Ok. Story time.
Today my friend Marcus and I decided we wanted to play a short game of tennis. Nothing fancy, just some short court time after work. I got there around 7, figured we would play for about two hours, and then I would head home and do some work. Nice, right? Everything was going great, tennis balls were being rallied, friendly competitive banter was being exchanged, etc.
Then, two kids showed up at the court next to us. Two teenager girls to be exact, innocently playing a game of tennis and enjoying the last of the summer rays before they had to go back to school. “Awwww, how cute” I thought. I remember when my best friend and I used to play tennis for hours and hours when I was on Summer break. We would rally therapeutically and talk about where we would be in ten years, if so and so looked at us during Economics, and whether or not DQ Blizzards could come in larger sizes.
A couple of rallies later, I looked over and noticed that two boys had joined. “Oh, how nice, they can now do doubles”, I thought.
Fifteen minutes later, two more boys showed up, bringing a cooler. Ten minutes after that, four boys showed up bringing an excess amount of folding chairs. Words such as “turnt” and sentences starting with “dem” and ending with “tho” started populating the courts. Soon, much to my fear, I was surrounded by people taller than me (I stand at a very tall 4’11”) using words and phrases I didn’t understand, questioning why someone my age was out after 8 PM on a Monday night. Didn’t I have a PBS special to watch while drinking a glass of wine wrapped in a fleece blanket? Didn’t I know that when the sun went down on weeknights people my age were supposed to hide inside and the young were supposed to come out and frolic wherever they pleased? (Nevermind that yes, I was getting tired and sitting at home with a glass of wine and Netflix DID sound like the perfect Monday night). I tossed the ball up for my serve and listened to the flirting happening around me. Giggle giggle, “Don’t hit me with your racquet! You’ll ruin my new pants!” Sigh. bounce bounce. Did their mothers know that these girls were out in the dark-ish well lit tennis courts of our neighborhood? And what was that young man drinking over there?? Gatorade? Or was that Gatorade spiked with Vodka? What was that girl eating? Was that really a chocolate candy bar or was there weed in that? Didn’t they know that if they mixed alcohol and weed they could get sick? Of course not! They shouldn’t know that! They’re too young to know those things! They shouldn’t be out here exercising unsupervised drinking their “Gatorade” and eating their “Chocolate bars”! They should be at home watching whatever is on the Disney channel and reading the latest edition of The Hardy Boys or whatever it is that children read.
“Hey Marcus, do you wanna head back? I have to work a little and it’s getting late”
“Yeah, sure, let me grab my stuff”
We walked away, letting the flirtatious laughter fade into the distance.
“Hey, Marian, is it just me or did you feel old back there?” I looked at Marcus and sighed a giant sigh of relief. “You felt that too? I felt like they were waiting for us to leave so they could get a party started or something.”
“Yeah, I didn’t realize that Monday at eight is prime party time if you’re under 18.”
I replayed all of the insane over-protective thoughts that ran through my mind while back there and it made me realize something: I am NOT ready for children. I’m not ready to be afraid when the time comes for me to have to be responsible for a human life. I am not ready to raise someone and be worried about how they’ll turn out. I’m just not ready, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not sure that anyone is ever “ready”. It’s not easy. It takes an insane amount of sacrifice that I cannot even begin to comprehend. It takes trust and determination and a whole bunch of other things that I’m sure I don’t even know it takes. Maybe one day I will experience this thing that everyone in my life is experiencing, but for now I’m happy to play with other people’s children and return them back to their rightful owners.