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A Family Interlude

April 22, 2018

This past week, Megan and I had several visitors. My mother was here from Cincinnati, as well as my father and his wife. My sister and her partner were here from the West Coast, along with Ezra, my nephew. The break in the routine was welcome, but it also felt a little odd. We don’t entertain much. I had the opportunity to cook a big elaborate dinner for the group, which I enjoyed, since I don’t have any friends or family nearby for whom to prepare meals. There was warmth and fellowship; everyone got to meet the new dog, who acted protective of Megan and I at first, but soon enough calmed down and behaved himself. Food was consumed, and everyone spoke well of my pumpkin bread, a new recipe I’d never tried before.

They were here for a few days, and during that time we went to the Strong Museum of Play, which Ezra enjoyed. We went to a trampoline park, which he also liked, and I must say that Megan and I enjoyed it too, though we were sore for a couple of days afterward. Closing in on middle age, our bodies aren’t as flexible and durable as that of a four-and-a-half year old.

All in all, it was a nice visit, though by the time it was over, I think everyone was ready to go back to their own homes and resume their own routines. Ezra was a good barometer for that. The last day of the trip, he was fussy. He fretted and seemed irritable, and he said in his own limited vocabulary that he was done with vacation; he wanted to go home. Now he’s gone back to Berkley with Ann and Brian, and he’ll resume his California upbringing.

It was nice to see my nephew, as he is starting to develop his own personality. At his age, his vocabulary is growing, and he is learning more about the world. I’ll see him again in July, and we can continue forging our own relationship. It seems evident, though, that he is a little wary of me. It’s understandable. I’m a large physical presence, taller than either of his parents. My voice is deep, and I’m heavily tattooed. I don’t know if he finds any of that intimidating, but there’s more to it. I think that I’m not able to identify with young people very well. Not being a father myself, I’m seldom around them. When I am, I try to be as friendly as possible, but it’s hard for me to get back into the imaginative, playful frame of mind that children seem to occupy so easily. I’ve been in the adult world for too long, and it’s made me rough and cynical.

Whenever I see Ezra, who at this point is the last of the Finkelstein bloodline, it makes me think about the decision by Megan and myself not to have children. It’s not one that I’ve ever regretted, but I’m glad that my parents have a biological grandchild with whom they can play, and on whom they can lavish affection. I don’t know if I would have made a good father, or if Megan would have made a good mother, but I feel like, each time I see Ezra, that our decision is validated. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a perfectly lovely boy, energetic, full of that spark of life that makes one feel confident that there’s hope for the next generation. But at the same time, after a few days I’ve had my fill, and maybe that sounds bad to say, but it’s the truth. If Megan and I were parents, then we wouldn’t be able to ever have a significant respite from the responsibilities that Ann and Brian have shouldered. It’s nice that my sister is so engaged with being a mother. The thing about kids is that once you have them, there’s no putting them back. You have to deal with them till they turn eighteen…and beyond. I’m glad that she hasn’t regretted her decision to make such a dramatic change in her life.

As for me, I’m fine with being Uncle Steve, and I’ll see the youngster soon for the family vacation. And for now, I’ll go back to the routine, blissfully free of children, unless you count our canine baby that’s intent on digging as many holes in the lawn as he can. More soon, true believers.


The Brood Grows

October 4, 2017

I have no children, nor do I ever intend on having any. Since I am now well into my thirties, and married, that is a little unusual. There are people who choose not to have children, for various reasons, but to be a male married to a female, with both of us capable of procreating, but for us to make the conscious decision not to do so, we are in the minority in American society. Many people don’t actually make the choice at all. The woman will accidently get knocked up, if either one of the partners is careless with whatever birth control method they were using, and they’ll decide to go through with the pregnancy. There are still some people who are old fashioned, or their parents are, and that accidental pregnancy will lead to the two of them marrying. Getting married because the woman got pregnant is usually a horrible idea, and leads to divorce down the line more often than not. Luckily, societal mores have changed to the point that a woman getting pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean that marriage follows, or even having the child, for that matter. It’s great that abortion remains a legal option in this country, and let’s hope it stays that way, though the G.O.P. is always trying to take away a woman’s reproductive rights.

I don’t have any friends, at this point, but I still have family, and my wife has friends. Some of her friends have children; my sister Ann has her son, Ezra, and my stepsister, Joie, is pregnant at the moment with her sixth child by her husband, Alex. I’m glad that my sister had Ezra. Since my wife and I don’t plan on ever having children, my sister having a kid gave my parents a biological grandchild, which I know made my mother very happy. It made my father happy too, but he also has Joie’s five kids he can play with if he ever wants his grandfather fix, with yet another on the way. I can’t help but think sometimes about how different my life would be if I’d decided to have children. We had reasons for deciding not to become parents, and I think that, overall, we’re happy with the choice that we made. Joie and Alex are an interesting case, to me, because they seem to be at the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

There’s no doubt that having children changes one’s life dramatically. Those who choose to have that first kid are sacrificing tremendous amounts of time, energy, money, and sleep. I’m not suggesting that having a kid isn’t worth it. It’s just that you must accept certain realities, as a parent. You’re legally responsible, now, for the life that you created. You must keep this child alive, nurture and care for them. Your existence becomes wrapped up in child rearing. You must evolve as a person, because, if you don’t, chances are, you’re neglecting your child. It therefore follows, then, that even more effort, money, etcetera, is required if you have a second child, and a third, and so on. What Joie and Alex did, and continue to do, strikes me as a mild, or perhaps even severe, form of insanity. I can’t claim to know the reason they wanted such a large family, or even if it’s something they truly wanted…for all I know, they might just be really careless. If I shudder when I think of being the father to one child, I have literal nightmares about what it would be like to sire a brood like what the two of them have going. I don’t think they plan on stopping until they have enough to field an entire baseball team.

For all I know, Joie and Alex are loving life, and the family they created. I hope that’s the case. They’re not my blood relations, but I wish them well, and I hope they never regret the choice to have such a large household. But surely I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that it must be difficult to take care of so many young dependents. The stresses put on them, lack of sleep, having to cook for such a clan, cleaning up after them, driving them to soccer practice and dance recitals, kissing their boo-boos when they fall down, just the general tumult such a group creates…it must be exhausting. How could it be otherwise? My life is difficult sometimes. Everyone’s is. We all deal with problems, but it seems as though, being responsible only for myself, it’s only my problems with which I have to deal, and sometimes Megan’s, as well, since I share my life with her. My life seems simple, as compared to that of Joie and Alex. So while I wish them the best, I wouldn’t ever, ever want to go through what they are.

These are all choices that we make. I wonder what it was that made my wishes so much different than theirs. They wanted to be surrounded with children, to have the little buggers crawling all over them, while I’ve been waiting years for what I consider the right moment just to get a dog. We’re all different people, and perhaps it was some biological imperative that made them want they wanted, while I wanted something completely different. In any case, I haven’t regretted the choice I made, along with Megan, to not become parents. God knows I’ve made more than my share of bad decisions in my life, but I’ve never even entertained the notion of that being one of them.

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