Life Before Children? You’d Better Believe It by TJ Alexian

Topic: Before Children

I think some people have a tendency to forget what life was actually like “Before children,” and that’s a real shame.

Some don’t, of course. Some remember their past acutely. Josie, my ex-wife, became a teen mom at sixteen, and as a result, she’s spent the past decade living in mortal dread of hearing two words pop out of the mouths of our girls: “I’m pregnant.” She lights candles, she says daily prayers to the goddess of infertility (the goddess of infertility, by the way, bears an amazing resemblance to Bea Arthur). She sneaks birth control pills into their tap water. Anything to avoid the pitter patter of little feet too early.

The good news is, our girls are now 25 and 17, so we’re almost out of the woods on that front. Soon enough, no candles will need to be lit, at all.  And, since our youngest is possessed of XY chromosomes, two new dreaded words will spring into being: “SHE’S pregnant.”

Other people I know, on the other hand, have completely forgotten what it’s like to be a kid, and view the world as this incredibly dark little place that doesn’t bear even the slightest resemblance to their halcyon days of their youth. A world where evil lurks around every corner, just waiting to pounce. My in-laws, for example. They see evil hiding in every corner, lurking in every nook and cranny.

My in-laws once went nuts because we allowed our then-12-year-old to set up at lemonade stand at the end of our road. “How can you let her do that?” they screamed and wailed. “It’s not safe these days! Someone could grab her away and we’ll never see her again.”

P.S.: We didn’t exactly live in the hood.

Somehow, my oldest survived her lemonade stand experience. No one grabbed her, oddly enough, and she’s very much still with us.

They’re not alone, however. It always amazes me when I hear people talk about “the things kids have to deal with these days,” as if nothing really bad existed until they spread their loins to give birth to children. Then, like opening Pandora ’s Box, everything went to hell.

I well remember growing up in the seventies, although it does seem a lifetime ago. I remember spending nights listening to my seventh-grade sister throwing up in the bathroom because she had had too much to drink. I remember watching my next door neighbors (although they didn’t know I was watching) doing drugs in the RV in their driveway. I remember the lurid stories of what took place on the band bus, in the wings of the theater, in friend’s houses, after school. Liquor, drugs, sex? Honestly, “That Seventies Show” didn’t do the decade justice.

News bulletin, friends: these things haven’t changed since Romeo met Juliet. Only the technology’s gotten better.

As for me? Maybe because I’ve been journaling since I was 12, I think I have a pretty good remembrance of life before kids. And if I ever forget, I have a paper trail to help remind me.

Of course, most of the entries back then are pretty. . . well, mundane. Here’s the highlight of my very first entry, dated August 16, 1979: “Dee Anne doesn’t like pears, so (my sister) Kerrie and Michele exclude her from them.” Shorthand for an illicit lesbian tryst? Hardly.

And truth be told, probably the best, most scandalous parts of what was going on during my life before kids didn’t get put down into paper, for the most part. Especially while I lived in my parents’ house. Was I really going to write about the fact that I can claim ownership to wanking off in every room in my parents’ house? Probably even the closets, too? Probably a few times over?

Or maybe there’s my undying high school crush on the boy next door (or really, across town), which didn’t get recorded in my journal for years, for fear that my brother or sisters might get a hold of my journal and catch a scent of the love that dare not speak its name.

Actually. . . I wish I hadn’t kept it all unsaid. Those would be some pretty interesting reads.

Despite the fresh memory, I’m not really one of those who regrets many of the adventures I’ve gotten into, or would do anything I could not to have my kids experience it. I kind of take a Tallulah Bankhead view about these things: “If I had my life to live again, I’d make the same mistakes–only sooner.” And, more frequently.

So, life before kids? Sure, I had one. I’ve got the scars to show for some of that life, too. . . and the stories, quite a few of which are still around, too, trapped on paper.

I wouldn’t want it any other way, honestly. I think it’s foolish to forget your life before offspring, because it’s what informs and guides your present, in so many ways. Those who forget history, and all that rot.

Besides, it gives you something to smile about, doesn’t it? AFTER children.

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