The Question of Child Rearing

In a surprising turn of maternal contemplation, Caitlin Boersma imagines life with kids, which you’re often forced to do, even as a twenty-year-old.

There’s one question that I’m asked more often than I should be: “Do you think you want to have children?” I understand that the inquirer is most likely making an attempt at conversation, but it never turns out well.

My stock answer is “I don’t know,” but the person who asks this sort of question usually has her mind made up. If the person is opposed to having children, she’ll whine for the next ten minutes about how terrible the world is or how annoying children are, and then try to convince me not to raise any. But if the person is determined to have children, she’ll tell me about how cute kids are, how rewarding raising some would be, and act like I’m a cold bitch for not being set on having a dozen.

This question isn’t even applicable to my life at the moment. Currently, I’m a twenty-year-old full-time student who is still dependent on my parents. My career goals are ill-defined, let alone any life plans. There are a number of things that would have to transpire for me to be ready to choose whether I would like to have children or not, and yet this question is given the same weight as if I had just been asked if I think I’ll want dinner later.

For me to have children intentionally, I would hope to have a semi-permanent place to live, a job, and independence from my parents’ funds. Oh yeah, and I would also need a man.

All of this thinking ahead may be too much for some individuals to ponder, but I’m willing to wait a while before proclaiming my desire to have children or not. As for children themselves–ones that belong to other people–I don’t have a particular feeling either way. I mean, kids are funny and very cute once they get passed their squishy, alienesque phase, but I don’t go insane over every adorable baby I see.

For some reason, there are mad baby-loving women who have maternal instincts that go in overdrive each time they see a cute kid. Sure, I can appreciate the joy a child brings just as much as the next person, but you won’t see me maniacally snatching every baby I lay my eyes on or scrunching my face and gushing garbled phrases. Just smile and wave for god sakes. You look like an idiot.

I’ve also considered how my hypothetical children would be raised. From an outside perspective, one of the biggest issues parents have with children is discipline. I wouldn’t want to be one of those strict, inhibiting parents, but then again, I wouldn’t want to raise the type of child I encountered in the grocery store the other day who was running around and crashing her cart into people. Being nine or ten years old, she looked perfectly capable of steering her cart around shoppers, but she was quite content to bang her way through the canned goods aisle while her mother looked on. I was tempted to send a can of peas in her direction, but realized retaliation would not be the best solution.

That brings me to another question: physical discipline. By the age of three, I thought I was an adult and made decisions that often threatened my life and went against the wishes of my parents.

“Hold hands to cross the street? No, thank you. I think I’ll handle this intersection by myself.”

As a result, I received my fair share of swats during my formative years, but I always knew why I was spanked and that I deserved it, and I did not grow up to be a grocery store tyrant who abused the use of my cart. Also, this method of discipline was changed once I was old enough to comprehend shame and disappointment as punishment enough in themselves.

I do not necessarily promote spanking. After all, you’re hitting a small and defenseless person and that sounds a lot like abuse. However, I’m not really sure what else you’re supposed to do with a small child who repeats the same behavior no matter how much you try to reason with her. I think I’m starting to understand the “joys” of parenting.

Still, I have no job, no money of my own, and no idea when having children will be agreeable, let alone knowing how to raise them. I figure the last two things tend to work themselves out, but for now I will hold off on the question of children entirely and save it for a later date. As for the crazy-for-baby ladies, you need to tone it down a notch.

Caitlin Boersma is studying political science and English, but spends most of her time analyzing pop culture. Her premise for a new reality TV show, Killing Andy Milonakis, has yet to be picked up by VH1. She is notorious for spending a week’s wages on a ticket to see Morrissey live.