No Child's Play

nishita
Posted September 23, 2017 from India

I was raised in a god-fearing, children-loving, close-knit family.

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Growing up, I was one of the most envied kids in my circle of friends, especially around summer time and the Christmas holidays. Holidays meant a trip to our native village, where the entire family gathered at my grandparents’ house. We were 17 cousins; that meant a lot of craziness under one roof. That also meant a lot of love under that same roof.

We were inseparable, as kids. Breakfast time meant fighting over the last strip of bacon and then dividing it amongst all of us equally. Daytime was spent playing outside as my grandmother watched over us. At sundown, all the kids gathered in the living room to say the daily prayers. And nighttime meant changing into our jammies and laying out the bedding on the floor that would accommodate all of us. It didn’t matter that there was barely enough space for all of us or that the mattresses were tattered and uncomfortable. It didn’t even matter if we’d spent the entire day fighting. At the end of the day, we were one big family and it was us against the world.

Today, most of us are married and have kids of our own. And one of the many things we’re grateful for even today is that our parents loved children and blessed us with not just siblings but an entire army of cousins.

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When the first great grandchild was born in my large, loud, and close-knit extended family, neither of my grandparents were alive. My grandfather had passed away just a couple of months before the birth of what would have been the fourth generation to live in the 100-year-old Portuguese-style heritage house in my native village. My grandmother had died a year or so before that. It had been decades since a baby had crawled on the floors of our summer home. So, the birth of one of my oldest cousin’s son was truly special.

Even at four months, he was given the most important role at the next family wedding, apart from the bride and groom, of course. He was the ring bearer. His mother pushed his stroller down the aisle, him in this fancy 3-piece suit and the rings clutched tightly in his tiny fist. He cooed and gurgled as the couple said their vows and my family “aww-ed” throughout the ceremony. There was not a dry eye in the house, as they wiped away tears they shed for the newlyweds and for that glorious, blessed, long-awaited child.

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My father is known as the baby whisperer. Not one child in the family has grown up without having fallen asleep in my dad’s arms. His made-up lullabies and the way he rocks them to sleep has, more often than not, made him the official baby sitter in our family.

We’ve had three different families live next door to us and each time, there have been new babies that have been bathed, fed, cuddled, and put to bed in our home. They’ve taken their first steps holding my dad’s hand and he’s been the one who’s taught them how to ride a bike. Mothers in our neighborhood drop their little ones at school and my father often goes to pick them up at the end of the day. All the teachers know him well and he’s been offered a job at every daycare and creche in the locality.

The person who was most thrilled when my sister had a baby was my dad. His very own grandchild to spoil rotten. Nap time was a beautiful sight. My niece curled up next to my dad, both snoring away to glory.

My father is a retired government employee and after over 35 years of being surrounded by lazy, stubborn, and ill-tempered grownups, he has found peace staying at home and looking after the kids.

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When my niece was born three years ago, my parents were over the moon. She was their first grandchild. My sister and brother-in-law gave her a name that means ‘strong and brave’ in Hebrew. It was apt for my sister; not so much for me.

My niece is just as precious to me as she is to my sister. Probably. She’s the only human being I’ve ever known from the moment of her birth. When I first held her in my arms at the hospital, I thought my heart would burst from the overwhelming love that I felt in that moment. When we brought her home, I used to lie awake at night, just to watch her breathe. I would place my finger in her palm to feel her tiny fingers curl round mine and hold on tight. I was there when she opened her eyes for the first time; when she rolled on her back for the first time; when she took her first steps; when she got her first tooth. I’ve been there for every milestone a three-year-old could have. She’s as much my baby girl as she is my sister’s. The kind of love I feel for her is like nothing I’ve ever known.

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I was raised in a god-fearing, children-loving, close-knit family.

Which is why, telling them that my husband and I don’t ever want to have kids is going to be the most difficult and heartbreaking thing I’ll ever have to do.

This story was submitted in response to Share On Any Topic.

Comments 3

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Jill Langhus
Sep 23, 2017
Sep 23, 2017

Hi Nishita. Thanks for sharing your story about your loving, extended family. It's awesome to hear about such a loving community. I've never experienced this, but I love to hear that it exists. Why do you not want to have children? I'm curious... no judgment here as I decided for most of my life to not have children, too. I think it's a very personal choice and that's it no one's decision but their own.

nishita
Sep 24, 2017
Sep 24, 2017

I am truly blessed to have a family like this one.

My husband and I believe that having kids merely to give in to societal norms and pressure would be unfair, especially to a child. He's grown up feeling like his parents valued their career more than their kids and I, personally, have never been particularly fond of children. 

We both love our lives and jobs and feel just as complete together as one would feel with kids. 

I feel its important, especially for women around the world, to not want kids and be okay with that decision. And I hope someday, we'll be brave enough to be able to discuss it freely and without guilt or shame. 

Jill Langhus
Sep 25, 2017
Sep 25, 2017

I couldn't agree more. I wish more people would think more before just having children, and going into autopilot mode. There would be less abuse, anguish, and overpopulation for a start. I used to always hear, "you'll change your mind," so I stopped telling people that I wasn't having children. I would just say, "I'm thinking about it." It stops the commentary. I didn't feel right about perpetuating negative familial patterns, and my husband hadn't really thought about it, so I just made sure we were on the same page before we entered into a serious relationship. It never works when people have two different ideas about having a child, or even children. I'm always floored by people that think this isn't a problem. I hear you about not being fond about children. Then people will say, "Oh, but it's different when it's yours'." What I don't understand is why people think it's their business, and why they even care if you have children or not. They haven't lived your life. They haven't been in your shoes. Only you can choose what is the best path for you, always. I also agree that women around the world need to feel that it's okay to say they don't want to have children and not be judged or badgered. You are brave. You have made the first step by expressing yourself here, and if your family loves you they will eventually understand, and if they don't, it's almost always about them (the people who aren't in agreement with your decision), their viewpoints/beliefs, and nothing to do with what is right for you. Be authentic to you, always:-)