At the local post office, one of the workers brings her baby every day. I have seen her grow from newborn to just starting to walk and talk. She’s a cute, smiley child. I watch her and her mom with curiosity, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Yesterday as I was collecting my mail, I watched a white-haired man having so much fun talking nonsense to the baby that he couldn’t seem to tear himself away. Clearly he’s had years of practice talking to babies, his own, his grandchildren, perhaps nieces and nephews. I have never been around babies, and I don’t have the vocabulary for it.
At the library, I encounter a group blocking the stairs, two young mothers and three little kids, so busy talking they don’t notice me trying to get to the ground floor to sit alone and write for a while. I edge around them. The children’s room, occupied by more moms and babies, sits at the bottom of the stairs. I feel as if I am not allowed to step into that room.
A friend is hosting a series of parenting classes. She keeps sending emails asking us to help, but I am no more qualified to teach parenting than I would be to give surfing lessons or teach Mandarin.
Many of my friends have children and grandchildren. When we work on common interests, such as music or writing, we connect. But then they suddenly start talking Mommy, and our connection fades away. It’s a lot like when I walk into the chapel during the Spanish choir rehearsal. I know some Spanish, but they talk too fast and use words I just don’t understand. They look at me like I don’t belong in their world, and no matter how many Spanish classes I take, I never will.
I often feel that I’m from a country that has no children, only dogs and cats. One is not better than the other, just different. Does any of this sound familiar to you? As childless people, are there situations where you feel like you come from another country? Please share. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.