Originally posted on Y360 24th September 2006
Reposted on Multiply 19th May 2008
Addition note for those reading this on Blogger: In reference to the mention of my age and single status in the closing paragraph, please remember this was originally written six years ago, before I met Joanne.
This blog has been more difficult to write than I first thought. I first got an idea to write it when I read in several different people's blogs "funny things their kids had said or done". Then, in the course of a recent conversation with a friend, the subject of kids came up and I said my usual piece: "I don't have kids. Never wanted any" It got me thinking later, how did the friend perceive that? I didn't give any further explanation, so they could have interpreted that in many ways. And the more I thought on the subject, the more I realised I hadn't really seriously thought about it for quite a long time. So, I'm going to put it all down here in the hope it will make it clearer to me. And maybe get some insights from others.
I decided at a surprisingly early age (mid to late teens) that I never wanted to have children. And at that time and for many years after, there was only one reason in my own mind. My own father left when I was very young (I think I must have been about two years old), leaving my mom, with help from my grandparents, to raise me by herself. He was a womaniser, he dumped my mom for another woman and over the years (I am told) he dumped a succession of women, each time for a new one. That would have been bad enough, but he didn't seem to care if I existed or not unless it suited him. Over the years I never received anything from him at Christmas or on my birthday. The only times I would see him was if there was a new woman in his life and suddenly he wanted to show off his son. I guess that really hurt me, but not on a conscious level until I was older. All credit to my mom, she never tried turning me against him, in fact she rarely even mentioned him. She told me years later that she wanted me to make my own mind up about him. And I did. When I was old enough to work things out for myself, I quickly grew to hate him. How could anyone be so callous? Two events at the end of my teenage years really drove it home. First, a very serious motorcycle accident. I was in hospital for weeks and was very lucky not to lose my right leg below the knee. Not a visit from my father, not a card, not even a message through my grandparents on his side of the family (I should credit them, they were proper grandparents to me, I think they were ashamed of my father for what he did or rather didn't do). And then a few years later, he turned up on my wedding day and expected to be accepted as the proud father. He even brought us a large wedding gift. I ignored him and his gift. Remember I was still young. Forgiveness is not something the young are good at. The upshot of all this was.......I was scared of becoming like him. I couldn't bear the thought of having a child and he or she hating me as much as I hated him.
When I married, the girl I married also did not want children. Her reasons were different to mine (she wanted a career). We discussed it many times, to make sure we were sure. And each time we both agreed that we were certain. We were together nearly twenty years and in all that time, we never changed our minds. Maybe the fact we were so similar in our views meant we were never forced to REALLY consider what we were doing.
In recent years my views on the subject have started to change. In 2004, when I went to live in Sweden, I experienced 'having a family' for the first time. My Swedish girlfriend had two teenage daughters. Ok, I know getting an 'instant' semi-adult family is not the same as having your own family, watching them being born, growing up, etc......but it did start to give me some clues about what I had been missing. It also made me face a fact that I had denied to myself, there was another reason why I didn't want children. I was an only child myself, and as is well-known 'only-children' can be very self-centered and selfish, particularly when it comes to relationships. They've never had to share love with siblings for example. So, I suddenly realised that another reason for not having children was that I did not want to have to share the love of the woman I was with, with another person (a child). I had never realised this until I was actually in that situation. I guess the fact I now understood this meant I was mature enough to cope with the situation. I certainly learned a lot from that relationship, even though it didn't last.
So now here I am, 47 years old and nothing to show for it in any terms that could be called important. I am fairly pragmatic about it. I know it is unlikely now that I will get the chance to be a father. Yes, I know physically it's possible. But look at it in these terms: I am most likely now to get into a relationship with a woman around my own age, which more or less rules out the possibility. I suppose it's possible I could meet someone younger who wants to have children, but it's not likely and I'm not particularly looking.
If I had to sum it up, it would be that hindsight is a wonderful thing. It's a pity we don't get it in advance. But then it would be called foresight. Any regrets? Still not sure on that one………