Friday, March 31, 2006

On children

Last night in Nip/Tuck, which Mrs Zen watches and I mostly ignore, a woman had a child and the guy, the father, a white man, was surprised to find that it was black. I won't walk away, he said. I loved it in the womb and I'm going to keep on loving it.

This posed some questions for me. Could I love someone else's child? What does loving a child consist of? The former question used to crop up from time to time when I was younger, when I would think about whether I would form a serious relationship with someone who already had children and, more importantly, whether I could come to love them. Then I thought I could, now I am not so sure. Certainly, if I were to separate from Mrs Zen, I could have a relationship with a woman who had children. It wouldn't be a problem. But loving the children would. How could I? My love for my children is fuelled by their being mine. In the shoes of the guy in Nip/Tuck, maybe I could care for the child, maybe I would feel a form of love, but it would not be what I feel for Zenella, Zenita and Naughtyman. They are integral to me, not just part of my life but part of me, who I am, what I hope for (which is little enough), what my deeper self hopes for (I suppose I mean by that what the reptile that does the driving wants, what my genes want, what the spinning points of nothing that make me want).

An acquaintance wrote to me, talking about something I had written. She has lost a child. It made me think, that is what love for your children consists in. The knowing that nothing can hurt more than their dying. I don't need to lose a child to know how it feels. It haunts a parent all the time. This morning I found Zenita drinking face cleanser. There are plenty of things in our house that could poison her but that isn't one of them. I had a sudden glimpse into an abyss, a profound grief that I know awaits if she ever drinks one of the things that will. Just the thought is disturbing enough to make me slightly nauseous. Sh, my acquaintance, is haunted by her missing child. There is a space where the child should be, a shadow across the moments of her day. When her other children are laughing, there is one voice missing, the sound of the child she dreamed her baby would grow to be. All parents, I should think, imagine futures for their children, ways they could be, how they might look. In this sense, children are like books, laying down their histories a page at a time. We imagine sometimes that the rest of the book has already been written but we do not know how to read it. And so it is revealed, delighting us, surprising us. But the lost child--their book has its pages torn out, from the point of their death on. Torn out and burned. If we believe in a god, fate, whatever, we pray to it not to spoil this beautiful thing that is unravelling for us. Even when your expectation is rather misty, an uncertain future, a who knows?, even then you know how painful it would be not to have the rest of the book to enjoy.

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