It’s not that they weren’t cute. Little Olivia with her adorable matching shoes and dress. Davie with his dimples and his pout. I welcomed them into the youth center with open arms, feeling like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. I was only missing the sweeping dress, valises, and a blond bob.
Two hours later, hair askew and deodorant failing, I felt like Miss Hannigan from Annie.
With a bachelor’s degree in theatre, I’ve certainly taught my share of fairy tale theatre before. And every year, it’s gotten progressively harder. Sure, the kids have rotated in and out, and our activities have varied slightly, but the only thing I can think of as the common denominator here is my age.
At 35, they were adorable. I want one. Now!
At 37, they were sweet. But, wow, this is a younger woman’s game.
At 39, please take them home!
Things started to bother me that hadn’t before, starting with the simple fact that they couldn’t sit in a circle by themselves. This is nothing new. Anyone that has a child or has worked with young children knows that teaching them how to sit in a circle so that everyone can see is a major project with a learning curve that’s different for everyone. The youngest ones think nothing of removing themselves from the circle and traipsing straight up in front of the book you are reading to them, thereby causing understandable rubbernecking and complaining from the affronted circle-sitters. You sit them down, they do it again. You sit them down, they mosey their way back. It is a cycle of Sisyphean proportions.
I’d meant to have a child by now. But, a bumpy marriage ate up my thirties, and now divorce has left me here. Although I'm happy to say I'm in a new relationship, I know it’s unwise to jump into motherhood before the relationship is ready, and I want it to unfold naturally.
You know what else unfolds naturally? Menopause.
The fertility thought has crossed my mind at least once a day in the past few years, and I was prepared to leave my children’s fairy tale theatre class with either a mournful sense of sadness and despair at my childlessness, or a fuel and fire to get this baby-party started. I didn’t expect THIS reaction.
I sent them off every day with this sigh, “That was fun. Thank God that’s not me.”
So, what has changed? My age? I thought you were supposed to get more patient as you got older? I was clinging to that adage to soothe my worries about the possibility of being a so-called “older” parent (at 39, I’m assuming I have about three or four years to make this happen, max five. And that’s pushing it). Even if I were to get pregnant tomorrow (unlikely: my boyfriend currently lives in NY and I live in LA) by the time the baby was born I would be well into forty. Chances for a second one look slim. Not impossible, but not overly likely either.
Before I taught fairy tale theatre this year, those stats upset me greatly. But now, things feel different. Do I still want it?
I wanted a baby more than anything in my thirties. In my journal, I made lists of baby names, meanings, and alternate spellings. I confess to an Amazon wish list of baby items, when I was trying to convince my husband it was the “right time.”
But those lists and fantasies feel like a distant memory, and I’m starting to imagine – or to give myself permission to imagine - what life would look like without a child. Motherhood was always a non-negotiable for me. What if that changed? What if I could have a happy, full life, without a child?
Maybe that was part of the feeling of liberation I felt (after the exhaustion) at the end of fairy tale theatre classes this summer. Freedom from the forcefulness of Mother Nature’s time constraints, and the demands she seemed to plant inside my head all these years.
I don’t know what the future holds. As vehement of my “take them away!” reaction was at the end of classes, a recent baby shower had me tearing up as each little onsie, blankie, and toy was opened. Only one thing is for sure: this ain’t no fairy tale.