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Child-Free by Choice

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Once in a while, I question our choice to remain child-free.

It's not that I don't love our pets (two pit bulls, one shepherd mix and five cats -- all rescues) and enjoy the rich, full lives we've built for ourselves, but there's always going to be a small part of me that asks, What if? No matter how happy anyone is with their choices, I believe it's human nature to wonder about the path not taken.

If my husband Fletch and I reproduced, I have to wonder -- what would our kid be like? We always assumed that our progeny would have my twisted sense of humour and his twisted world view and would thus end up a supervillain, or at the very least, wouldn't get into a decent college because of a piss-poor attitude and problem with authority figures.

After we were married, we were broke. Flat broke. Not only did we not have health insurance, we could barely keep a roof over our heads, let alone have the kind of coin to throw around on onesies and Pampers. More importantly, our lives were completely chaotic and we weren't about to subject another human being to our shitty choices.

By the time we had our finances back on track, we both felt too old to bring kids into the mix. (What if I spent the past 20 years on birth control only to find out it didn't matter because I couldn't have kids anyway? I'd be apoplectic!) And I'd be lying if I said a houseful of Barbie shoes holds any appeal.

Yet when I hang out with my friend Wendy's daughters, I'm always smitten, likely because they're almost exactly like me. (Despite Wendy's best efforts.)

The last time the girls were here, her youngest took a long, contemplative look around my backyard and then said all matter-of-factly, "Jen, when you die, I want your house." Wendy was mortified, but in my opinion, you can't get a better compliment than that.

Would we be the kind of parents who treat our kid like a status symbol, especially given that we now live in the super class-conscious North Shore suburbs depicted in John Hughes movies? Would I be the mother who'd run the family into financial ruin to make sure my girl had more Louis Vuitton bags than any of her classmates so she'd have a positive self-image? I suspect I might.

I bet I'd work hard to expose my child to culture early and often so she wouldn't be the asshat afraid to go out to dinner when her Indian roommate craves tandoori chicken. And if maybe she'd been more places and tried more things than the rest of her peer group? I'd probably be OK with that, too.

All my questions are answered the day I meet Margo.

But before I get to Margo, allow me to set the scene. In Inferno, Dante depicts an allegorical journey through the nine circles of Hell. If Dante penned his epic poem today, he'd include the tenth circle of Hell -- the Whole Foods in Deerfield, Illinois.

Nowhere has the motto "abandon all hope, ye who enter here" been more appropriate. From the parking lot dotted with third-row seating Suburbans covered in pro-environment bumper stickers to the pacifists who will cut you for the last jar of almond butter, it's entering an arena where irony ceases to exist.

Regardless, I want some damn kale salad. While I'm standing at the counter, a well-heeled mother and her even better-heeled child of five or six cut in front of me. The kid's clearly just come from ballet practice, however her dance outfit is topped in a pair of D&G jeans. She's also wearing Hunter Wellington boots. I know they're pricey because I tried on a pair and ultimately didn't buy them. (More because of my tubby calves than cost, but that's not the point.)

The child tugs on her mother's arm, then whispers something in her ear. Then the mom says to the deli clerk, "Margo wants to know what kind of sushi you have today."

Suddenly all the resentment I feel towards this kid and her $300 jeans melts away. How badass is it that a little girl is so adventurous that she's not afraid of a little raw fish? I went three decades before I ever tasted so much as a California roll.

Margo tugs on her mom's sleeve again.

"Margo wants to know if the rice is extra fresh."

Um, OK, not only does Margo appreciate tasty sushi, but she also has an eye towards quality. Maybe Margo will become a chef. Her finely honed palate is going to set the culinary world on fire!

"Margo wants to know if the rice is extra-sticky. The last time it was almost too sticky."

So Margo thinks she's Iron Chef.

"Margo needs a taste first."

Margo needs to learn how to say "please."

"Margo enjoyed the Escolar you carried last week. Margo wants to know if there's any more in the back."

Margo goes to Montessori school, doesn't she?

"Margo wants wasabi but she doesn't like the wasabi you have on display now. Margo wants to know if there's other wasabi that's like wasabi, only less wasabi-like."

And now I'm done.

At this point I'd like to shake both mother and child, shouting,"MARGO IS SIX! MARGO KNOWS NOTHING! MARGO EATS PASTE!"

Also? Margo's the exact reason that I shouldn't -- and won't -- have children.

But I will have kale salad.

So there's that.

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