The movie Big came out in 1988, which means I was twelve when I saw it. Actually, I was probably thirteen since I would have likely seen it when it came out on video. I distinctly remember disliking the movie because, though it was fun, I felt it was disrespectful towards children and was offended on behalf of myself and all my fellow kids. The main character was my age and I felt Tom Hanks’ portrayal of a child was horrendously off the mark. I remember reading reviews of the film and being appalled that everyone thought Hanks’ performance was incredible and that he’d perfectly captured the essence of a twelve-year-old. What baloney, I thought! No child of that age would ever behave so immaturely! No kid would act like an idiot when riding in a limo or be so obtuse as to spit out food at a cocktail party. How outrageous!
But then I saw the movie again as an adult and was highly impressed by Hanks’s performance. Children are indeed, exactly that annoying and immature. What a difference adulthood makes.
I did a lot of babysitting when I was a teenager, and I was a favourite of my neighbours’ kids. I couldn’t quite match their energy levels but I enjoyed our games just as much as they did. When I was in my twenties I worked at a children’s library and interacted with children all day, sometimes leading them in storytime or singalongs. And I enjoyed it! In spite of the basically non-existent salary, I thought it was a great job.
Sometime during this era, I remember having a conversation with a friend who was denouncing children, and how awful it was that they were allowed in public spaces such as the restaurant we were currently in. I took her to task, passionately defending children and their right to inhabit public spaces. I don’t remember exactly what I said but I do remember my friend’s reaction, which was surprise that I felt so strongly about the issue. I have a history of coming across as a rather negative person so I guess she assumed I hated kids as much as she did. Turns out all she had to do was wait a couple decades. Because today, she is the proud mommy of a little baby boy, and I absolutely despise those little snot-buckets.
This drastic change in opinion has taken place rather recently but was also somewhat gradual. When I was in my late twenties and early thirties I was seriously thinking about having children of my own. I was never that person who always longed to have kids, but I never dismissed the idea either. It was at this point that my sister had a baby and so did a few friends, and I started to receive encouragement from all sides to join the club. I did a lot of research about pregnancy, and child-rearing, and still could not decide whether or not I wanted kids. I liked the idea of passing on my genes (defective as they are) but wasn’t too thrilled about how much work it would be.
Even though I’d always been good with kids, I’d never liked babies. When my then-boyfriend and I visited his sister, who’d just delivered a baby, in the hospital, his mother insisted I hold the parasite, no doubt hoping this would trigger some maternal instinct in me. It had the opposite effect. I was disgusted and repelled. When my nephew was born I was flooded with feelings of love for him but wasn’t really interested in taking care of him. Babysitting him was boring at best, and exhausting and time-consuming at worst.
I broke up with my then-boyfriend when I was around thirty-three, and started going out with my current boyfriend. He and I were both in similar places: devastated by our breakups and unsure of what we wanted from life/relationships going forward. He, like me, has a history of being well-liked by children. He was the “fun” uncle to his niece and nephew. But as he and I have grown closer, and developed our two-person rhythm, our uncertainty towards children has grown into antipathy. During our relationship, I turned thirty-five, the age at which a pregnancy becomes “geriatric” and high-risk. Being on the sickly side, I’d always told myself that if I didn’t have children by that age, I never would, as I’d never wanted to risk my health just to have a baby. But there I was, on the wrong side of my thirties, wondering if I should extend my deadline. But now, only five years later, I’ve wholeheartedly decided that the answer is no, no kids for me.
I just can’t stand them anymore. Whenever I’m forced to interact with friends’ kids I always find it a loathsome experience, mostly because I’m so bad at it. I used to be so good with kids but now I’m just awful. I barely have the energy to even acknowledge their existence, much less interact on their level. Recently I yelled at my nephew when he was being bratty and he asked me why I was so angry. I was taken aback because it was such a valid question. Why indeed was I so angry? The kid’s only eleven! I can’t expect him to be perfectly rational all the time. Why did I lose my temper?!
So it’s a chicken or egg situation. I don’t know if my distaste for kids has turned me into someone who can’t relate to them or if as I age I become less able to relate and therefore more hostile towards them. I also wonder if it’s a reverse psychology situation, wherein I’ve convinced myself that I hate kids because I’ve never had them. If I wasn’t forty years old, and over the kid having hill, would I still enjoy the grubby little virus-factories? And then there’s the societal pressure to join the mommy club. My boyfriend faces parental pressure as well, but it’s nothing like what women go through. I’m over 40 and yet people still ask when/if I’m having kids. Does this line of questioning ever end? Am I turning into a hardcore child-free advocate simply to counteract the overwhelming pressure that society places on me to conform? Or is it overcompensation for a latent desire to fulfill the most basic instinct of procreation?
My boyfriend is even more hardcore anti-child than I am, to the point where he often tries to convince others that a child-free lifestyle is superior to a child-burdened one. I’ve accused him of overcompensating in this area, perhaps in an effort to truly convince himself. After all, if someone is fully comfortable with their beliefs, do they really feel the need to convert others?
Am I satisfied with the way things have turned out? Or do I mourn the old me, the one who could play with kids and actually enjoy herself? I certainly don’t want to be hateful. But on the other hand, eww, kids are gross. Keep those fuckers away from me.