Childless But Not Child Free

I am an aunt. I’m a great aunt. I’ve been an aunt for almost 25 years, a great aunt for almost seven. I don’t remember a time when my niblings weren’t around. Over the years, I’ve become that weird, cool aunt who comes in and out of their lives because I’ve either been at school or just moved away like I did recently. They love me and I love them.

I’ll probably never have children on my own. I say “probably” because I have decided that I’d be better off without children. I never want to be a parent without a partner and at this point in my life, a partner looks unlikely as well. Furthermore, the thought of being pregnant terrifies me. Then I found out a couple of years ago that I may not be able to conceive anyway. That was a shock to me since I assumed I could since I have the equipment. But after a short crisis of identity, I accepted that it just may be impossible for me to ever conceive.

But I love children.

I love babies, I love toddlers, I love older children. Not just the ones in my family that I occasionally call my kids. I see people sharing pictures of their children and grandchildren on social media and I swoon. I walked downtown during what turned out to be the business’ Halloween trick or treat day and had so much fun seeing all the costumes. I got the chance to get to know the newest additions to my family when I went home during the summer and found that a cute little face can still charm all resistance out of me.

What I’ve come to realize is that I think it’s important to love and care about children even when they do not belong to me. I never know what type of impression I’ll leave on anyone and I definitely do not want to leave a bad one on someone who’s still learning how to respond to strangers.

Furthermore, the last few months have reinforced in me why I still care about all children and not just the ones in my family. Sometimes I cannot get the haunted look in Lesley McFadden’s eyes out of my head. After seeing yet another black mother write her an open letter because she knew what McFadden was going through, I mused at how heartbreaking it was to see these black mothers writing letters to console each other over the loss of their children. While I’m horrified to think that this could someday be my sister, nephew or niece, I have to care that this happened to someone I don’t know. I have to take those feelings of fear for my own family and focus it all families, especially the ones who fear that they could someday find themselves with the unspeakable task of burying a child. I wonder how things would be different if the lives of black children were valued simply because they existed.

Maybe this is my own interpretation of “it takes a village,” but I do believe children are precious. I know that childless people are supposed to take an attitude that we don’t care about other people’s kids and not squee when we see babies. But I do. I really love seeing the black boys on my block out skateboarding as soon as the weather turns warm. I smile when black women bring their babies on the bus in their strollers. I enjoy children and hope for the preservation of their innocence and happiness. I lost both these things at far too young and age and cannot fathom not caring that this could happen to other little boys and girls.

This is why I don’t complain about paying taxes for welfare. I may not be able to do much to directly help children in need, but I do know that children overwhelmingly make up welfare recipients (white children to be exact). Furthermore, I know that not enough of my tax money goes to social programs, but that’s something for another post. Also, how could I not care about children? Someday, we’ll leave this world in their hands. It’s already happening with the generation after mine. I cannot remain apathetic to what happens to them knowing that at some point, they will be in charge.

Right now, the child who waves, smiles or says hello while I’m out and about in the world makes me happy. They don’t know to be afraid of me and I won’t give them a reason to be. I may be childless for the rest of my life, but that does not mean I can’t love and support the children in my life or make a fuss over them when I see them. My life is childless, not child free, and I’m just fine with it.