No grandchildren from this lady anytime soon

by Lauren Cartwright

‘“So when ya’ll going to start a family?’”

I began hearing that question minutes after saying my vows and half an hour before the wedding cake had been eaten. Sometimes, I laugh as an answer. Other times I visibly flinch.

The baby-making question is one of the rudest I’ve encountered. What if someone is unable to have kids? Or what if it’s this big issue between the couple, and you just brought it up again like salt in a sore? And besides, is it really anyone else’s business?

It’s worse than the ‘“When ya’ll gettin’ married?’” question. Marriages can be dissolved if they don’t work out.

Just ask J Lo.

But babies cannot be returned at the local customer service counter for a store credit or for a full cash refund. They’re a huge deal, one that lasts, legally, for 18 years. I’m just not sure I’m ready for it all yet.

Lately, I’m feeling the baby pressure. The parents and in-laws are salivating greedily at the thought of a Cartwright offspring. I’m not sure why they’re so excited. They don’t live that close. They wouldn’t be any help ‘— only the occasional visit where I would be berated for not dressing the child warmly enough in August, chastised for buying too many toys or lectured on the proper way to diaper a baby.

For two years now my parents have been dropping subtle hints like: ‘“Boy, a grandbaby would sure be nice.’” There’s no beating around the bush with those two, no convincing that them that a feline is a perfectly suitable grandchild, and quite possibly the most well behaved one they have.

I’m at ‘that age’ ‘— the downward slope toward 30 that is filled with weekend wedding and baby showers. Out of the five bridesmaids in my wedding, two are having babies this year. The other three should not be allowed to reproduce in their current state of commitmentphobia.

Two more in my circle are also expecting. And our mutual friend is feeling the baby jones so bad and her husband just keeps hitting the snooze button on that clock. Anytime I call her with baby news she says, ‘“One more person gets pregnant before me and I’m going over the edge.’”

I like kids ‘—’ that is, other people’s kids. I’m too selfish and self-serving to give myself to caring for someone else, to bore friends with stories of Junior filling his diapers. I know kids. With my family, step-family and step-step-family (still counting the ones who have since divorced) I have 15 nieces and nephews. Being the youngest, I was often the designated ‘watcher’ at family events.

Kids seem to be drawn to me. I think it’s that they can sense I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and they could possibly pull something over on me. My sister’s kids, Noah and Kaitlin, sometimes say, ‘“You’re so mean.’” I always say, ‘“Why? Because I’m making you pick up the mess you made?’” Oh, those kids today’….

I also like the freedom of influencing other people’s children and then having no responsibility for the aftermath. I always try to buy the loudest, most annoying toy in the store for some kid’s birthday. Does it light up or beep? Does it come in many small pieces and with a ‘some assembly required’ warning? Does it have an annoying soundtrack and no on/off switch? Well then, I’m buying it.

One summer in college I lived at home and spent many hours with Noah and Kaitlin. Whenever they’d get on my nerves I’d tell them to ‘“Zip it,’” like Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies. Eventually they started saying it too. I mean, it all got really out of hand, and I went back to college in the fall. When I visited over Christmas break, I slipped out a ‘“zip it’” to Kaitlin. She said, ‘“We’re not allowed to say that in this house or you get grounded for a week.’” Well, I saw my work there was done.

Last winter I babysat for my friends while they went out to dinner and a movie. Loden, a 1-year-old at the time, was cool for the first 15 minutes. And then the crying started. For three hours. Twice he got his diaper bag and dragged it toward the door as if to say, ‘“I’m out of here.’” I tried to keep him away from the door because I thought my neighbors would think I had kidnapped someone’s child.

I had to change my shirt twice because I was sweating so much from being nervous and he wanted me to hold him, and he was sweating and crying and thrashing around. At one point, his face got so red and he was sobbing so hard that I thought the kid was going to have an aneurism. I’m not sure who was more traumatized by the whole episode ‘— him or me. To this day he still acts a little skittish around me.

I don’t know if what scares me the most ‘— the actual act of birth, the responsibility for rearing another human or the chance the kid might grow up to be a serial killer. I’m sure one day I’ll give into the biological clock, but until then I’m happy popping my headache prevention pills and being ‘mean’ Aunt Laurie.

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