If you don’t have a parent that is hell bent on getting grandkids outta your uterus whether you’re on board or not, there are a few things you should know about them. They’re crafty. And they are singularly focused on their goal. Which means that they are always looking for an opening to remind you that your heretofore unoccupied uterine apartment is disappointing to them. You can try your hardest to outsmart them, training yourself not to look at adorable babies in the mall, trying not to mention anything about anyone having any babies, while loudly espousing your love of all things contraception related. But you will never really be able to out maneuver them. Because they have far more years in the game than you. And no matter how you underestimate them, they are Machiavellian in their grandchild machinations.
When too much time has passed since the last time my mama mentioned wanting grandbabies, I always know there is a multi-tiered and sustained baby campaign coming my way. My mama finds a way to work in the fact that I need to be having kids before my eggs turn to powdered milk at least once a week. Her tactics are varied, and I rarely see them coming, but they are always there. Lurking.
As an aside, the important thing to note is that, despite spending all of my teens and much of my early twenties guilting and threatening and generally intimating violence should I get knocked up young and/or unmarried, she has since given up on me being married before I have children. Or, I suppose more accurately, she is largely uninterested in my having a partner or co-parent. My love life being fulfilling, I gather, is something she has left up to me to concern myself with. She is interested in me having a child. There being a steady him in the picture, for the child or for me, is a quite distant second thought. I imagine that she is now cursing herself for how well her threats worked, and the irony of it is not lost on me.
Having been far too long since she reminded me that the lights in my conception oven are close to being out, this most recent multipronged assault came on a quiet Sunday where I was doing the things I usually do on a quiet Sunday that make me feel peaceful and prepared to start a new week; I went to church and to yoga. I cleaned. And then headed to the grocery store, where she met me to theoretically “help” but which means in Mama Terms “to throw things that are not on the list into the basket without thought as to their price or necessity.” Somewhere around the deli case, as she ordered some prosciutto and I doubled over in pain from a particularly severe cramp, she turned and gave me The Look.
“What’s been up with your period lately?”
“I have no idea. I suppose this is my uterus’ way of reasserting control over my life.”
“They’ve been really bad.”
“I know. Maybe I need a different type of birth control. But the last time I switched, I thought I was going crazy, so I’ve been dragging my feet about it and just dealing with the cramps and six pounds of bloating.” She paused, just long enough for me to think she wasn’t going to say what I knew she was going to say while she swept over me with The Look.
“I am not having kids just to alleviate menstrual cramps, mama.”
“Well, I’m just saying! It could help. And you’ve dealt with this for so long…”
“Yeah, that’s a good story to tell a kid. Mommy had you, not because she was prepared to or wanted to but because she was tired of cramping every three weeks. Now let me tuck you in.”
“I’m just saying, it’s an option.”
I pushed the basket towards the Italian cheeses before she could slip in that there’s also a possibility that, like her, were I to give birth and breast feed, there’s a chance my rather ample bosom might deflate some. This is also a well-worn tactic.
Later, exhausted from not having one of those monkey book bags that serves as a leash to keep her from wandering off and picking things off shelves and my insides dancing Gangnam style on every nerve in my pelvis, I decided not to cook and we headed out for dinner. The waiter, who I am certain was in cahoots with my mama though I have no way to prove it, sat us right next to a big family. The center of their attention was the most adorable, fat cheeked baby I have seen outside a Gerber commercial. I smiled at the grandma kissing the baby’s toes as we passed and sighed because I knew there was not a chance in hell we were going to make it more than eight minutes at this table before my mother pulled out the big guns in her Campaign for Grandma arsenal.
The only question was which tactic she would use. Would she remind me of the possible health benefits of having a child (completely ignoring, of course, the health risks associated with carrying and bearing a child)? Would she remind me life is hurtling me full throttle towards thirty and that even though Halle and Mariah had babies at forty I will not be so lucky? Would she go all “because I knew you I have been changed for good” and extoll all the ways that having me made her life better? I prepared myself for all those possibilities, loading up my sarcasm gun with all the quick witted, conversation ending ammo I could muster.
Predictably, as my mother is far smarter and craftier than I, having authored The Art of War on your Daughter’s Uterus, she picked none of these tactics I had prepared myself for. Instead she reached for the good old, southern mother standby; guilt.
Staring wistfully over at the grandmother at the other table, now cradling Adorable Baby to her bosom and rocking it to sleep, she said, her voice all full of breathless longing, “Maybe one day I will get to hold my grandchild like that.” Ensuring she would miss any evil looks I shot her, she refused to tear her eyes away from the baby who was doing that thing babies do where they open and close their mouth as they settle into sleep making them look like a fish.
Here’s the thing; there is no way to avoid this type of situation when you are a woman of a certain age and your mother is the only one of all her friends and siblings to not have grandchildren and she is not shy about letting you know she is unhappy about that fact. You will not avoid it. You cannot outsmart it. You will not ever, ever out maneuver such a skillful tactician. So here’s what you do; you order the chicken. And vodka. Lots and lots of vodka.