2012-12-12 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights


Tick-tock, tick-tock… So goes the clock

I spent Thanksgiving weekend with the family of the man I’m dating. After the turkey had been eaten and the pie put away, I found myself sitting on the front lawn in a plastic chair beside his mother. He was nearby, working on his brother’s car, but too far away to hear. Anyway, this was a conversation between women.

“So, how old are you?” his mother asked nonchalantly.

“I’m 32,” I said.

She held her hands out in front of her and seemed to inspect her painted nails, as if this were a casual discussion, just two girls talking. As if the thought had just occurred to her.

“Clock’s ticking,” she said, still looking at her fingernails.

She must have missed the expression on my face, because when she looked up, she smiled. But I could see that it was the kind of smile that doesn’t go all the way up, the kind that says, I may be smiling but this is serious. “Tick-tock,” she said.

I’d be lying if I said the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, a general sort of Do I or don’t I? In fact, the question has its own ticking rhythm, a perennial beat that has been with me since I was old enough to get married and have children. Do I or don’t I? It’s the sort of question every man and woman faces in this lifetime, usually triggered by a serious relationship, often pressurized by a biological deadline.

There are arguments for either side, but for me it comes down to a question of fear: Fear of having a small person rely totally on me, fear of losing myself in the raising of a child, fear that I’ll be tied down, that I’ll have the mommy lobotomy so many women these days seem to be having — where life in general loses focus and nap times and temper tantrums and feeding schedules become the most fascinating topics in the world.

I’m afraid that having a baby means I won’t be able to talk about current events or books or life’s big questions because I’ll be too busy being at the beck and call of a 3-foot tyrant.

But I’m at the age where all my friends are having children, and I never cease to marvel at these little people who are so like my friends and their husbands, yet are completely their own selves. They are mysterious and beautiful and utterly captivating.

On a recent weekend, I watched my friend slather sunscreen on her squirming son before we headed to the beach. He writhed and danced away, laughing, and as she held his arm to get the back of his shoulder, he turned to her and said, apropos of nothing, “Mommy, I love you.”

It was one of the sweetest moments I have seen in a long time — unscripted, uncomplicated, pure and touching. And I realized this is why the question of my plans for children comes up so often, mostly from those who have children of their own. Because they know about these surprising moments steeped in love, they know about the unanticipated blessing a child can be. They know and they want us to know, too.

Tick-tock, indeed. ¦

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