There is a boy in a blue baseball cap, and he’s standing on a grassy lawn holding a blue frisbee. He’s grinning and some of his teeth are missing--only the ones that can be missing to make him look adorable, though. One would wonder if he walked into the advertising studio to pose for this picture and the photographer made him open his mouth and show him which teeth were loose enough to go.
The product is on the discounted items rack at the grocery store next to a leaning tower of expired, dozen donut boxes and shoe polish. It’s a plastic sealed item with a paper insert depicting the boy. I’ve passed it twice while surveying the discount rack, and it remains a delicious mystery. I could pick it up and turn it over, shaking out all of its secrets, but it is worth more unexamined. The discounted label runs right over the title of the product.
“Child Perf-----n Kit,” it says.
Warnings on using the Child Perfection Kit
Always use a grounded outlet.
Never leave the air duct open as deflation may occur.
Do not attempt to use as a floatation device.
Cease use if feelings of nausea persist for longer than four hours.
Acts of god are not covered under Premium Warranty.
Let contents sit for over a minute once heated.
Fragile: Handle with care.
Contents under pressure.
If smoke or electrical discharge occur, discontinue use.
Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!
It was early when the idea was laid down, and I had little interest of talking around it. We would not be having children. To a degree, I just nodded my head every time you said something because I had already embedded in myself the idea that I couldn’t win an argument against you. “The key to a happy relationship is: the man is never right,” I had learned. Also, I was learning that being pro-choice as a man was remarkably easy--your body, your rules.
More importantly, it was your fervor when you examined your history and said some bullshit about the likelihood of you producing twins and having them both be stillbirths simply because of a genetic tendency. It could have happened, but it wasn’t really your justification. Later, we didn’t have the income to support a child, so we couldn’t have one--that made sense, but some adults add the stipulation that they might consider having a child when financial stability is achieved. Later still, it was simply because being “child-free” was an acceptable course of action and needed no further explanation, and this is still true.
We were sitting at a lunch table with four other teachers in Korea when another reality fell out years later. We were all fresh out of difficult classrooms that day, teaching genuinely likeable kids who were obstructed by language barriers, getting ready to jump back in after lunch. One of your students, a fifth grader with special needs, stood on top of a table and screamed “Angry Birds!”-- likely the only English words he knew. It was your first day of teaching--the last, first day of teaching you will likely ever have. You were emotionally done and ready to board a plane back to America.
You always disliked children. Liking them only when they behave doesn’t count.
I literally dreamed of having a daughter, and I denied her possibility because I could imagine the moments of stillness smeared across the walls of our one-day-financially-stable house if she so much as knocked one plate to the floor. I knew she and I would get along, and I knew I would teach her to lie so well that her mother wouldn’t be capable of being mad--that would be my method to avoid outright disagreement with you over what can and cannot be said to a child, the way that you, a student of sociology, started to disagree with your co-workers in Korea over what was wrong or right to say about a child or Koreans in general.
I could not have raised children to live with a mother who could not love or even communicate love for them.
I sublimated my urge to have children by teaching them. I’ve built bonds with students. A girl emailed me four days ago to ask for help managing a home crisis. Kids talk to me about things that are actually troubling them. It happens often because some of my students know that my love for them is unconditional.
We have separated and now I have choices. I don’t necessarily need to procreate, but I know who I would be now if I decided to. I would be a Child Perfection Kit on the discount rack at the grocery store, with a kid standing on a lawn on the cover, holding a frisbee, missing some of his teeth, grinning anyway.
Instructions for being the Child Perfection Kit
Failure is growth.
Bravery is beautiful.
Love is limitless.