To Make or Not to Make Baby

May 10, 2006

I am in a daze after reading Maybe Baby, a Harper Collins book put together by Salon senior editor Lori Leibovich with a foreward by Anne Lamott. (She is so funny!)

The book is brutally honest about the daily demands of parenthood and the selfish impulses that drive us to bear children. It will no doubt validate the choice by people who don’t want kids. And don’t get me wrong: I respect people’s decision not to have children and have gone so far as to tell a good friend recently that there are other ways to display one’s nurturing side like becoming a pet owner, nurse or a teacher. You don’t need children of your own in order to become complete or a compassionate person.

But what I won’t tolerate are those extremists from the “child-free movement” who spew hatred at moms and kids. I certainly have encountered some of these folks online and other public places. They are bothered by the presence of children, love the separation of generations in this country, and make our job as parents a little harder when they demand that we stay home with our “rug rats.” I shudder at the thought of living in a “child-free” world, which leads me to my one beef about the book: Why the heck would anyone have children? What would happen if everyone decided not to have children? (Think Italy and Japan.)

I felt that the book did a great job harping on the negative humorously rather than delve more deeply into the positive aspects of parenting. But, personally, this is what keeps me going:

The other day I asked my two-year-old son, “Who is coming home tomorrow?” (Answer: “Papi.”) He responded: “!Santi Clos!” “Santa Claus!” He had been watching the Polar Express so of course he was preoccupied by the jolly, hefty guy in red. But all of a sudden, I became a child again, wishing Christmas was around the corner so that I could cram a 6-foot-tree into our new home, hide presents and help out with letter-writing and cooking for Santa.

I then engaged my son’s imagination. What does Santa bring? “Toys,” Ari said. “Y chocolates.” Then I incorporated Cuban tradition, and asked him what we would leave the camels belonging to the three king’s men. Los tres reyes magos. “Leche,” he said. “Milk,” rather than a cup of water with a straw as the tradition goes. Every year, los reyes leave us candy in our stockings — that’s why they are important to our Christmas tradition.

While traveling with Ari hasn’t always been smooth, we had a blast together in England last year. I was giddy watching him eat his first ice cream cone in the Tower of London, chase geese near Windsor Palace and taking in the countryside scenery from our train ride to Bath. While I got one obnoxious lecture by a German tourist who sanctimoniously declared she would never take such a small child onto the second level of a two-deck bus tour — did she think I would let him jump off? — the Brits were quite welcoming. Businessmen seemed all too eager to set down their briefcases to help me carry Ari’s stroller up the Metro stairs. Writers and other workers at the newspaper Markos stringed for goofed around with Ari at the pub. The three of us took walks or ate snacks in the middle of the night because of the time change. Luckily we were all jet-lagged and on the same schedule because we slept A Lot. It really was an unforgettable trip and one I could not have imagined without Ari. He was 17 months old.

Yes, my reasons for having my son were selfish: this physical maternal pull, the yearning to pass on my family traditions and, hopefully, improve on the world by raising a problem-solver. Honestly, I have put in more work with this kid than I have reaped rewards. But was it worth it? Here’s to Baby No. 2!