Jan 5, 2010 | Shelburne, VT
Jan 5, 2010

Everyone says you can't understand parenting until you have kids, but some people try to practice with puppies. My married sister Amanda now has two (dogs, not kids) — Strider and Sage — ordered directly in matching colors with a no-return policy from the L.L. Bean catalogue, sized large and extra small, but known to stretch out with time.

Puppy sales might be final, but acquiring a baby will really change your life. My cousin Heidi had a baby girl in September, and yesterday she went back to work. She drove to Middlebury and sat down at her desk, which was just as she'd left it, and tried to remember the life she was stepping back into, but it was a life that no longer existed. It was her first day away from her daughter, and it was impossible to concentrate on anything but the full-body addiction she had developed to Fia, and the terrible aching emptiness she now felt without her.

When Heidi married Ave she told her Mom she could never love anyone more deeply than him. But yesterday she said her feelings for Fia were entirely on another level of intensity, which was hidden to her until she had a child. My Mom says that many marriages fail because husbands get jealous of the love their wives feel for their babies (my Mom likes to talk about why marriages fail, and has many theories). I asked her if she thought there would be fewer divorces if fewer couples had babies, so they could spend all of their energy focusing on each other, but her marital talking points had nothing to say about that.

I always get a bit nervous around babies, and given the choice I'd rather hold a puppy. I'm always afraid I'm going to do something wrong, or squeeze them too tight, or that they'll cry or throw up on me. But mainly that they'll throw up on me.

My ideas about my future always included a couple of kids and a house in the country, but the closer I get to the age where that sort of thing would actually happen, the more and more remote that sort of thing actually seems (though one-actor plays often have trouble with this particular plot). All around me there are people adding complexity to their lives, which, when you age, seems to be what you do, unless of course you don't, but then I guess you miss out on something. Certain archetypes get left on the shelf, while others get worn thin, and then the ones you wear too long get holes in the sleeves and the cold begins to come through and it's too late to reach for another coat because now it doesn't fit, but damn you wish you'd got one earlier, when it would have been so easy, or if not easy then at least easier, because now there are no tailors who can stitch up a sweater for someone like you because time got in the way and it is getting colder and oh you wish you had a sweater like everyone else but you don't and don't cry for help because you said you didn't need a sweater anyway even though now you think you might.