Everybody assumed I would be one of the first to have children. Certainly almost everyone I know told me I'd make a great dad, etc. Expectations were high. And yet, at some point in that distant past, subconsciously, and then consciously, I decided I wasn't going to have children. Decided? Recognised. I recognised that they weren't really an option for me, and time has given me ample enough opportunity to articulate the reasons behind that recognition.
I love kids, paradoxically. I think, on the whole, they are great. They embody so much; so much hope and joy and laughter. They are a lifeline to the future and a homage to the past. They are, perhaps, the perfect encapsulation of humanity at its most innocent, at its most open and at its most noisy.
But they demand so much; time and effort and love and commitment. They embody a host of guilts and self-doubt and fears. They are occupy so much space and time as to be mind-boggling in its entirety. Life orbits around them, it changes and flexes and distorts. Children are gravitational. Children are forever.
And I am not sure I can do that. I am hapless and hopeless. I can barely look after myself, and my two cats regularly petition me for transfer to another household. I do not have the time nor the inclination for children, I hardly have enough time as it is, to achieve all the things I am not achieving now. And that is with the insomnia. And there are the fears - what if I get it wrong, am a bad father, screw it up beyond belief, fall out of love with their mother, etcetera, etc?
Children are forever. And they do occupy space and time like nothing else in the world. There can be no lack of surety about having them, it is the big decision. Once they are there, there are no alternatives (there are, but for me they are unconscionable). If you have children and realise that, actually, you don't want them, you are trapped. And there is no way out of that. Except for walking away, and I am not sure I am the type of person who could do that.
I find myself in a paradox. I have been surrounded (sort of) by children over the last three years. I have my life-affirming nephews Hugo and Rudy, who I do not see often enough, and I occasionally see the lovely Freya (daughter of Hugh and Lauren) whom I am more than a little in love with. They are great kids, and embody the best of their parents in ways that makes me tear up if I think too deeply about it. And now there is Coco.
The paradox is this; I would gladly do anything for these four children. I'd give my life if I thought it would make things better, or protect them from harm. They, and their parents, are more than precious to me. I love them all dearly and I would do anything for them.
And yet I cannot commit a chunk of my life to having my own, abandoning much of what I want to achieve and do for the simple joys and horrors (poo!) of bringing up my own children.
I am not sure I understand it. Or myself.
I have been, pithily, told that I will change my mind when I meet the right person, or when it happens. The truth is, I am pretty sure I have already met the right person, twice, both of them loving, strong, caring people, and yet... children was a step beyond what I was prepared to give.
I may well change my mind, if I meet the right person. Things change, people change, decisions change. Very little is immutable in this world, and a wise person knows when it is time to move on and change.
Yet somehow, I think this is one decision I may have to live with, a potential regret that I will carry to my deathbed. But I will have the vicarious joys of Hugo, Rudy, Coco and all the other children of friends and family who will enter my life and keep me smiling and laughing and wondering.