Somehow I managed to make it 25 years before I held a baby for the first time. I’m not sure if that’s because I haven’t had the opportunity to or because no one has trusted me to do so until now. I guess it doesn’t really surprise me either way. I’m just glad that my baby nephew got to be my first.
Becoming an uncle at 25 is truly a blessing. I can find ways to make him giggle, and then hand him right back the moment he starts to cry or when his diaper starts to get ripe (which is good because I haven’t changed a diaper yet either). I get to spoil the crap out of the little booger by buying him a set of drums and don’t have to listen to the racket he makes. I can tell him scary bedtime stories and not be the one he wakes up in the middle of the night to check under the bed. It’s great.
More and more, I see friends on Facebook getting pregnant or adopting kids and it really makes me happy. Well, happy that it’s them and not me. Hey, if you’re ready for that sort of commitment, then by all means, pop ‘em out. I’m just way too selfish to make that sacrifice right now. That and the fact that I can barely take care of myself. However, you reach a point in your twenties when all of that starts becoming normal and you have to accept that you’re at an age where having kids is actually socially acceptable. It’s horrifying.
I’m beginning to question whether or not I’ll ever feel ready. Like many others I know, having kids was always one of those things that I knew I had to do. I’m meant to be a father, I used to think. But now, I’m not so sure that a mini-me running around would fit very well into my haphazard lifestyle. And since I’m not ready to have kids now, why should I believe that that would change five or ten years from now?
You can’t set a timeline with this sort of stuff. For some, being in your twenties is like one long scavenger hunt to find all of the things needed to settle down and have a family. But in doing so, you put yourself in a box and force yourself to try and paint this picture-perfect family even if you don’t have the proper brushes to paint with.
A 2008 report prepared by the Center for Disease Control indicates that although women in their twenties still have the highest pregnancy rate among other age groups in the US, statistics appear to be changing. The report, which focuses on data from 1990-2004, shows that pregnancy rates for women under the age of 30 have visibly decreased, and rates for women over 30 have increased.
Some seem to be taking more time to decide whether they’re really ready for the commitment, and others are realizing that they may never be.
Maybe we need to accept the fact that for whatever reason, this may not happen for some of us. And that’s OK. And maybe the experience of parenthood doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to the act of raising a child. Maybe it can also mean having a dog or keeping a plant alive, which still comes hard to me. But living in New Orleans has taught me that regardless of whether you’re a parent, an uncle or a botanist, kids remind us to stay young, and they don’t need to be ours to do that.
I look around this city and all I see is a playground. It’s not just people in their twenties who are ignoring the aging process. Everyone is constantly looking for an excuse to celebrate or to play dress up and put on some glitter; sometimes I wonder how anything gets done around here. The lines and boundaries that age typically constructs in most communities are blurred here. In fact, I don’t think they even exist. But it works.
Aside from the fact that it’s far away from my new favorite little man up north, that’s why I’m so in love with this place. I guess that’s also why I’ve been telling friends back in New York that New Orleans is such a good city to be young in. And I’m realizing now that I don’t just mean it’s a good city to be in when you’re in your twenties. It’s a city where you can always be young.
Living in New Orleans reminds you that regardless of whether or not you decide to have kids of your own someday doesn’t mean that you can’t be one anymore.
It also doesn’t mean that you can’t spoil someone else’s while you figure it out.
Joey Albanese writes about the twenty-something generation in New Orleans for NolaVie. Send him questions or tell him the answers at email@example.com.