Most of the problems I encountered throughout my childhood could be traced back to one simple fact. It never occurred to me that I was a child. I can’t even begin to tell you how many lectures I received during my formative years that centered around the idea, I was a child, and as such, there were things in life that may not be appropriate for me.
I think the first time my mother and I came across this obstacle, I couldn’t have been more than three years old. Even back then, I adored babies, though I was hardly more than a baby myself. Whenever my mother and I would go to the store and I’d see a baby, I was taken by them. They were so adorable and tiny, I wanted to hold them. I wouldn’t hesitate to go up and hold a baby’s hand, feel their tiny little fingers close around my own, and stand there, “Oohing and ahing,” over the little bundle of joy. That was probably the first lecture.
“Kelly, you can’t just walk up and touch someone’s baby. You have to ask before you do that.”
It didn’t make all that much sense to me, I figured I was big enough to handle a baby, but if I had to ask, so be it. I quickly learned that lesson, or more realistically, obeyed this newly set rule in my life. From that day forward, I’d first ask my mother if I could go see whatever cute little baby we came across, and assuming the answer was yes, I would then ask the baby’s mother for permission to play with the baby.
A few years later my newest point of conflict occurred in kindergarten. His name was Costas. Need I say more? He was, to me, the cutest boy I’d ever met. He was Greek, and according to my older cousin, a total nerd. If you asked her, he wore flood pants, his shirts were goofy, and I had fallen for the class geek. I still don’t remember it that way. To me, he was cute and I wanted nothing more than to be his girlfriend. Well… That’s not entirely accurate. After I cleared the idea of me having a boyfriend at the age of five, there was a little more negotiating I had to do. After all, what good was a boyfriend if I couldn’t hold his hand? Or hug? Or maybe even kiss on occasion? (Yes, I was actively negotiating these points with my mother).
When it was all said and done, the rules were as follows: Yes, Costas could be my boyfriend. We were allowed to hold hands as we walked into and out of school. We were allowed to hug, but preferably not often. On a rare occasion, a kiss on the cheek was permissible but not really encouraged. Satisfied with the outcome of our negotiations, I then proceeded to call my aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins to inform them of this new development in my life. I was sure to include the parameters of my relationship, because having a boyfriend alone wasn’t good enough. I had to know the exact boundaries of my relationship and I felt so did everyone else in my family.
Another year went by and there was change budding on the horizon. I had been begging my parents for a new baby in the house. I loved babies, I couldn’t wait to have children of my own one day. I didn’t just want one, I wanted several. After all, babies do grow up to be toddlers and who wanted to be bothered with them? Not me I’ll tell you.
I still remember the afternoon my mother broke the glorious news to me. She was pregnant, which meant, a baby. It was a very serious conversation between my mother and I. It started with her delicately searching out how I’d feel about a new little brother or sister and ending with the announcement I was going to be having not one new sibling, but two. She was having twins. Two babies? Could the news have been any better for me? After all, one baby mom could surely handle on her own but two? Two meant I’d have a baby to watch and play with and hold. I was ecstatic. Granted, I already had one younger sister, Valarie, but she was three years younger than me and her cuteness factor had peaked in my mind. She was already the ripe old age of three, what was appealing about that?
I was still floating high on the news I had two baby sisters (or brothers) on the way when my world shifted yet again.There is no way a female can truly prepare herself for the moment they realize life is growing inside of them. It’s a moment that will always be remembered. For me, it happened one night, while I was sitting on the toilet before getting in the shower. I had already stripped naked and had stopped to pee when a startling revelation hit me. Looking down, I saw the way my little six year old belly protruded, as many young girls’ bellies do. That’s when it hit me. I was pregnant too! I didn’t know a lot about pregnancy but the one thing I knew for sure was this: a woman’s belly got big because there was a baby growing inside of there and my belly was big. There was no denying the evidence before me; I was going to have a baby. I was a little nervous but ultimately excited. I loved babies and thought there was no better time for me to have one.
The only thing I was truly nervous about was breaking the news to my parents. How was I going to tell them I was pregnant? I had seen enough television shows and movies to know this was a ‘delicate situation,’ and it had to be handled very carefully. Usually, when a young girl broke the news of her pregnancy to her parents, it involved tears and shouting, accusations being hurled at the boyfriend who had made it all happen, and finally resignation. I was a little concerned for Costas, since he was still my boyfriend in the first grade. It really wasn’t clear to me how he would be involved in my pregnancy but I guess ultimately I summed it up in my head as guilt by association. He’d probably get in trouble but I couldn’t think about that at the moment. My focus was on telling my parents the news. So, mustering up all the courage I had within me, I marched into my parent’s room later on that evening. I waited until my dad was in the other room. I could only handle telling one of them at a time. My mom was reading the newspaper she acknowledged me but didn’t look up. I took a deep breath and blurted out my surprise.
“Mom. I’m pregnant too. I’m gonna have a baby.” Whew! The worst of it was over. I had said it! My news was out in the open.
“No you’re not,” my mother informed me, without looking up.
“Yes. I am mom. I’m gonna have a baby.”
“No, you’re not,” she said again. This was baffling to me. I was pregnant.I knew it. How could she sit here and tell me I wasn’t?
“Really. I am.”
“Kelly, you’re not pregnant,” she told me once more. This was frustrating and we were getting nowhere.
“How do you know?” I asked her at last. If she was so sure I wasn’t pregnant, she must have a reason that was beyond my comprehension and I wanted to be clued in.
“Because I know. Trust me. You are not pregnant.” I was crushed.
“Are you sure? Because I thought I was pregnant.” This time mom looked up at me, sensing my pain. Or maybe she had finally composed herself enough to look me in the face.
“Why do you think you’re pregnant?”
“Because I have a big belly. It sticks out. That’s what happens when women get pregnant. They have a big belly.”
That night my mom and I had a long talk, touching lightly on the birds and the bees. She didn’t go into a lot of detail but she did convince me of the fact I wasn’t pregnant. I was a little disappointed, to say the least, but I decided that my mother was probably right. Some time after that I found out where babies come out of and it totally changed my view on having children. All I could say after learning that choice bit of information was, “ouch,” and quickly decided that adoption would be the way to go. By the next year I was over my baby fix and onto the newest scheme, trying to figure out how a seven year old could obtain a driver’s license.
*** photo courtesy of Lina Smith Flickr Creative Commons.