Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Big Question

I have been off from school for 2 weeks and 2 days now and I am really missing the children. It looks like the summer school classes that I offered to teach didn't fill, so I will have a long lonely summer.

I don't have any children of my own, but working in a grade school these last 3 years has filled a need I didn't realize I had. It has been a mixed blessing though. Working with children has brought me joy and job satisfaction, but it has made me confront "the big question." That big question is a running dialog that I have had with myself for as long as I can remember. It goes something like this, "What is the meaning of life? How will I contribute to the world? Who am I? Do I have enough confidence in myself to achieve my goals? Am I doing the right thing? Will I die without regrets? Will I die loved?"

I once thought I had "the big answer" to "the big question." "The meaning to life," I remember telling my philosophizing college friends, "is that everyone wants to love and be loved." Yet, I struggled to find love long after my college days were over. When I finally met my husband, I had just turned 29 and he was 37. He was a single dad, funny, kind, and spiritual. There was just one thing. "I don't want to have any more children," he warned me. "I'm too old, I don't want to start over." For my part, I wasn't so sure about being a mother anyway. I had very little experience with young children. I had only babysat a few times in my life, and those occassions had seemed neither successful nor enjoyable. I was very concerned about what kind of a mother I might be. My own mother suffered from severe depression, and we kids were often neglected. Would I be the same?

Yogaman and I married, and I kept putting the question of children on the backburner. Interestingly though, my subconscious kept bringing it up. As I approached my 40th birthday, I began to knit more. Under the pretext of doing a fundraising craft fair for my women's club, I made 15 baby outfits in one year, pouring my creativity and repressed mothering instincts into each one. I can't say that I felt an urgent need or desire to have children, but I knew the question was there. I was just afraid to voice it out loud.

For some reason, I had always thought that 43 was the age at which one must have or not have children. When I was 43, I finally decided that I had decided not to have children by not deciding. I recall a discussion with my friend Linda, who was one of my few friends brave enough to ask me the big question directly. I told her the truth. If Yogaman, had wanted to, I would have wanted. But I did not have enough confidence in myself, and now, I wasn't sure I had the energy.

Having felt that I had finally made a decision, I started to talk more openly with Yogaman about my struggles with childlessness. Not to convince him of a different choice, just seeking acknowledgment of my sacrifice. I told him I needed to be creative, and he was supportive when I decided to quit a lucrative job so that I could pursue a knitting business. I started Knitter's Journey as a craft business, and started to look for part-time work to supplement it. That's when I saw the ad for my job at the school.

Every day of my job I smile and laugh over some little thing that the children do. How could I not have known how sweet children can be? Now when I start to play the dialog in my head, I know the answers. Everyone wants to love and be loved. Children bring love.

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