Monday, February 7, 2011

Let there be children...

In fairy tales, there are frequently children involved.  Often the children are abandoned (Hansel & Gretel), mistreated (Cinderella) or end up in harm’s way in some other manner (Red Riding Hood).  There are various possible reasons for this use of children as key characters in fairy tales.  For one, children are the typical fairy tale audience, so it makes sense that the moral lessons that most fairy tales contain would involve children, to make the story more relatable to them.  But I also think that it is possible that the reason we see children put in perilous situations in fairy tales is because children evoke strong emotions…from everyone.  The vast majority of people, regardless of their station in life or their desire to have their own children are repulsed by the mistreatment of a child.  People who would be hesitant to rush into a burning building to help the inhabitants  would likely be more inclined to put themselves in peril if they heard the sound of a baby crying in that building.  Not only is there a sort of primal instinct to protect a child, it is difficult not to be infected with a child’s joy when they smile at you.  Children make us feel.

So where am I going with all of this?  Well, for quite a while now, I have avoided children.  When I started my fertility journey and began attending support group, I remember hearing women talking about crying when they saw a baby in the grocery store or avoiding family gatherings because small children would be there.  I thought, “How could anyone feel that way?  Children are great.  They are the reason that we are all trying so hard to become mothers.”  I could not fathom that I would ever feel the way they felt and, I am ashamed to admit, I judged them for feeling that way.

I don’t know when I started avoiding children.  I believe it happened gradually, so gradually that I didn’t notice it and, thus, didn’t stop it.  But by the time I realized something was happening to me, I was at the point of crying when I saw a baby on a television commercial.  Even the word “baby” made me sad.  Looking back I can see that I’ve missed out on parties, a bridal shower and multiple opportunities to see friends that I rarely see, all because I would feel panicked when I knew I was going to be “trapped” in the presence of a young child.  Even after I became aware of what I was my avoidance, I felt powerless to stop my behavior.  I felt like I should be at a meeting saying “Hi.  My name is [Princess Wahna Bea Mama] and I am child-a-phobic.” 

I realize now that I’ve been grieving for a long time and that sorrow can do funny things to a gal.  So, I’m cutting myself some slack for how I acted.  But now I am not in the depths of despair and it seems foolish to me to deprive myself of the joy of being around children, just because I am scared that it might become a painful reminder of what I’ve lost throughout this journey.  As with most things, “acting as if” has brought the “if” to being.  I have been reaching out to friends that I’ve abandoned because they have small children…hoping that they will forgive me and that we can redevelop our friendships.  I’ve been acting as if I have no fear of being around children, hoping that just trying it out would get rid of that fear. 

Well, last night was my first real test.  I agreed to host a mini-Super Bowl party for a couple that we have been friends with since I started dating my husband (they were his roommates then).  The couple has the most beautiful little three-year old girl you’ve ever seen, and I hadn’t seen her since our Super Bowl party last year, when I told my husband (after our friends left) that I couldn’t do it ever again.  I told him there were to be no little kids in our house because it was too hard to hear the deafening silence when they left.  But, this year I changed my mind.  I went out and bought coloring books, crayons, and a couple of age appropriate games, so the little one could be entertained in our second living room/play room, while the adults watched the game in the formal living room.  She ended up bringing a book of 1000 stickers (whoever invented those books should be shot) that she played with, in the formal living room, throughout the whole game.  And as much as I love my football, I loved playing with her more.  I ended up with 13 stickers on me and my dogs were covered (in stickers with pictures of dogs), and I am still peeling stickers off of my hardwoods.  She was darling and adorable and every bit as smiley as I remembered.  And when she left, instead of saying “never again,” and obsessing over the silence of her absence, I quipped to my husband that we needed to have a small child over every night or two because our dogs behave themselves for days after children visit.  I’m not sure if the dogs get too worn out to be naughty, or if they are afraid we will move a little person into the house if they misbehave.  Either way, the Dog Whisperer’s got nothing on a three year-old girl with a book of stickers.

So the point is, regardless of how my fairy tale ends, I will be reintroducing children to it.  The children won’t be in peril or being mistreated, but they will be present.  I don’t want to miss out on the emotions that children bring with them wherever they go.  I don’t want to avoid friends and relatives anymore.  I also accept the fact that I may not always be able to be around children.  There may be days or even weeks when I’m just too sad to remind myself of the pain I’m trying to ignore.  That’s okay and it is certainly okay for others to feel that way, too.  But in the end, I want my story to be full of life and fun, and children are the absolute best characters to bring that element into my fairy tale. 


Lindsey said...

Beautiful post! Isn't it amazing how self distructive we can become with out even realizing it?? I've pulled away from almost all my friends, especially ones with kids. I'm in the same attempted recovery mode as you are, picking up the pieces of my friendships trying to put them back together. Maybe I should use some stickers??

Princess Wahna Bea Mama said...

Too funny! We can pick-up the pieces together. I have faith in my friends that they will forgive me and love me in spite of my own self-sabatoge. Thay all know that if the chips were down, kids or no kids, I'd be there for them in a heartbeat. Hopefully, that's enough.