breeders" line that others use. But kids are an enormous shift in perspective that those of us who don't have them need to be taught because nothing about our lives shifts in quite so dramatic a way.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 2nd, 2004 03:49 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Feeling Weird

First, send my best to Brad and Kathi (and Helena). It's nice to think of them still being happy together. Long-term stability is in short supply.

I probably do a better job than most of seeming the same in public. I'll talk about Skylar at length. But I can and do talk about other matters at length (unlike even some faculty members I know). At home or even just away from work, though, my consciousness is so much different than it used to be in the years B.S. that I have a hard time reconnecting with my earlier selves.

We've been very lucky to have had friends who play an active role in Skylar's life -- like you seem to do with Helena -- despite their childlessness, ones who seem to "get it" even if they are still able to leave that world at the end of the day or visit.

That's important.

Kim and I have become more and more aware of the divide between one-child couples and multi-child couples. With each child, the impulse to spend time with childless friends seems to dwindle greatly. We've made our decision to have one and only one for several reasons. But not losing touch with our childless friends and the lives they lead is certainly a factor.
(Deleted comment)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 2nd, 2004 09:50 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You're right, Dan. How sloppy of me!
kdotdammit From: kdotdammit Date: April 2nd, 2004 05:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I dont' look very good here. I think I prefer my post-motherhood with a little cushion self.
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