Friday, 30 March 2007

having kids

I ventured out to the library today (my first outing since Tuesday!). Since they didn't have Suite Francaise, I got We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. My book club members mention this book almost every meeting. It was the most loved and most heatedly discussed book they've ever read. It won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005 and is described on its cover as "Harrowing, tense, and thought-provoking." Here's the blurb: "Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin Katchadourian kills seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, the story of Kevin's upbringing. [A] powerful, shocking novel."

My friends say that this novel changed some of their minds about having kids. (On the other hand, two of them have gotten pregnant since reading the book.) After her late-in-life marriage, Eva didn't want to have children but was looking for a change in her life. When she discovered the love of her husband she wondered what the love of a child would be like as well. She had a long list of reasons not to have kids, though: hassle, less time for her marriage, vanity, boredom, worthless social life, career concerns. In the end she decided to have a child to overcome her fear of it, getting pregnant as a challenge to her phobia. "The very insurmountability of the task, its very unattractiveness, was in the end what attracted me to it."

When I announce that I don't want to have kids (and neither does Ant), I usually get clucking from old ladies, who say, "Oh, my dear, you will in time." They claim that my hormones will click in sooner of later and I'll be gravitationally drawn to infants that I pass on the street, until I feel an undeniable urge to procreate. Is this really true? Eva's deadline for deciding about having kids was her thirty-seventh birthday and she said she still wasn't hormonally led to children by that time. What will happen to me? Perhaps I will change my mind in my thirties. Could it be a proactive change of mind or a more passive biological change?

My biggest reason for not having children is a fear that I won't do a good job at it. I'm afraid of this for two reasons. One is that I don't want to be responsible for a mean, hard-hearted, spiteful person who is not nice to others. The second is that I don't want to live with someone that I dislike. If my child ends up being someone I can't stand, then what will I do? Perhaps it is possible to avoid bringing up someone you find annoying, but sometimes you see parents suffering with children who are controlling, willful, and nasty. How can parents live like that? On the other hand, I can think of lots of parents who have done such a good job (or been blessed with such a nice child) that their youngsters are a joy to be around. I can think of a family in my parents' church with the three cutest and sweetest little girls you could ever hope for. Is this a testament to the skill and integrity of the mum and dad? Sometimes the nicest parents have the meanest children, though. Might God sometimes choose to use children as a trial for us rather than a joy? Then what? I think I prefer to get my pain a different way.

Another reason (often quoted in polite society, in which the first reason seems a bit too honest) is that I work with children as a job. Some people have children as a contribution to society. I feel like I make my contribution day in and out with the two hundred children of varying ages I have personal contact with every week. When a well-meaning parent says something about us making our own mark by having our own children, I reply with a comment about educating and improving everyone else's children. This is sometimes interpreted (perhaps correctly) as a self-righteous comment that implies I try to undo bad parenting at school. Unfortunately, I have the same fear with my job as mentioned above: what if I do it poorly and ruin the children under my care? So I conclude that it's better to become a good teacher than embark on parenting as well. At least there are established ways of becoming a better teacher; parenting seems more like fumbling in the dark.

Another reason is more selfish. I just don't want the hassle of having kids around. They change your life forever. I don't want my house to turn into a primary-coloured hazard trap of toys and clothes. I don't want to trade in my professional lifestyle for picking gum out of hair and dirty handprints on my wall. Children are messy and time-consuming, not to mention expensive. I admit that I like my life the grown-up way it has turned out.

While surfing the (newly rediscovered) internet, I found the blog of a friend of a friend of a friend. There was a picture of the blogger meeting up with four friends. All five were young ladies my age, sitting on a couch with an infant each in their arms. All five was smiling profusely, but I was terrified by such a scene. All those lovely young women with their lives ahead of them, dominated by their screaming babies. God willing, I will not be one of them any time soon.

Well, it seems that the extra time off has allowed me to write an extra long post. Perhaps this will garner some comments from you. Please tell me if you think I am missing the mark. Do you find my feelings or opinions to be misjudged?


I missed a book club meeting this week due to the illness that has overtaken me. We were discussing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. This was the book I enjoyed the most out of all the book club books we have read since I joined. It's the story of a young boy after his dad dies in 9/11. He finds a key of his dad's and wants to know what it opens. He starts a search of New York city to find the matching lock. Meanwhile his mother and grandmother struggle with the loss of their husband and son, respectively. It's a fascinating book, narrated from nine-year-old Oskar's point of view. It reminded me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but with Oskar's mind so much better explored than Christopher's was in Mark Haddon's book. The perhaps to-be-expected moral of Foer's novel doesn't at all spoil the story, in fact I was refreshed after being reminded of the importance of taking the moments to say I love you.

Next month's read is Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. From the reviews it looks brilliant, written by a Russian French author during the war and left unfinished when she died in Auschwitz.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

at home

I've been at home today, ill. Sigh. I wanted to make it through this half term without any sick days and then I got ill in the last week! I'm a bit annoyed, but there you go. There's no denying that I have completely lost my voice and it hurts.

I have slept, watched TV, surfed online, and read magazines. That's it.

While online I found the test I need to take for my citizenship test. Although it's still two years until I can take it, I was curious about what the test is like. You have to buy a book (£10) to study from and then take the test (£34). There are loads of questions about politics, the Queen, government agencies, history, immigration, etc, etc.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

yay, internet!

We have finally sorted out all the huge mess we had with our phone line and internet and now I am back online. I have spent the last hour reading blogs and getting caught up. I will be posting properly after I do some marking. :P

I am going out tonight to a gig of April's in celebration of her birthday. Last night I was out with colleagues in Wimbledon. We even saw some students when we were walking along. It was funny to hear them say, "Oh, hi, Miss. And, Miss! And, Miss!" We were celebrating Sarah's birthday and we had a great time. I got introduced to house music and Kat says maybe I can come hear some more when her fiance DJs on a Friday. I was extremely responsible and took a cab home, as per Ant's request.