It’s funny, the stuff dreams are made of. I was never the girl who fantasized about marriage and a family. My game plan, which originated in a blanket fort when I was still wearing footed PJs, was to become a famous interior designer or, failing that, a covert operative for the CIA. Playing house with baby dolls was not in my childhood wheelhouse, though designing tiny homes for them or spying on my unsuspecting siblings kept me occupied for hours.
Fast-forward 20 years and two children snuck into my life when I wasn’t looking. “How did this happen?” I asked myself more than once. In spite of complicated medical issues with my lady business and against significant odds, they arrived, God’s way of reminding me that control is best left to the deities. And Spanx.
My track record reveals I’m not good at marriage—I’ve gone through two divorces. But when it comes to my kids, I’m kind of a rock star. Let me amend that; I wasn’t great at infants. They’re confounding creatures that refuse to listen to reason or respect cocktail hour. With each passing year, however, my children became more intriguing, until one day I noticed they were the center of my universe and that I loved being a mom. My dreams of the CIA went out the window.
I like to say I won the Mommy Lottery. My kids are ridiculously smart, in addition to being the most delightful kind of smart asses. (I’ll take some credit for that, too.) They’re funny, kind, compassionate and resourceful. They choose their friends and partners wisely and have lovingly and generously made a place for me in their lives.
I marvel at my outrageous good fortune as the mother of these two unexpected, extraordinary children. By extraordinary I mean they are exceptional, yes, but they are also literally out of the ordinary. My adult son and daughter have always lived their lives outside the box. The quotidian is of little interest to either of them. In their friendships, romantic relationships and career paths, they challenge the status quo.
It’s no wonder then that the children I adore have chosen the less-traveled path when it comes to parenthood.
Whether or not to bring a child into the world is one of life’s most important, and often dumbfounding decisions. Having wrestled with the pros and cons, both of my children have decided that reproduction is not on their immediate to-do list. In fact, it’s likely parenthood may never be part of their game plan.
If I’m going to trot out my good parent bonafides, then I must sincerely embrace their decision not to have children, to be as comfortable with it as they are. I have to celebrate what we have as a family, not mourn what is lacking.
Given the joy my children bring me every day, I think pining for grandchildren would just be ungrateful on my part. If I’m honest, I admire my children for their ability to wrestle with a complex, life-altering decision and opt for the less-conventional choice. They are like anti-salmon, swimming upstream against an unrelenting current in an effort not to spawn.
Many of my contemporaries are besotted by the grandchildren they have. Others are tapping their feet, checking their watches, giving their childless children the stink eye for not reproducing fast enough. Unlike them, I’m perfectly happy enjoying the uninterrupted adult company of my two favorite people. My life without grandchildren is rich and full.
That said, if I have learned anything, it’s that things change. Who knows what the future holds—for me or my children? Will there be grandchildren, more grand-dogs? Only God knows, and she remains steadfastly silent on this subject.
So instead of dreaming of that new baby smell and trips to the zoo, I think I’ll start planning a trip to go kayaking in Patagonia.
Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Her life is just about perfect…except for the dating thing.
Photo by Lauryn Hottinger