It’s Spring Break, which means family time in my world. I travel east to my grandparents’ condo in Florida and my family drives south. This year, my uncle and toddler cousins flew from Houston to meet us.
My cousins are typical for their age in that they enjoy counting out of order on purpose, the shovel they fought about all day on the beach and making sure everyone is paying attention.
They were very interested in tattoos, and after my parents spent a good five minutes discussing the maybe-palm-trees-maybe-sticks on the back of a man who’d just passed by holding a Coors (How old is he? Better be out of high school.), the older one sat up from rolling around in the sand and asked what it looked like.
When my father asked if he knew what a tattoo even was, he took a breath, and given that time, the younger one turned from his careful digging with a shovel as tall as he was and began to answer the question as well.
In unison, they began talking about how tattoos were on the sheet of paper and you have to hold very still and press down with a sponge and leave it for a minute — by this time they’re gasping for air in excitement and need to get the words out — and then it’s a tattoo.
Same hand motions with each word and everything.
They’re different from each other, though. The older one will drive headfirst into the waves, yelling about how much the water tastes like pirates while the younger one will sing “Wrecking Ball” for an audience of family while creating his own obstacle course out of living room furniture.
Jump on a chair, hop to the table, next chair, couch, fall, laugh, repeat.
They’ve got so much energy. I’m used to being surrounded by sleep-deprived, stressed college students pacing the newsroom and waiting for a source to call back, not adorable balls of energy whose favorite dinnertime activity is creating ketchup masterpieces on paper plates.
I love them, but I couldn’t be a parent. Then again, I don’t want to jinx it, so maybe I need to say I want kids so I’ll never have them.
Kids are wonderful, I believe that. I love my younger brother and my cousins and all the kids I’ve led through a personal-growth-packed week of camp over the past couple summers.
That’s completely different than unconditionally loving ones of your own for twenty-four hours over and over without breaks. At the least, I just plain don’t have the patience to repeat myself five times to make sure a four-year-old understands the concept of chewing with one’s mouth closed.
My uncle sends videos of my cousins every so often, featuring them in Thing 1 and Thing 2 costumes or pretending sticks are fire swords and during harrowed 2 a.m. redrafts of a 20-page essay I’ll watch them for inspiration.
Sixteen seconds of pure noise and exhilaration, paired with my uncle’s tired questions, “Who are you?” “What’re you holding?” “Can you say hello?”
Couldn’t do it. Hats off to everyone who does, biologically furthering the human race and allowing me to keep writing about the turnabout of marriage plots in Jane Austen novels until untold hours in the morning.
But I’ll gladly babysit. $10 per hour per kid, discounts if it’s more than two. I’m lifeguard certified.