I recently came across the term “sparents”, people who don’t have children but still have a powerful impact on the lives of children. They can be relatives or friends. They take an interest in the child and provide another safe adult to help get through life.
First of all, I really hate the term. Just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean that we are spare anythings. It is a cute nickname, but not my style at all.
Secondly, while “It takes a village to raise a child” is an overused cliche at this point, on some level I agree. The more people children have around that they can trust and talk to, the better off they’ll be. It’s important to have different viewpoints and it’s important for children to be able to talk to people other than their parents. Some discussions are just easier if you can have them with another adult or even just try them out before getting it together enough to feel like you can talk to your parents.
Third, though, I really don’t like the insinuation that people aren’t worth anything unless they have something to do with raising children. That’s ridiculous, and it makes me angry.
We’re lucky enough to be honorary aunt and uncle to two children. At some point, we may have nieces and nephews. Hard to tell. I enjoy having children in my life and I look forward to watching them grow up. I like seeing how they see the world and, sometimes, tilting it a little so they see things slightly differently.
That’s me, though. I don’t think that any person who doesn’t have children should be expected to have a drive to be part of the lives of children because otherwise their lives would not have meaning. I don’t think it should be assumed that someone who doesn’t have children automatically yearns for that kind of relationship. I’m pretty sure at least a couple of friends of my parents left our house at times thinking “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with those on a regular basis!”
I think what I’m trying to say is that it shouldn’t be assumed by anyone that someone else wants to spend time with their kid(s). The two for whom we are honorary aunt/uncle are kids whose parents are very important to us. In the older one’s case, we like her in her own right, too. She’s smart, interesting, and funny, and she has had enough experiences in her life that she loves to learn new things. We don’t know the younger one very well yet, but with parents like hers, she’s bound to be an interesting person.
I’m not really talking about infertility here, but the effects of it. We can’t have kids. I’m mostly all right with that (although mother’s day is not my favorite day of the year!) and I’m looking forward to being part of the lives of other peoples’ children, as much as the parents and the two of us are all comfortable with. I don’t want people (other than those two families) to assume that because we don’t have kids and we did want them that we are automatically going to be happy to be extra babysitters.
Hmm. This is coming out a little bit angrily, and I don’t mean it to. If we offer to babysit, it’s one thing. If, however, someone says, “Oh, you’re good with kids, and you aren’t busy that night anyway, are you? So you could spend the evening chasing after my little perfect peach,” that’s something completely different.
We’re going to continue to have an interesting life. We’re going to be happy to include some children in that life when it works out. I don’t think that anyone should make assumptions about how much we, or any other person who doesn’t have children, should be willing to include children in our lives. The article irritated me on some level because it felt a little like the author was saying that unless people were involved in a child’s life they weren’t really important, and I disagree with that. It may feel true from a parent’s standpoint. It certainly isn’t true from mine.
If you have kids, if I like your kids, if I would enjoy spending time with them, I’ll let you know. I’m pretty sure most people would. I don’t like people making assumptions about me or us just because we did want children and can’t have any.