It Deepens Like a Coastal Shelf

Reason number 80 kabillion why I should not have children: some days, I can barely tolerate the transition from sleeping to waking, and I will totally take out my displeasure on anyone who happens to be around for it.

Most often these days, that would be the dogs. And for the last two days, my garden-variety displeasure has been exacerbated by the fact that I was awakened by somebody else’s dog barking, pointlessly and incessantly, from about 7:30 a.m. on. Even though the creature I really wanted to tear a strip off of was that dog’s mom–who apparently sees nothing wrong with chucking the pupper out on her back deck, so the yapping is amplified throughout the alley adjacent to my bedroom, and leaving him there for hours–the only immediately available objects for my anger were my own babies, who are themselves extraordinarily quiet but have the misfortune of belonging to the same species as this thing I really wanted to fucking drop-kick off his third-floor deck, right after I drop-kicked his mother. Thus, you have an episode like this, two days running:

Dog on deck: YAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAP brief pause YAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAP!

Lucille: [teeny little “Please get up, Mom; I’m hungry, and you’re clearly not sleeping” whimper]

Me: Godddammit, you stupid hound! Get out of my sight! IT’S NOT MORNING YET! FUCKING DOGS!

Every time I yell at the dogs like that–which happens maybe four or five times a year, in the absence of extenuating circumstances such as yapping neighbor dogs–the first thing I think, after the morning-fog clears, is, “I can never have children.”

‘Cause seriously, I’m quite sure I would want to yell exactly the same thing at a child attempting to awaken me, and I honestly don’t know if I could control it. It happens at that point when I’m not quite awake, not quite asleep, and all I can really process is: there’s light and there’s noise and somebody wants something from me and that SUUUUUUUCKS. The intellectual faculties that allow me to say, “Calm down, Katy, the creature in front of you is not responsible for your misery” have simply not booted up yet. And I don’t trust them to be any speedier when it’s a kid instead of a dog.

And the thing is, although screaming at my dogs to get out of my sight is not something I’m proud of, it doesn’t have any apparent lasting effects. Five minutes later, I’m out of bed, heading toward where the food and the leashes live, and they’re almost literally wagging their asses off, distinctly untraumatized-looking. But you yell at a kid that way, and even if they appear to have recovered five minutes later, they will be talking about that shit in therapy twenty years later.

I know, because I’ve talked about that shit in therapy. When I was six or seven, I went through a phase of waking up, freaking myself out, and running for my parents’ room. Once in there, I would hover over my mom for a good ten minutes, steeling myself for the inevitable result of waking her up in the middle of the night. Which was: “WHAT? WHAT?”

Okay, it doesn’t sound all that bad, even with the big font, but trust me, I still get shivers thinking about the sound of those “what”s–and the way they were accompanied by Mom jerking… not “bolt upright,” as in fiction, but sorta laterally, as if she’d received an electric shock or was having a small seizure. She wasn’t pissed off to be woken up, so much as startled and immediately panicked–It’s two a.m., one of my children is not in bed, my brain is not working yet…WHAT?

Of course, five minutes later, she would be lovingly tucking me into bed between her and my dad, and I would be doing the kid equivalent of wagging my ass off. But dude, that was some scary shit, and it stayed with me. And she never even swore at me, let alone told me to get away from her. Just WHAT? was plenty of trauma to last me these twenty-odd years.

(And I’m not even ready to talk to a therapist about how, as the youngest and thus ostensibly the most difficult child to remain enraged at, I was conscripted to wake up Grandpa and Grandma on Christmas morning every year. There’s just too much darkness there.)

I’m not even kidding that things like this make me think there is no way I could cope with motherhood. Yes, it’s just one little thing–it’s not as if I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy on this issue–but the problem is, I can think of a million little things I do that would fuck up a kid, and I’m not sure if I could stop doing them, even if I wanted to. I mean, sure, everybody fucks up their kids, but don’t most people at least start out thinking they won’t? Or at least that they’ll fuck them up somewhat less than they were fucked up? I’m not there. I am, in fact, reasonably certain that I would fuck up my children more than my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents combined.

But of course, not wanting children, especially as a woman, just means you’re horribly, horribly selfish–unwilling to give up the 24/7 party that is nulliparous life. Parents make sacrifices! Parents don’t put themselves first! Parents give and give!

And yet, their kids still hate them, often with good reason. Figure that one out for me, and maybe I’ll think about getting knocked up.


4 thoughts on “It Deepens Like a Coastal Shelf

  1. Decided to read some of your older stuff. Brilliant! Laughing so hard I feel like I just did 100 crunches. I hope you’ll also do books with this kind of stuff!

    I can relate. I also KNEW I’d screw up any kids I had. And the fam has so much mental illnes that I thought it would be cruel to reproduce. BUT, I reproduced at age 35 and she is wonderful.

    You’ll decide what is right for you but I’m sure you’d make a great mom. And it would be such a shame not to pass down those witty wonderful genes of yours!

  2. Made even better by a link to “This Be The Verse.” I think reading through the Harding archives is a good idea, I should undertake that one too.

  3. I’m on your side, I never want to have children. And if I ever feel like I do want children, all I have to do is to stand in a queue at the shopping centre for ten minutes while a small child is screaming at the top of his or her lungs for no reason other than that they want attention.

    I don’t think I’m very motherly.

  4. Seriously, parents who give and give and give and sacrifice and take nothing for themselves are rarely actual martyrs, of the kind that can really do that. Mostly, they’re fairly desperate. It comes out interestingly sometimes.

    I have two (and working on a third). I’m happy to have them. But I do not sacrifice my very self for them, because there lies the path to suicide, which would probably suck worse than most of the other things I could do. I take walks. I get out of the house with friends. It may not be much of one, but I have some life beyond the family and kids. I don’t try to do two full time jobs at once (I don’t think that working and being the kids primary caretaker is anything I could do unless I was actually in a desperate situation). I make sure that I am taken care of, because, I have found, I am incapable of properly caring for the kids otherwise.

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