Rich and I don't have children. If you parents of large families think you get some weird questions, try being 42—clearly the raised-eyebrow age for childlessness—and having none.
For example, one time I was at a barbecue and an acquaintance said knowingly, "I'm glad you guys realized having children is highly overrated."
Fortunately I was the only one who heard her assumption. "Actually, we don't use birth control at all and never have," I said brightly. "And it's so freeing!"
I could see the thoughts racing through her mind as her expression changed from superior to sympathetic. "Oh, I'm sorry," she nearly whispered. "I didn't realize you were dealing with infertility. How heartbreaking that must be. Relax—it will happen."
And this is where some people don't get it. Yes, Rich and I welcome parenthood if it's in God's plan for us. But no, we aren't gnashing our teeth and wailing at the sky because our guest bedroom is still just that.
Even my well-meaning mother worries I am repressing an unspeakable grief at not being a parent. "It must be hard on you sometimes to see your friends with their kids since you don't have any," she's said. Truthfully, I think it's much more difficult for her to have no grandchildren from her only child, which makes me sadder than my not having children myself.
A few months ago I was at the gynecologist for my annual exam when the nurse, Debbie, said, "Well, I guess it's looking like no kids for you two after all, huh?" She knew Rich and I had been through a battery of tests to see if there were correctible reasons for why we weren't conceiving.
It was what she did next that frustrated me. "So do you have pets?" she asked.
I shook my head.
"Nieces or nephews?"
I shrugged. "Three nephews, but they're grown."
"Friends with kids?"
Her persistence made me laugh. "It's really just fine the way it is, Debbie," I said encouragingly, a sentiment I often overemphasize to convince people it really is.
Unlike so many other unsolicited "counselors," Debbie never hit on the obvious solution: adoption. If I had a buck for every time someone has offered, "Hey, have you guys thought of adoption?" I'd be living on a yacht in the Mediterranean.
Usually the people who suggest this have no adopted kids of their own, which tempts me to retort, "No, have you?"