It was in the late 90s when a childless friend asked me during a hectic, weekday lunch, out of the blueish of blue, “Do you think I missed anything by not having kids?”
I answered him directly, “You love to travel. You went to places I didn’t know exist. Travel with kids isn’t always a possibility.”
But to myself, I silently shouted, “Hell, yes!”
When my boys were young–one 7 and the other 2–I built them a playroom in our dingy basement with exposed pipes and a low ceiling, albeit high enough for them. Earl, my handyman, bought fluorescent lights and hangers that suspended them (that made the ceiling a teensy-bit lower).
He bought a used television (he knew a guy) from which they would play video games. He installed a solid shelf for the television because boys will be boys. (If you don’t know what that means, ask someone with two or more sons).
He installed a heater/air conditioner unit because my thought process was it will be a 12-month to do. (And it was). He paneled part of it (my idea) and painted the rest (his idea) a soft yellow. And last, he installed a rug bought as a remnant but covered the whole floor because he made it fit. (The rug had 5 seams and Earl was good at math).
When it was finished, I brought the kids downstairs to see the outcome. It might have been put together cheaply, but it was the “playroom” and they loved it.
Soon after, I built a 4×6 train set with fast-moving trains and railroad crossings and tiny people waiting on the platform in the playroom. Even though the planks of wood were wobbly (upper arm strength isn’t my forte), it satisfied my sons.
I catered parties down in the playroom. Birthday parties, half-birthday parties, graduation parties starting with preschool. And more parties just for the sake of parties, many of them sleepovers.
And then one by one, they left for college and stayed there after graduation in two respective different cities, both 6 hours from the house. That playroom existed as a monument to great, great times.
It was followed by my bouts of depression and I asked the biggest question over and over again: Is that all there is? Sullen moods went on for a bunch of years until the youngest one graduated from college. And then a miracle happened a few years later.
Both boys invited me, in the same year, as a guest visitor to see what they did for work. The older son, a Senior Programmer, showed me his workspace and explained in detail what he did to make things work and do what they did. My younger son, a Systems Administrator, showed me hisworkspace and what he did for networks, the lines of communication, to exist.
It was then I stopped thinking of them as children and moved on.
My two sons were making a contribution and were self-sufficient. Isn’t that what every parent wants?
My stroke happened shortly after, and I knew, in all that despair, that my sons were going to be fine. Every time I thought that way, it led me to smile.