Monday, May 5, 2014

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My Four-Year-Old Wants A Baby (Part II)



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Later that morning Mel and I were sitting at the dinner table. Mel was eating breakfast, and I was sitting next to her, working on my computer. To our right, Norah’s swaddled babies were still lining the living room.

“Does anything seems strange in here to you?” I asked.

Mel was still in her pajamas, her hair in a braid, legs crossed beneath the table. Her pregnancy was clearly showing.

She had a bit of cereal in her mouth. She looked around, confused.

“No,” she said.

“Really, Mel?” I said, “You don’t think it’s strange that we have a dozen random babies and other crap swaddled in the living room. You don’t find that frightening?”

“No. Why would I find that frightning? They’re just Norah’s babies. She does this all the time.”

I exhaled. I was confused and frustrated. I didn’t understand why I was the only one that found Norah’s baby obsession strange.

“I know she does, and if freaks me out. She’s four years old. Don’t you think she should play dress up or something? I mean, I think it’s cute when she caries around a doll. But this isn’t one doll. The whole house is a nursery. Half the time I’m searching through blankets to find my shoes. It just seems out of hand. I mean, what if she doesn’t grow out of this? What if she never understands that having a baby takes a lot of money and maturity?” I passed for a moment and held my head by the temples.

“What if she gets pregnant in high school?"

Mel scoffed, and I asked her why she would laugh at something like that. I got a little angry, I will admit. She clearly wasn’t taking this as seriously as I was.

“She’s four years old,” Mel said. “When I was a little girl, I loved to play with baby dolls, too. I don’t think I was as into them as Norah, but I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about.”

And as we spoke, I was reminded of something that happened in my early teens, when I was fifteen years old or so. I went to this youth activity put on by the Mormon Church. I grew up in a farming community on the west side of Provo, Utah, and I remember that this activity was held at a neighboring farm. It was summer. There was a large group of us, about 20 teens, and a handful of adults. We had a barbeque, and then we sat around a fire and listened to speakers.

One of the speakers was a girl in her late teens. She’d gotten pregnant at age 14. She wasn’t even 20 yet, and she already had a four-year-old child. She said how she had to drop out of high school to care for the child. The father of the baby was a few years older than the mother, 17 years old, and once he turned 18, he abandoned her.

After the girl with the child spoke, her father got up and talked about how devastated he was when his daughter came home pregnant. How much of a struggle it had been to help his child raise a child.

Then he said, “Sometimes I wonder if part of this was my fault. I worked too much at the time. Maybe if I’d been around more, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Both their lives seemed really rough. But I didn’t care about that at the time. I was just starting to get cynical about… well… everything. And I remember rolling my eyes as she spoke.

This is all just some scare tactic, I thought. Some stupid horror story to keep us from having sex. I’m smarter than that.

At the time, I thought I knew a lot about sex. I hadn’t done it, but I’d seen a few movies.

And I’d heard a lot of talk from the experts in my high school who claimed to have done it. I assumed that the only reason she got pregnant was because she wasn’t smart enough to have safe sex. I had every intention of jumping at the chance to have sex. And a year later it happened. I lost my virginity at age 16. And by age 17, I wasn’t having safe sex. And when I think about my life, back then, it feels like I was gambling.

I got really lucky to have not ended up with a baby in my teens.

The story told by that girl and her father didn’t seem scary at the time, but now, with two kids in the house, and after witnessing a few of my friends struggle to get back on their feet after a teen pregnancy, it seems terrifying.

I told Mel about the youth activity. Then I reminded her of my ex-girlfriend. How she wanted a baby so badly because that way someone would actually love her.

“I don’t want that for Norah. I love her too much for that.”

Mel placed her hand on my leg. “You know what, I think she knows that.” Mel went on, reminding me about how often I tell Norah that I love her. How often I show my love for her.

Then she said, “I don’t think you need to worry about her looking for love outside of our family. I think her understanding will change once she sees us caring for a real baby.”

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley