More sure than I’ve ever been.

Whew. First off – I am feeling better. I’m not 100% yet, but boy howdy that was rough. It kind of tanked my vacation, but the point was to see my family and our newest member and I was able to do that.

I’ve had a lot of complicated feelings related to that trip. With the baby in particular. I promise it isn’t just related to the bad cold she gave me. It’s more about what she represents.

We decided we’re not having kids. We actually decided this like eight years ago and, uh, to be technical about it, locked that down. It ain’t happening. I had several academic reasons to not want kids and my husband always knew he’d never be a dad.

But that’s not to say we don’t like kids. We love kids. We can be goofy and fun and play with toys and any kid we’ve hung out with has been really awesome. They appreciate my silly songs and think my terrible jokes are hilarious. It’s pretty much my benchmark for anyone I could be friends with.

“Then why?” you ask yourself. Well, the urge to do it just isn’t there. I’m always really genuinely flattered when people say I’d be a good mom and are disappointed to learn about it. But the realities are that even with all my academic reasons, when I hung out with a baby this last week it was kind of a test of me and my gut feeling. Here was the first baby I’d been up close and personal with, hanging out, excited for all her potential… and nothing happened. Nothing changed. She was cute and sweet and I love her to bits. But there was no, “oh god, I need one, what am I doing with my life”.

Like I said: I had many academic reasons not to. But there was a question in my mind about if I spent time with this kid, that maybe something would shift in me emotionally. Hell, people had been telling me that for years.

Here is a short list of reactions to “I’m not having kids” that weren’t disappointment:

  • Oh, you’ll change your mind when your friends start having kids.
  • Oh, you’ll change your mind when you get older.
  • There’s a clock that will just start ringing and you’ll want them.
  • Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?
  • What about your family? Don’t you want your family to live on?
  • Then what are you doing with your life?
  • What’s wrong with you?

My reaction to all those things was anything from rolling my eyes to pain and soul searching. But the one I couldn’t discredit was that something might change when I had friends with kids. Maybe something would happen when I had that experience. At this point in our lives a few friends had kids, but this was the first baby we’d spent time with. As I took her and held her, I slowly crossed that one off the list. I was sure.

There was a movie that came out recently called Inside Out. It’s a Pixar movie where Amy Poehler plays one of many emotions living inside a pre-teen girl. Her family relocates and her emotions go on a journey of sorts and the feelings have feelings and hijinks ensue. I normally love Pixar movies, but I really didn’t care for this one. The plot did nothing for me.

Most people loved the movie. It made them cry. I think I didn’t like it because I lack the parenting part of my brain. Now, I know that nurturing component isn’t totally missing from me (trust, I’ve done plenty of emotional fussing over friends and family). But I just didn’t care about the characters, the plot of this girl and her family… Anything about it.

I know, it’s just some movie. But I think this is the first time I really saw in myself that I’d made the right decision. It’s the first time I knew I was missing something. Is there something wrong with me? Maybe? I know that I do know what love is and I know a person made partly of my DNA isn’t a guarantee of it.

People might see this and feel bad for me. Think that I’m missing out on some unique life experience… But I’m not. I’ve had and have people who depend on me and love me. I’ve helped my friends and family where I can and had their love and support in return. You might say that’s not the same, and it probably isn’t. But I know I am content with this. I know this is how it is meant to be. I am Aunt Lauren. And that is totally fine.

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826Michigan and aliens with indigestion: this non-profit turns kids into authors.

826 Book: Where Is It Coming From?

I have a new book written by kids for kids. Well, it’s cute and charming, and I bought it… so it’s clearly for adults too. The book “Where Is It Coming From?” is the most recent release from 826Michigan, one chapter of a large network of 826 shops all over the country. The shops are actually creative writing and tutoring centers for kids, but you wouldn’t know it from the outside. Each shop is a little quirky storefront and the tutoring center is in the back offices. Michigan’s quirky store? Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair.

Why is a robot store publishing books? The roots of this comes from the first shop, 826 Valencia, in San Francisco. The non-profit’s founder, Dave Eggers, had set-up the first tutoring center in an area in San Francisco that was zoned for retail. The city informed them they had to sell something. So what did the creative sorts come up with? Supplies for the everyday pirate. Oh yeah, I’m not kidding. Friends bought me a fake mustache, a wooden spoon, and a pirate t-shirt when they visited the store. Business BOOMED and the proceeds supported the non-profit. They said the store quickly paid the rent on the whole space.

The shop was so successful they replicated it in other places. A superhero supply in New York, where they have a cape test area, with a fan built in so you can see it waving in the breeze. A yeti research shop in Boston that was so unusual that the cops cased it for sometime before entering inside to ask what was going on. The Boring Store in Chicago is a front for a spy store… they were deep undercover. LA has a time travel convenience store. Seattle has a space travel supply. Washington DC has the Museum of Unnatural History, which gave me this gem:

The Missing Link

The text on the jar says, “Missing Link. Generations of scientists spent their lives searching for it. Now it can be yours.”

All these wonderful stores are just kitschy and enjoyable to me. I’ve worked in and volunteered for non-profits for a long time, so their unique blend of personality and commitment to their mission really strikes a chord with me. I’ve been a long time supporter, visiting half of the shops personally, but also buying the books they publish. They publish books regularly, like the book above, so these kids are PUBLISHED AUTHORS. BEFORE THE AGE OF 18. Isn’t that awesome?! I wish we had something like this when I was a kid.

Some recent and good news is that they’re starting a new store/center in Detroit. The one in Ann Arbor is nice and has done a lot of good, but it’s really pretty far from the Metro Detroit area, so it makes it hard for them to connect with some of the schools in this area that would really benefit from the field trips and one-on-one tutoring opportunities.

They’re working on building the new shop as I type. I hope to be a volunteer. I feel like writing is such an important skill. It gives importance to self expression, builds self esteem, and is a crucial skill for one’s adult life. I love how these shops have focused on that, while having a little fun while they’re at it. It’s just a wonderful thing and I’m very excited that they exist.

 

To learn more about the 826 stores, visit 826national.org. Maybe consider making a donation or buying one of their books!