“It’s not that I don’t want kids,” she says.
“Well what is it then, Elaine? Is it me?” he asked.
“No…actually yes. It is you. But not because I don’t love you. In terms of you, by yourself, you’re wonderful.”
“But put me in a room with kids and I grow horns and turn into some sort of ogre. Is that it?”
“No. Of course not. It’s just that I don’t think you have any idea what it’s like to raise kids. How much work it takes. How much sacrifice. And I don’t want to enter into parenthood with someone who has baby blue colored glasses on.”
“Fine, but how can I possibly prove to you that I know how much work it takes to be a parent? Should I quit my job and open up a day care center, for God’s sake?!”
“See? That’s exactly what I mean. Here we are just having a conversation and you are already raising your voice and sounding frustrated. What would you do with a three year old who refused to eat dinner?”
“I would tell him or her that if they didn’t want to eat dinner, there would be no vanilla ice cream and since any child of mine wouldn’t want to miss out on dessert, they would willingly comply.”
She shoves her bowl of chili across the table at him.“Vanilla ice cream now Daddy!”
He looks a bit surprised for a second but decides to go along with it. In a gentle voice, he says." Ice cream after dinner sweetie."
He pushes the bowl back toward her and his eyebrows shoot up when she turns the bowl upside down on the kitchen table and looks at him with her arms crossed. He thinks about it for a second. If he calls an end to this scenario, then he will have to concede her point and so he sees no real choice but to go along in a calm but assertive voice. “You are going to clean that up and then go straight to bed young lady.”
“No!” She crosses her arms and sticks out her lower lip wondering just how far he will go before slipping out of the scenario.
“Do you want a spanking young lady?”
She gets up from the table, walks over to the kitchen counter and opens up the cupboard. She takes out a package of Oreo cookies, and just as she is about to put one in her mouth, she feels his hand grab her wrist while the other delivers a sharp smack on her behind.
He clears his throat to keep from laughing at the startled look on her face that corresponds with the thwack of the palm of his hand against the fleshiest part of her bottom. Still holding her hand, he easily leads her over to the kitchen table, sits back down in his chair, and turns her to face him and asks, " Are you ready to clean the chili off the table and finish your dinner now?"
The sting in her bottom is giving way to a delicious warmth. She isn’t sure if the tears in her eyes are from the sudden pain or sudden emotion. “After Daddy kisses. I’ll clean up after Daddy gives kisses.”
The bratty undertone in that little girl voice has been replaced with a sweetness that makes the blood rush from his face and he stares at her for a second, surprised and a bit ashamed that what they have just done was more arousing than anything he has ever seen or done before.
“According to Supernanny you really are supposed to follow up with hugs and kisses after disciplining a child.”
The sudden switch back to her normal alto voice makes him take all the more pleasure in the little girl he had just seen and later that night after they have made love and are lying silently next to each other listening to the gentle window tapping of a sudden summer thunderstorm he says, " I think you have a point about me having an idealized notion of what it’s like to raise a kid. I’d be open to practicing some more. How about it?"
Glad he can’t see the spontaneous smile that has spread across her face in the dark, she says, “Sure I’d be open to that.”
ONE YEAR LATER…
Jane was surprised when the UPS truck pulled into her driveway. She hadn’t ordered anything, but her son Steven often sent her birthday presents early. She got up from the kitchen table and out the door before the delivery man had a chance to get out of the truck. He said “good morning” in a strong accent that she couldn’t quite place, slightly British. Maybe South Africa or even Australia? Whatever it was it was thick, and when he said her name, she blamed the accent for the fact that it didn’t sound quite right. The box was large and heavy so the driver helped her push the box into her garage before he waved goodbye and wished her a happy birthday.
Several minutes later, she stood staring at the contents in confusion. Why would her son have sent her an adult high chair? Was he feeling nostalgic for his infancy? His wife certainly wouldn’t like that idea. When she looked at the packing slip to see where he had bought it, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. This box was actually addressed to her new neighbors across the street. Taking this package over to them would be awkward, but a lot less awkward than the conversation she would have had to have with her son.
LATER THAT DAY… After the next door neighbor brought the high chair , Elaine sat on the couch feeling somewhat shell shocked. She was still sitting there when Jeff came home from work. On the bright side, four hours sitting on the couch, praying for the best and preparing for the worst gave her an understanding of what he went through the day he asked her to marry him. That might explain why he had asked her at breakfast. Who would want to drag that kind of mental torture on until evening? The look on her face gave her away the minute he walked in the door and the general outline of events came out in a rush, the explanation of her improvised explication coming out so fast he couldn’t quite follow it.
“You did what?” he asked.
“I told her if was for my twin sister who became brain damaged after overdosing on alcohol and valium.”
“This sister is so brain damaged she needs to be fed in a high chair? Was she of normal intelligence before?”
“You’re the psych resident. You tell me.”
“It would have to have been quite an overdose.” “She was a perfectionist who overdosed when she couldn’t get a high enough LSAT score to get into an Ivy League law school, and it breaks my heart to see such a brilliant woman reduced to the intellectual capacity of a two year old that whenever you bring her here to give her a break from the long term care facility, I can’t bear to be out in public with her.”
“Thus explaining why the two of you are never seen together. Quite ingenious. How did what’s her name react?”
“Suzanne took it all in stride. Even offered to babysit 'Eliza” since she used to be a nurse."
“Really? We might have to find out the name of that UPS mane and send him a thank you gift.”
She stared at Jeff, feeling the blush crawl up her cheeks, trying to balance between excitement and mortification. They weren’t actually going to have this mythical twin sister come visit, were they?
Readers: Suzanne is now faced with the issue that she likes their play to be private and Jeff has a much more exhibitionist streak. In real life, what do you think a married couple is most likely to do in this situation:
(a) they will talk about this difference in their desires and compromise
(b) the issue will remain unspoken and become a contest of wills between them