So, in my conversation class today, we talked about what we're going to do, and what we all want to do in the future, and I encouraged the students to ask questions, either of me about the United States or about myself, or else of each other, as well. And one student asked about whether or not I wanted to have kids later in life, since I had mentioned that I'm not a fan of small children. I responded that I don't want to have children, or don't see any reason for me to have children (with my usual caveat that I'm not going to say "I will never have children," lest I end up with eight). And another girl promptly asked me, "But what will you do when you're old?" I knew what she meant, more or less, but for the sake of a little black humor I cocked my eyebrow and looked at her, and said simply, "Die." I laughed and said I was joking, of course, but that I would probably continue doing when I was old whatever it was I was doing the year before, and the year before that, etc. And she said, "But you'll be alone." To which I responded, "Of course I won't. I have brothers, and they'll have kids, and I have very close friends, and very tightly knit friendships. But as for dying alone, well, even if I had kids, I wouldn't force them to live in my basement till I died, so I highly doubt that they'd be in the house in any case." We all laughed and joked, and kept the conversation light, but it did spark a thought that I think is rather odd.
In the U.S., and here as well, it seems that people think that to have family means only to get married, and have kids. I think that's silly, since our families are much larger than just that small nuclear unit, but also because we oftentimes forge friendships that are at least as close as the bonds that blood makes between us. My brother Andy, for example, is neither biologically nor legally my brother, but calls my parents Mom and Dad, and is such a part of the family in so many ways that he can't really be called just a "friend." He's my brother. For my parents, for quite some time I imagine it was almost like having another son, since he was at our house so often, and would help out with things when we needed it, would go on family trips with us, or take care of things for us when we were gone on trips he didn't/couldn't go on. The concept of ever actually being alone, truly alone, is preposterous. The only way for someone to be alone is for them to be physically or socially isolated, by themselves or others, from contact with other human beings.
Coupled with this idea is the implication that a person can't have a fulfilling life without having kids. That, I definitely think ridiculous. Now, this is not to take anything whatsoever away from parents. My own, for example, are incredible people. As a matter of fact, I would argue that raising a child is by far the most difficult endeavor a human being can undertake. But to think that it is somehow the only way for a person to feel fulfilled in their life is something I just cannot credit.
So, if I end up old, lonely, and bitter at all my friends who have children, please remind me that I said this now, and say "I told you so." :-P
Best wishes to you all.