I’ve been feeling down the last couple of weeks. I first thought it was due to the change of seasons and lack of sunlight. But now I believe it’s because I haven’t seen much of my babies, my niece and nephew. In English slang, I’ve gone broody. Like a hen who wants to lay eggs and raise chicks, I’m in the mood for kids.
I first felt this way during Freshman year at college. I was alone in a new town three thousand miles from where I used to live. Add to that being far from any support network of friends who were going through their own experiences and didn’t remember me after I’d left, I found myself hungering for a baby.
I was only nineteen years old. I knew it was ridiculous. But the ache was real. I had no potential baby daddy and only a vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I was alone, lonely, and I wanted someone to love who would love me.
I weathered the crisis and in later years when I thought about having a baby on my own, I’d remind myself of that period of time and say “Absolutely not.” I don’t begrudge those who choose to become single parents. I simply knew that my personal motives were not pure.
Then my sister and brother-in-law had two kids. They graciously let me be a big part of my niece’s and nephew’s lives. I’d see them at least twice a week, and on Thursdays, I’d have dinner at their home and stay a few hours afterward, playing Candy Land or Barbies and reading bedtime stories. My brother-in-law named the time Thea Thursdays and it was the highlight of my week. The broodiness eased. A few years’ later, the family moved for a job opportunity and my mother and I followed to be near, to watch the children grow up and it’s been a privilege.
Now, puberty has hit and while they haven’t turned into teenage demon spawn, they are pulling away. There’s lots of homework, orchestra and band practice, friends to visit. The day after her sixteenth birthday, my niece was at the DMV to get her driver’s license. Months before, when she had her permit, she’d ask me to accompany her to practice her driving. We started out at empty parking lots then graduated to a few roads then visits to the market or to go buy some frozen yogurt. We’d have a great time together. After she got her license, it wasn’t me but her friends she invited to accompany her to the farmer’s market. She needs to feel independent, confident, and build friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime. Still, it hurts a little.
My niece has never been very demonstrative, except she often has been so with me. Out of nowhere, she’d squeeze me tight saying my name. Even in front of her friends. When she was little and sleeping over at our house, I’d awake to find that little body next to mine, arm around my shoulder and her sweet sleeping face, smiling with contentment. Even thinking about it now washes me with warmth.
My nephew at thirteen is more demonstrative. Even though he is getting quite tall and manly, he still gives me hugs and kisses, wants to tell me about the latest episodes of Steven Universe, and generally give me his opinions on everything. I know that not far off into the future, he’ll pull away from me, thinking I’m too old and unhip and will want to hang out more with his friends or a particular girl who’s going to last a lot longer and stronger in his affections than his first crushes Ava, Cassie, or Arielle from the Little Mermaid. And that is how it should be.
I can tell he is going to be an incredible man. But still, I will miss the boy.
Both kids want to leave the state and return to California for college. This area is too sedate for them. They yearn for more excitement and adventure. My niece and her friends are talking about traveling to Burning Man in a couple of years. My babies want to see the world and I want that for them. I want them to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way instead of being too scared to try. I’m happy that they are so confident and brave. But I worry and want to hold them tight. There will be a hole in my heart from missing them, however, I realize that their steps to forge an independent identity is a necessary thing.