So I have already come to terms with some basic facts of life. Children exist. They are everywhere except fancy-shmancy restaurants that are too expensive for us to eat in and places we wouldn't go anyway, because honestly? I spill food on myself. A lot. I joke that it is one of the reasons I wear my hair long, to cover up the evidence of lunch.
So. Kids. Everywhere. They exist and I can't avoid them. Just like babies are a part of my universe and will be unless I want to cut off just about all my friends and become a hermit, because all of my friends either have children, are currently pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant. Seriously, I can think of maybe . . . two people? three? that aren't in those situations. Since I like my friends and want to continue those relationships, I realized really quickly that I needed to adjust to having kids around me or having them mentioned.
I can't say it is always ok. Because sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it hurts in ways I could not predict - like my friend Rachel telling a hilarious story about her son and his very normal fascination with his penis. I laughed and then oof! I realized that those experiences and those stories were no longer in my future and it stung. Frankly, I can't anticipate what will hurt and when. I was 100% genuinely pleased when a friend emailed me to let me know gently that she is expecting again. Not one moment of disappointment or pang of sadness. But that is not always the case.
It is awkward. I'm certain it is as awkward for my friends as for me. More toe-stepping as we navigate this minefield, I guess. I tend to take the approach that people need to live their lives and if today is a day that their lives overwhelm me, I take a step back and if today is a better day, I try to reach out. I prefer that people don't try to tiptoe or censor themselves, though I appreciate the compassion that people are extending.
The random encounters are rough too. I don't want to necessarily see children. I've been known to walk in another direction to avoid babies. So when we sat down at Benihana's for our dinner tonight, and were followed by a family of four with an infant boy and a toddler girl, Dh and I looked at each other with something akin to horror. The poor family probably thought we hated kids. Dh was more concerned for me than for himself, and I just shrugged and said, "Can't avoid them forever." There was a definite pang and pinch at my heart.
We tried to be friendly, but I'm sure the parents thought we were a little crazy. I could not tear my eyes away from the kids. The little boy was really fussy, except when he made eye contact with me and would smile and gurgle. The little girl was very cute. She watched us eat sushi and her mother prompted her to say hello. We returned her greeting and then she pointed at her mother and announced that she was her mom. I think our laughter scared her a little. The family ended up not staying long - the boy wouldn't stop fussing so they finally asked to have their food boxed up and said they would be back after they ran the kids home. DH and I were both relieved - but we both survived it too.
The thing is . . . they are everywhere. We can't avoid them, unless we never go out. We can either accept that there will be some pain sometimes and let that skin get battered into something harder and thicker and become accustomed to it, or we can try an exercise in futility and try to avoid the youth all around us and never adjust so that it hurts each and every time. Just like trying to choose not to be bitter, I will not always be perfect at it . . . but it seems like if life is going to go on, this is one more aspect to which we must adjust. Another piece of the dead baby puzzle that isn't quite right or quite fair, but has to be fitted in.
Onwards and upwards, eh?