I'm an only child, as you know, and you may not know, that the Good Thing is an only child too. Which means we lack the siblings to block the ever shining parental attention we both still get and also, that we lack the necessary means to be biological aunties. (Or uncles in his case.) My cousin-in-law is pregnant, but they live far away, and I'll probably only see their baby on their next trip to India, besides, my cousin's brother (and my other cousin) and his wife live close by, so there are aunts and uncles already in this baby's life.
While the Good Thing is a much nicer adult only than I--very good about sharing!--we do have one thing in common and that is the need for our Space. And, yes, that is capital S-space. We get along best when each of us has had a chance during the day to be alone with our thoughts, to be quiet, and relax in ALONENESS for a bit, before we're fit for company again. On long holidays, when we travel together, we take this time by carrying along books and spending together time separate in our own books, or one of us will take a walk or something. It's one of the bigger reasons why, as I get older, I am more and more loath to share hotel rooms or flight times with other people, if I haven't been in their company for extended periods of time before. If you can't let me be alone and meditative then I will be VERY grouchy and/or sullen. However, given time to recuperate after a busy day with other people, then I can be the life of the party. These things are important to me.
Where do kids come into this? I guess they don't? I mean, you can't have space from your baby until your baby is a little older, so that's two years of being totally bonded (if you're lucky and your kid is smart) and even after, you have to keep an eye on them, be around for their shit till they're old enough to mostly handle their own shit. (I don't mean literally, although I imagine toilet training is quite a.. hurdle.) I have not completely made up my mind where I stand on kids of my own. I thought once I hit 30, the answer would be revealed like magic from the ticking of my biological clock, but either I don't have one or it's permanently set on snooze. I don't want children right now, I like my independent life with no one depending on me, but I also don't want to wake up at 40 and realised I've missed something important.
Time goes by as it often does. Wedding invitations get fewer and more and more, you congratulate people on Facebook for their new baby. Adorable podges most of them (come on, some babies are trolls. Cute trolls, but still trolls) and your friends look radiant and happy. The Facebook pictures make babies look so easy--but they also have time on a clip, so one minute there's a newborn photo and the next, the baby is sitting up and smiling and then in two minutes, it's standing up, it has a personality, it's the new generation.
Some of my close friends have babies now. I haven't met any of them in real life (but have had two delightful Skype encounters, when these kids grow up, we'll say to them, "Remember me? I saw you on Skype when you were a month old!") but I love them, because they are an extension of my friends. One is still incubating, and I can't wait to meet him or her. I want to snug them in my arms, coo into their ears, "Hi baby, I'm your Aunty eM." I'll be cool Aunty eM also, because I couldn't not be, at 4, I'll buy them books, at 6, we'll talk about imaginary worlds, at 14, I'll take them out for the day. I'm looking forward to being an aunty in real life, not just on Skype, and being a part of a whole new person's world.
But I recognise that this is very different from a maternal instinct. I have no desire to have one of my own, to rock a cradle, change a diaper or feed it. I think the willy nilly need to reproduce is still kind of selfish, a narcissistic urge that is no less than the urge to write a book or paint a picture, a desire to leave something in the world for when you are gone. You might argue that the need to be a parent is the very opposite of selfish, but if your kid is an extension of you, by protecting him or her, you're essentially protecting yourself. I'm not saying you don't love your child immensely, more than you could ever fathom loving anything or anyone, but it's still a bit selfish. Let's not deny that.
This is also not my rant about people with kids feeling like the world owes them, because even though I've come across those people on the internet, the people in my life are thankfully, still human.
I bombarded a pregnant friend with questions when we had lunch.
"Do you love it already?"
"I guess?" she said.
"But you don't know it! Sorry, him or her, you don't know the baby."
"I talk to the baby," she said.
And then the conversation moved on to different things, but it made me wonder how I would write about parenthood and THAT love, the love they tell you about, without having experienced it firsthand. A writer's life is about experiences, already I find my writing about siblings is a bit flawed, because I don't have an inside insight into what EXACTLY your feelings are for this person. Will this be a whole new range of something I can only guess at?
I can write about being an aunty though. The first time I saw a close friend's new baby, emerging pixel by pixel on my laptop or swaddled and sleepy on my Skype screen, that rush of love for them and for him (they're ALL having boys), that's a feeling I've never had before. I already love them and I don't know them at all.
Is that a thing? It should be.