September 29, 2007

Family Reunion

It felt good to openly discuss my status as a Purple Woman at a family gathering today. In the same conversation, I mentioned that most of Tom's family probably assumes that my influence or malfunction was the reason for us not raising children. I don't think they really know that he has always been more sure about being childfree than me. I really caught his mother by surprise once when I asked her, "Why do you think Tom didn't want to have kids?"

We attended a family reunion on my husband's side of our family today. My mother-in-law passed away last year, so she was represented in her progeny and in story only. It was a glorious sunny day on Angel Island, not a wisp of fog that had plagued the previous day. We all felt so lucky to have this perfect day together on the San Francisco Bay. All my husband's cousins and siblings, minus a few key spouses and nieces and nephews, were there. It was a big crowd as Catholic family reunions tend to be.
To my surprise, it was our openly gay cousin who asked me "The Question" at the reunion:

"So when are you and Tom having kids?"
I know what Tom's reaction would have been, had he been within earshot. He, at age 49, feels he is well past the point of embarking on such an enterprise. I know this cousin and his partner pretty well, so I simply said,
"Why would I want to do that?!"
We shared a good laugh and he said, "Yeah, me too!" He admitted to being perfectly happy that others in his family are procreating. Without my prompting, he acknowledged that for women, child rearing and bearing, is an integral identity issue that does not exist for men.

I loved hearing one of my favorite terms of endearment being called out all day "Aunt Teri this", "Aunt Teri that". I love being "Aunt Teri". It is my privilege to be a connected to the next generation, to support their parents by being present at holidays and gatherings. To think of them on their birthdays. To be the person they can ask "fill-in-the-blank" as they get older and the world gets more complicated. Aunt Teri and Uncle Tom show them by example that they have choices ahead of them, and that there are all sorts of lifestyles within one big happy family.

Photo of the last family reunion Teri's mother-in-law attended. She is in the center front.
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Lynn R said...

Kudos, Teri.

I definitely owe a debt of gratitude to my 'Auntie Kay and Uncle Barry' who paved the childfree path in my family 30 - 40 years ago. A number of my cousins and I (now in our 40's) have chosen to remain childfree and I know that our choice is questioned less because of the groundbreaking done by my mom's sister.

jess said...

I am pretty sure that my husband's friends feel that he feels the way he does (childfree) simply because of me; however, it was a sweet moment for me (when we were friends and weren't even dating yet) when he told me FIRST that he didn't really want children. I was really surprised to hear that, personally, and was just glad to have found a friend who felt the same way.

And now we're married and his friends still don't understand how he could feel this way. *shrugs* I, too, love hearing my niece call me "Tia" ("aunt" in Spanish), and I was my sister's coach when she was born. That is enough for me, though, and although I love my niece so very much, I don't personally feel the need to have my own children as well.

EDW said...

I really couldn't agree more - it's wonderful to be an aunt. I have an amazing relationship with my godson and my niece. Although I have a child now, I fully support the choice not to have children. And I hated being asked, and still hate being asked about having children and will happily accept the answer of "Not for me!"

Children are very blessed to have those childfree aunts and uncles.