The Stinkiest in the Whole World [ 2003-10-03, 11:58 p.m. ]

Last Sunday Kent and I went to dinner at a casual restaurant around the corner from our apartment. In defense of those about to me mentioned, it was early for dinner, the restaurant is pretty kid-friendly, and we were sitting out back in the garden.

So Kent and I sit down at our table, and behind me is a family of four: mom, dad, two little boys, ages 3ish and 4ish. Just as we start looking at our menus, Kent and I hear “BLEERRGGCCCHHH” from the table, and then an unmistakable splattering sound. I looked at Kent.

“Was that…?”

“Yep.”

“Did he…?”

“All over.”

The little boy behind me had just projectile vomited all over the table and the area around the table, then resumed, mid-french fry, just where he had left off. The parents barely moved, just calmly waved to the waitress and asked for some more napkins and water. They sort-of cleaned up the barf, leaving most of the mess for the waitress to clean. Then, they just kept on eating as if nothing had happened. Kent and I looked at each other, raised eyebrows and shrugged. For all we know, kids barf all the time, and it doesn’t mean they’re sick.

We ordered, and were eating our dinner, when again, from behind me, we heard, “VVLLRREEERRRGGGCCCHHH,” again followed by a splatter.

The mother said, “I think we’re going to have to get the rest of dinner wrapped up.”

The father called to the waitresses for more napkins.

The two little kids started screaming, “It’s the stinkiest in the whole world! It’s the stinkiest in the whole world! IT’S THE STINKIEST IN THE WHOLE WORLD!!” Over and over and over. Louder and louder and louder.

Eventually, the parents took the two kids out of the restaurant, leaving a (stinky) mess behind, and apologizing to the two waitresses who were dousing the table with bleach.

Again, Kent and I looked at each other and just shrugged. Because I have no idea how I would have handled the situation if I were a parent. I have no idea what the right thing to do is. I have no idea how to parent, basically.

In the last 3 years, more and more of our friends have settled down, and now they are starting to have children. One of my best friends just had her second baby 2 weeks ago (a gorgeous baby girl!), another friend had her second this week, and numerous co-workers have had kids recently. Now that we’re married, people have started asking Kent and I when we’ll be having kids. No only do I not know when, I don’t even know IF we’ll have kids.

I’m not ruling anything out right now, but I like my life, and I don’t know if I can imagine giving it up for kids. That’s not to say that I don’t like kids; on the contrary, I like them a lot, and my uterus clenches up at the sight of an infant in a Baby Bjorn or a toddler on his dad’s shoulders. But I may not be the parenting type.

I think things like: what if I don’t like my baby? I’m sure that sounds stupid/bizarre/insane, but seriously…what if I don’t like my kid? I’m confident in the powers of maternal love, but is liking your kid a guarantee, or do you have to work on it, like with other relationships? Really, I wonder about that.

Financially, I don’t know how people are able to raise kids in New York City. It’s possible that Kent and I will leave the city, but not in the foreseeable future. So, if we’re in New York, how do we make it work? We’re looking to buy an apartment now, and it’s hard enough to find an apartment for the two of us. I can’t imagine where we’d put a baby and its paraphernalia in an apartment under 600 sq feet. Or afford a big multi-roomed apartment.

And every now and then, I have what might be considered selfish thoughts, thoughts along the lines of “If we never have kids I can shop at Prada and Helmut Lang” or “If we never have kids we can buy the MiniCooper” or “If we never have kids we can go to a new restaurant every week, always.” Shallow, huh? Does it make me less of a person if I don’t want to give up my lifestyle for a family?

I have a friend who is in her late 30s and has been happily married for over 15 years. She and her husband decided early on that they were not going to have kids. They love kids, just didn’t want any of their own. They’ve got a full life, busy careers, lots of friends. But she says that every year as the holidays approach, people ask her if it’s hard not having a family. “I have a family. My husband and I are a family,” she answers. Why is that so hard for some people to accept? Why is it their business, for that matter?

From where I sit now, it’s hard to see myself as a mother. Then again, I don’t think anyone is prepared for parenthood, and even if you’ve dreamed of it your whole life, it’s probably infinitely more difficult than imagined. If we do have kids, I worry about being a good mother. I worry about being a good wife and friend and role model and partner. I worry about making the right decisions and being responsible. I don’t know how people do it.

But I still think I would have left the restaurant after the first vomiting incident.

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