Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Thinking about children

Virgil is eight years younger than me. His thirties are beginning and mine are ending. Different things make us cry.

Recently he sobbed uncontrollably in Toy Story 3 with its themes of friendship, loyalty and growing away from childhood companions. On Sunday I was made into a watery mess by Little Green, the song Joni Mitchell wrote about giving up her daughter for adoption when she was young.

I'm not broody but the question is there.

Yesterday my brother asked me for relationship advice. (This is unusual because we argue a lot so I was pleased to be asked.) He's just started seeing a 36-year-old woman: so far there have been three dates and one fuck. She has mentioned that she wants to have children.

Freddie is 38 and has a daughter from a previous relationship. He wouldn't mind having more but it's not at the top of his list. He's ready for a new relationship too but doesn't know her well enough yet to say if she's relationship material. How should he proceed? How to behave honourably while not being burdened with expectations?

Be honest and if you suspect it's going nowhere tell her and get out fast, we decided. And, I should add: don't assume ANYTHING.

A university lecturer, my friend Charlotte was in her mid-thirties and desperate for a child. Things were going pretty well with her new boyfriend so she said to him:

"Look, I don't expect you to actually know right now whether you want to have children with me at some point, but as I definitely do want to have kids if you know that you *don't* want them I'd appreciate being told so that I don't waste my time here."

He freaked out and they didn't speak for a week. Then they made up and the subject was not spoken of again. A month later, with nothing said, they stopped using condoms, and a month or two after that Charlotte was pregnant.

When she told me about it afterward Charlotte said she had a gut feeling that he wasn't going to take the news well when she went to his flat to tell him. She was right. He took it very badly indeed.

 "But how did it happen?" he asked, when he was able to speak. Apparently he had assumed that, like his previous girlfriends, Charlotte had gone on the pill when she started to let him fuck her without a condom. Their plans for her to move into his flat were cancelled. He went to work in France. He was furious. Charlotte swallowed her disappointment and in spite of it all continued to be deliriously happy about being pregnant. She now has a baby girl who she adores. He still works in France but relations are cordial and they are in contact.

Virgil was horrified when I told him this story. He thought that Charlotte had tried to trap her boyfriend. I said she hadn't: Charlotte had been prepared all along to bring up the child without his support. She just really wanted a child. Of course, a person would have to be quite callous to not want to take some sort of role in their child's life and he didn't get to choose. Serve him right though: how irresponsible not to take precautions.

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