things i learned by NOT having kids

a few weeks ago i was nearly the only SBF at an event featuring maria shriver. i got a two-fer ticket and convinced a girlfriend of mine to be my plus 1. i arrived before she did and sat up close to the front, on the end. patrons arrived and my friend was lost in the synagogue. i asked the women next to me to hold the seats while i went to get her. we return just as an older white couple settles into the two chairs. i glare at the women as we walk past. how hard is it to say, there’s a woman who just left, she’ll be right back? anyway, we find another place to sit, near the back and wouldn’t you know it, a fellow SBF asks if the seats next to us are taken. we smile and she joins us. we are clearly the chocolate chips in the cookie dough that white women like to eat. anyway…maria is talking about being a parent and things she learned as a parent. that got me to thinking, what have i learned by NOT having children?

  1. patience is a virtue and i have precious little.  the truth is, i don’t have patience for myself. i want to learn a new job immediately, to deliver results and value, to navigate a new city, to achieve.
  2.  if i want to eat almond M&Ms for breakfast and drink my dinner from a high ball, i can and not be arrested by CPS for negligence. my dad visited me over thanksgiving and although we were going to be late for church, he posted up at the dining table. i was two steps from the door when it clicked, he is expecting breakfast. (i rustled up an omelet, i’m not that insensitive, and we arrived 30 minutes late).
  3. the beauty of sleeping in. if i want to sleep til noon, i do. my mom worked nights so saturday mornings were funeral home silent. my dad didn’t mow the lawn until she was awake. taped over the doorbell and scrawled in all CAPs was this message, “do not ring this bell before 2pm.” my friends would stand outside and wait, fearing what would happen if they rang the bell.
  4. that my time is my own and it’s valuable to me. i have free reign to do what i want and when without consequence. happy hour on monday? sure! hop a flight to DC for the weekend? hell yes!
  5. that serving others takes practice and is not innate.
  6. that i enjoy my space. whether it’s a 600 square foot apartment or a 2000 square foot house, i cherish it.
  7. i hate repeating myself. when i say the same thing more than once my voice drops an octave and i measure my words. if i don’t i will start yelling halfway through the second repetition. during this same thanksgiving visit i told my dad, “watch out for the no-pest strips outside the door.” i must’ve said it three times, “don’t step on the sticky paper.” one afternoon we are headed out the door and the back heel of his size 14’s lands squarely on the fly paper. through clenched teeth i quietly said, just lift your heel so I can pull this off. he says, and you told me to watch out for that paper and i stepped right in it. i pulled and tugged and eventually the dead cricket and insect trap came off his shoe. i called my sister and she roared.
  8. i am not good at training people, particularly adults. i expect adults to catch on quickly (i also expect that of myself) and find that i am much better teaching kids than adults.
  9. the importance of an (adult) time out. there are many times at work when i know i must exit the scene or i will have a melt-down. not like a child’s tantrum, more like an adult explosion where everybody gets cussed out.
  10. giving verbal praise does not come naturally to me. i have to remember to praise my team for a job well done. “great job on the presentation!” “thanks for setting up that call.” things that are part of their daily tasks and i have to remind myself to say “well done.”
  11. i must find joy in the little things. a sunrise or sunset, a hot bath, a glass of merlot.
  12. that adults are similar to children: we want to be heard. when we feel that our friend, colleague, family, lover is unresponsive to our requests, we perform. we lash out, withdraw, seek attention in ways that are often unflattering and fail to deliver the desired outcome. like children, we attribute our poor behavior to the failures of others to meet our needs rather than to our inability to communicate what we need.

having children is not the only way to develop patience, long suffering, or self-control (fruit of the Spirit). i’ve learned a lot about myself through relationships, hosting guests, traveling with friends, and leading a team. being introspective and open to feedback has revealed my idiosyncrasies and shortcomings and the decision is mine: “do the work,” as Iyanla says, to be a better me.

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