This past Sunday, I was sitting at the dinner table with my family—my niece and nephew, brother and sister-in-law, my beau, my dad and last, but not least, my mom. With the exception of the Warrior Poet and I, everyone was feasting on two scrumptious desserts when my 6-year-old nephew, who adores his tía, said he counted three mothers at the dinner table: “Mom, grandma and Tía [me].”
Considering that I have no biological or adopted children, I was a bit puzzled. I was a bona fide cat mom until a couple months ago, sure, and my family has a habit of saying Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. My nephew’s earnest grinning reminded me that the closest I’ve come to parenting was caring for him and his sister over the years.
I think it was my brother who asked his son what his criteria was for being a mother. He responded with a laugh, admitting he didn’t know what the word ‘criteria’ meant.
Almost a Mother
After the question was rephrased, my nephew clarified, “You’re almost a mother.”
“Why is she almost a mother?” my own mother asked.
The impish first-grader replied, “Because she has almost a husband.” He pointed to the Warrior Poet, whom he’s embraced with glee during the multiple family visits and holidays, as he’s not afraid to get playfully hands-on with my nephew.
Treating his observation seriously, my nephew was asked, “How does having an almost husband make Tía an almost mother?”
He responded, “Well, when you get married, then you have children.”
There was laughter and a little bit of embarrassment. But come on–he’s 6 and adorable. The Warrior Poet knows me well, but I wouldn’t put it a different person in a different relationship to stage that sort of cuteness. I was even getting paranoid that my family members would think that we were pregnant and that my nephew had somehow picked up on it.
Warrior Poet replied, “Well, I can’t argue with that logic.”
I sighed a breath of relief as the topic of conversation shifted. It’s not that we haven’t ever talked about the future. The fact that we plan to be together is a given in both of our minds. We’ve even discussed the kind of spare but lovely ceremony we’d like to have if we get married. We’ve come up with endless imaginary children that we’d have. But it’s all fantastical mind-play.
Last night, while talking about insurance, the Warrior Poet said, “I could marry you so you can be sure you get good coverage, but that’s not very romantic.”
True, but does that mean he doesn’t plan to marry me any time soon?
Throwing Out the Ticking Clock
Though there is no need to put any pressure on our relationship, we are not getting any younger. If I ever have children, I will already be an at-risk pregnancy because of my health conditions. I’m over age 35, so that just ups the risk factor. My parents always point out that I could adopt, which both Warrior Poet and I would theoretically consider, but that’s not as big a concern as it once was for me.
As much as the Warrior Poet enjoys other people’s kids, I don’t think he really sees himself ever being a father. Which is fine, really. I went from wanting a soccer team of children to being resigned to the fact that I may never have children of my own. Yet I have nieces and a nephew, my friends’ kids, and I’ll probably wind up teaching children again sometime in the future. It’s not the same as having your own kids, but it might be enough to satisfy the urge to nurture.
A Mother’s Love
This Mother’s Day was the first in eight years where I haven’t been able to officially proclaim that I was a cat mom. It may sound ridiculous to people who don’t love animals and welcome them into their home or who don’t pour their love and attention into caring for their pets. But when you allow yourself, you can form such a strong and powerful bond with your animals. And for those of us who aren’t mothers of children, our fur babies can often feel like the next, best thing.
This is not a post to trivialize motherhood. My own mother is the epitome of compassion and self-less love. She raised her three children with grace and great strength, and, along with my dad, instilled in us empathy for others a strong moral code, drive for creative expression, deep appreciation for education and learning, and the ability to value all aspects of life—work, play and travel.
As for marriage, Warrior Poet says he gains inspiration from the marriage of my parents, and that he has the same realizations about our love that my dad has shared about his love for my mom. But where he was seriously looking at rings and such for his ex, despite how wrong they were for each other, I know that his mind is not there as far as we are concerned. We’ve signed on for another year of our lease, but he hemmed and hawed when our insurance agent suggested we might save in our respective car insurance bills if we got it as a couple.
Our almost decade younger friends, who have been dating one month longer than we have and had a horrifically tumultuous first year plus of their relationship, are certain that they will get married. The guy knows he’s going to propose soon. With her child in the picture, they have already become a lovely family.
We are not young. We know what we want in life and in love. We know we have a near ideal relationship (though we’re definitely not perfect, haha) for each of us. We always are talking about how happy we are and how lucky we are to have found one another at long last. But there’s an unspoken barrier about the future that feels strange to me.
Not Yet…But Ever?
Warrior Poet has been with me the through some of the roughest times and been an awesome champion through that—so maybe he’s just waiting to see if I return to the super energetic and active woman with whom he first fell in love? It wouldn’t be the first time, by any mans.
Or maybe he’s scared to make a wrong decision about someone again. Or maybe he just realized he doesn’t want to participate in the institute of marriage. Or maybe deep down, a lifelong partnership is just not the way he sees his life going in reality.
This would have put me in full panic 4 or 5 years ago—it did in fact put me in panic in the relationship I was in at the time. Yet that was largely because I knew the person I was with was not meant for me in the long haul. I know I don’t actually shrivel up in three-and-a-half years when I turn 40, but being single at 40 would be a completely different ballgame than single at 34.
Either way, sweet nephew, while the Warrior Poet and I may be almost husband and wife in a lot of ways, we are most definitely not married, nor does it seem to be in the picture for my love any time soon. But I think he’ll still be around to fake-wrestle with for a while longer yet.