When I was 12, I told my friends that I didn’t intend to have kids. “Yeah right,” they said. “You’re totally the type.”
After long negotiations held during a Wiffle Ball game, we settled on a two-stage wager: If I’m childless by 30, they owe me $5,000. At 50, it’s $30,000. Each.
Today, the warm feeling I get looking into the soft dark eyes of the fussy baby girl in my lap is surpassed only by the relief of handing her back to her mother. Kids are interesting, but I don’t need to own one any more than I do a Rototiller. In both cases, I can always borrow one. If I want to blend in at a Pixar or teen vampire movie, consider me a free babysitter for a few hours. And when it’s time to turn the garden soil, I’ll trade you a case of beer for the loan of your machine. If it’s busted, just send over your kid with a shovel. Work builds character.
The thing is, humans simply develop too slowly. I just don’t have that kind of patience. If it were possible to raise them and get them out of the house in a year or two, I might be down for that. A kangaroo, for example, goes through its whole life cycle before a human child is even old enough to run away, never mind go off to college. Plus, kangaroos will never buy you a plaid tie.
When I turned 30, I called the only guy from the Wiffle Ball game that was still in my address book and told him he lost the first part of the bet.
“I don’t remember any bet,” he said.
Yeah, right. He had two little kids of his own by then, one with braces, and I suspect he just couldn’t afford to pay up. That’s fine for now, but on my 50th birthday I’m coming after him for the the big pay-out. In fact, I’m going to track down all those guys, even if it means joining Facebook, because I’m going to need the dough to buy the robot nurse I’ll need to take care of me in my old age. They’ll still be somewhat new and clunky, those robot nurses, but still more reliable than offspring.
I should make it clear that my choice to not have kids does not mean I’m critical about those who do. I say this because I can already feel you breeders getting all defensive, at least those of you who read this far before being interrupted by the smell of burning peanut butter and ketchup from the junior alchemist in the kitchen. I know you’re going to say having your kid(s) brought beauty, love and wonder into your life in ways you never even imagined. Right on. Far out. I’m glad. But … you kind of have to say that, don’t you? Some sort of primitive programming took hold of you when you first saw that helpless little creature, and it kept you from abandoning him at the zoo that time he wouldn’t stop screaming. I was there, I saw your face. I know it was close.
Some people simply cannot believe that anybody wouldn’t want kids of their own. Their brains won’t allow it.
“When are you going to have kids?”
“Don’t give up, you’re still young.”
“No, I’m sure. In fact, I got a vasectomy.”
“You could always adopt.”
We childless sometimes take flack from Team Procreation, who say that not having kids is a selfish act. First of all, why should they care? Maybe the Team is a little jealous of our free time and disposable income. Maybe they don’t want anybody else sleeping or having sex or taking vacations if they’re not. But really, how can you say we’re selfish when not having kids is such a green thing to do? Face it, humans using up resources cause most of our environmental problems. Fewer people, fewer problems. Too bad I can’t sell credits like clean power plants do.
The arguments just get thinner after that, from “It’ll hold your relationship together” to the paradoxical “What if your parents never had kids, ever think of that?” (No, but I bet they have.) But the most out-there thinking I’ve heard comes from some fellow white folks playing the race card, saying I should get spawnin’ to keep the country from being overrun by non-white races. Apparently, the white population in America is projected to drop to below 50 percent toward the middle of this century, and Hispanics will outnumber whites in California by 2016, and by gum we’ve got to do something pronto. The numbers are interesting, but I’m not about to run out and breed myself a polka band just to maintain the default color of Band-Aids.
“You’ll be sorry one day,” they say.