Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five More

[Nanaphiles, take heart: soon I will describe my delicately finessed cease-fire.]

TH and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Also, a new college class report arrived. This is what I had to say about those anniversaries five years ago. In another post back then I mentioned the most appalling entry of all in the last report. I quoted (again, this is NOT ME):
[2006] I'm in a very happy marriage to P___, whom I met while traveling through France. We have two beautiful, brilliant children. They are trilingual, top of their classes, and are both natural athletes, excelling at virtually every sport they try. We live in a rambling bungalow on an acre of garden and forest in [expensive suburb]. After spending seven years as a management consultant, I felt my career was incompatible with being the mother of two small children. So we moved to France, where I studied for my MBA. After weighing the various opportunities that emerged, I settled on asset management. Now, eight years into my career, I feel as if I've found the perfect fit. My international background and languages, along with my analytical nature, common sense, and natural skepticism, have all contributed toward a successful track record as an international investor. I can attest to the fact that success breeds happiness.
When the most recent edition came, I feverishly flipped to her page, wondering what heights of braggadocio she could possibly have reached. But instead I was amazed and delighted to find this:
[2011] One of the ways we seem to deal with impending mortality is to justify our place in the world, crediting predestination or cleverness or both, while ignoring the serendipitous nature of life. But in my case, I recognize more and more the role pure luck has played in getting me to where I am today, so I feel the need to be more open-minded and empathetic as I age, more liberal in my attitude. Churchill is quoted as saying, “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not conservative at forty you have no brain.“ Either Churchill had it backwards or I am brainless.
From the rest of her entry, it does not appear that anything bad happened to her in the meantime, so I am claiming this as proof that people change, and it makes me happy.

As for our anniversary, for the first time ever (!!!), HB stayed at his grandparents’ (the “good” ones) while TH and I got a hotel room. HB had decided on his own that it was time he tried being away from a parent overnight, and when he has bought into a project, he usually does well.

What did we do with our time? Simply the things we haven’t been able to: talk for longer than 5 minutes at a time while strolling, going to a coffee shop, seeing a movie, eating dinner, and … no, not that, that we’ve been able to achieve … cuddling. Poor TH is a cuddler. I am not. I can tolerate a certain amount, but I overspend it on HB. I know, I know, the tragedy of the modern parent.
We talked about how we would not be together had we not been running partners. We agreed that we would do it all again. And we talked about the 3 biggest challenges our marriage has faced:
  1. HB
  2. HB
  3. A tie between cycling and HB
I added a fourth [TMI ALERT!!]: lady parts problems. I am too shy/prudish (believe it or not) to elaborate, but I would feel guilty if I left it out.

I never have good advice on marriage or romance. (I am an INTJ, you know.) I do have advice for people who don’t want marriage: don’t let anyone make you feel like a freak. I love my husband, and I can easily imagine a happy life had he not appeared. Whenever a celebrity says something like that in an interview, it’s like, **JUICY BREAKUP ALERT** — and that’s too bad. It can make single people feel like something is really wrong with them if everyone is always all, “Marriage and parenthood complete me!” My mother says that someone who talks a lot about sex probably isn’t getting any, and I wonder if the same holds true here: people who go on and on about how great it is maybe protest too much? In other words: would people please lay off Jennifer Aniston? Sheesh. Her life seems pretty cool.

That said, our 24 hours left me longing for more. (The grandparents said they would do it again, but they said it in very, very weak voices.) I adore my child and am fascinated by him, and he is a remora.


Anonymous said...

Summer camp. It'll come soon enough. And, with the variety out there, odds are you'll find one that your son will buy into. One child we know rejected sleepaway camps until he found IDTech camp, and now he's spent the last 3 years spending 3 weeks away from his parents, in a different city (starting at age 10). His parents are starting to miss him.

My daughter (at 10, and mildly challenging) could easily end up spending 5 weeks away over the summer at camp if we let her (which we don't 'cause we want her around more than that).

Couple time is still in our future, and the future is coming closer as the kids get older.


sara said...

You must have made up that letter! Did someone really write that?


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the "delicately finessed cease-fire." I'll be taking notes. I've a feeling it would make Madeline Albright and Hilary Clinton look like amateurs.

Congratulations on your anniversary!

E. said...

I too will be looking forward to the Nana ceasefire story. I loved rereading your classmates insane and totally unselfaware blathering about her perfect life, bur I loved even more reading that she'd achieved more depth in the meanwhile (even without obvious tragedy!)

I'm glad you and TH were able to get away alone and have some grownup couple time. Neither of my kids is a remora, but there are two of them, so I have some idea of how hard it can be.

And I always tell my students (when things like this come up), it's way better to be single than to be married or paired up with someone you're not really and truly happy with. And some of us do much better alone than in a constant pair. (I'm happy with my crowd, but I do think back to living alone with a fair degree of wistfulness...)

Anonymous said...

Do you have any advice for people who are nearing that magical age (35) who aren't sure they want children, and are very happy with their lives now?

- Happily married and (for now happily) childless anon

DoctorMama said...

happy anon: it's the rare and lucky person who doesn't have some pangs of regret about the path they choose.

I recently found a journal I wrote at 20, and was surprised to read that even then I said "I'm not sure I want children. But I feel like I HAVE to have at least one." And that never changed, the HAVING to for no reason I can articulate.

I think it depends on why you are unsure, why you are happy, and what your tolerance of risk is.

Having a child is one of the chanciest things you can do, because you are gambling with not just your heart but your entire life. You can win a great prize, and it can end horribly. Most children are healthy; many are not. Most children grow up ok; some die in a gutter no matter how great their parents were. Some children are super easygoing; many are not. The only guarantee is that you will be a parent. I felt like I needed to have that experience.

There is a deep human instinct to tell others that "it was all worth it." You will not find almost anyone who will tell you that they wish they never had a child, but there are many people who would have had better careers, marriages, lives had they not. And the bit about them being there for you in your old age? As a doctor, I can assure you that many people with no kids are surrounded by wonderful loving people in the end, and many who have them are alone.

My mother has a wise saying: not making a choice is also making a choice. I had a child because I HAD to. Though I paid it lip service, if I had really wanted more than one child, I could have worked to make it happen.

Envision yourself giving over a huge part of yourself to someone else for much of the next twenty years. Then envision yourself in 20 years saying, "No, I never had children." Which makes you shudder more?