“…’til that day, lil’ homie.”
For the last few years my grandparents have been pestering me about when I’m gonna settle down and have a family and kids. Usually I’m evasive and don’t get drawn into the conversation, laughing it off. Or sometimes if I’m in a sassy mood, I’ll threaten to go out that minute and get some random chick pregnant. This often earns me an unamused look from my grandmother. But more and more I do try and dig deep I tell them about how there are plans I have and things I want to do that don’t involve looking after someone else -at least for the time being.
Now this last approach is typically my attempt to be honest and open up, but it is usually met with disapproval and conjecture, and what I realize now is that I wasn’t being completely honest with them.
So over the last two weekends while visiting both sets of grandparents* I decided to really open up about my train of thought, my reasoning, my loneliness and my profound regret so that they would understand it was more than a simple matter of not having my shit together at 30.
I started in both situations by referencing how they had expressed numerous times their sincerest hopes that I would thrive in the entertainment industry. They want me to get the proverbial “big break” and see me on TV. I confirmed that this was in fact what they wanted for me. They said “yes.” From there I pointed out that shoots often require me to travel for extended periods of time and leave behind loved ones. I expressed how not only would this be hard for a romantic partner but especially hard for a parent, the typically low pay of a non-union actor notwithstanding.
A contemplative “Hmmmmm…” was all I got.
I was making headway. It was time to unleash the big guns.
“You see how happy and energetic and carefree I am now?” I said, “Well that’s because I live a relatively carefree existence. I don’t have to work a lot and I can devote a lot of my time to my passions, my craft and my health. Well, if I had someone else to look out for I would have to devote a third or (more likely) more of my time to a job I don’t love just so I could provide for them. Not only would this take up valuable time I should be spending with that little human being, but it would make me grumpy, tired, miserable and unappreciative during my hours with them. I might snap at them in anger or frustration, yell at them or worse.”
With both sets of grandparents, both sides European immigrants who had to work their asses off when they came to Canada, this sentiment really struck a chord. Especially in the case of my maternal grandfather who came over from Italy. He opened up about how hard it was for him working shifts and only seeing my mother and uncles occasionally during the week. It was upsetting to hear, but worse to see the sadness on his face.
I went on.
“I also don’t want to raise my child in a culture where fear is the norm and people turn their back on you; it’s unnatural. I like the idea of a strong community or village where everyone is extended family whether blood or not. A place where my kid will be loved and protected by the whole community, not isolated from his neighbours and taught to be fearful of other people.”
This notion got mostly contemplative silence, but in both cases I think I saw my grandparents thinking back to their early lives in Italy and Portugal respectively, when they lived in small villages where everyone knew everyone and everyone knew everyone else’s business. Times were hard but they suffered together. And when their was bread to break, they broke it together. Contrast that to our current culture of individuation, celebrity and isolation, where people walk by a guy on the street as if he is a poor decorating choice on the part of city planners. That simply will not do. My child will endure hardship, we all will**, but I don’t want to bring him into a culture where he will endure it alone or have to step on others to win.
And I think this is where my profound regret comes from: I know what a kickass dad I could be right now, as I am now, full of life, love and energy. Part of me really wants to realize that, but I also know that in this world, in this culture, I would have to give up the things that make me good father material in order to provide for my child.
It’s disgusting and I am offended that its gone on this long, but the same exploitative socio-economic system we live in that forces recent mothers back to work when they should be bonding with their child during the crucial early years is the same system that makes it imprudent and irresponsible of me to engage in the divine act of creation. This is an affront to my very existence on this planet and just one reason why I have broken faith with their current establishment, only engaging with it as much as necessary.
So, will my grandparents bother me about having kids again? Who knows? Maybe. Probably. But I’m glad I gave them insight into where I was coming from and helped them see that I was at least looking at their regrets and trying to learn from them.
*I actually have four sets of grandparents, because my parents divorced and remarried when I was young so I got four sides to my family….#swag. But in this case I visited my dad’s parents last weekend and my mom’s parents this weekend.
**The next fifty years and beyond are gonna be a very interesting and unprecedented time in human history. There is a will be lots of shifts happening. I’m cautiously optimistic.