Thoughts on Action
"Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live." ~ Nicolas de Chamfort

Kids (& Dirty Martinis) as an Acquired Taste

I still remember my first dirty martini. At the ripe young age of 24, on a business trip with my boss, in the weirdest restaurant in the world (Thirteen Coins), or at least Seattle. Celebrating some good news and thinking that being on a business trip must mean I’m terribly grown up, I ordered the most grown-up-sounding drink I could think of – the dirty martini – without understanding what was in it or how to order it.

It was the singular most horrendous thing I’d ever tasted. On my untrained palate, it fell somewhere between turpentine and lima beans on the yuck scale. But friends, I persevered. I did a little reading. I sought guidance from one of my most trusted boozehound friends (hello, Matt G!), who guided me through the whole up, shaken and dry stuff. I splurged on good vodka and vermouth and started tinkering at home.

Why, some of you may be asking, would I put so much effort into trying to salvage what I found to be an undrinkable drink? Because I love green olives with every fiber of my being. Because they sound cool to order. Because I can walk from the bar to the bathroom with a full martini and still have at least a teaspoon left after the rest has sloshed over the top. Okay, I don’t really have a good answer. Other than I believed in the potential for it to become a beloved favorite, and it was a slice of a lifestyle in which I wanted to participate.

A Maybe Baby, Maybe Not follower once asked if I’ve spent much time around children, referring to them as “an acquired taste” for some. Others have suggested in the past that I spend time with children to figure this thing out, but I’m ashamed to admit I brushed these suggestions off because I was afraid it would give me a false reading. We’ve all gotten the “I hate other people’s kids too!” and “It’s different when they’re yours!” lines from parents, so the thought of chillin’ with a pack of random kids didn’t seem like it would do much for me. But at a party last month, a new mother who told me she’d always been annoyed by children in the past now found even other people’s kids to be completely cool and adorable and hilarious. She was surprised by the transformation, and it made me wonder if my follower was right about this whole “kids as an acquired taste” thing.

Dirty Martini Ornament

It’s probably no secret by now that I’m awful with kids, and haven’t yet acquired the taste needed to find their laughter and “Mom, look at me!” antics charming. Are my feelings about other people’s kids akin to that first sip of a dirty martini? Will my desire to enjoy them be enough to propel me into finding a way to make it work? Because this too is a slice of life I want to relish. Everyone else seems to be having a hell of a lot of fun with it. And I know the final end result of someday having adult children is something I really want. I just don’t know if the 20-plus years of effort before that will be worth it if this acquired taste thing doesn’t pan out.

It’s not too dramatic to say that I couldn’t imagine my life right now without dirty martinis. Drew even purchased this Sur la Tab ornament for me this year so I could gaze lovingly at it on the tree in lieu of drinking them every night (hint?). I’m glad I saw the potential joy this classy drink would bring to my life and fought through my initial emotions. Could I be saying the same thing about kids 10 years from now?

Better go slam a few dirties now, just in case.

17 Responses to Kids (& Dirty Martinis) as an Acquired Taste

  • Mer says:

    I freakin’ ADORE your blog. I actually found it over the weekend after Googling “deciding whether you’re ready to have a baby.” So, your blog is basically all the thoughts I’ve ever had about the big decision all rolled up into a blog that let’s me know I’m not the only one. So…thank you!
    As for this post, I noticed that after we adopted a Siberian husky I all of a sudden became a “dog person” even though the idea of having dog toys strewn all over the floor, early morning wake-ups for walks and fur EVERYWHERE was something I always considered to be a total pain in the a.
    But while I love my pup, I still find other people’s dogs to be yucky. I don’t like petting them when they approach us on walks, I think they are dirty and smelly and always look like they have dandruff, I don’t find them cute and I would never pick up their poop like I pick up my own pup’s. So I wonder if I’d be the same way if I had my own kids. I am totally in love with my baby niece, but she’s related to me, so I don’t think that counts.
    Anyway, great post!

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Thanks Mer, I’m glad you’ve found the blog helpful! It’s interesting that you’ve adapted so well to the annoyances of having a dog (I say that as someone who loves dogs). At the very least, it means you’re someone who’s okay with having your life interrupted a little bit and giving up a little freedom for something you love. Not sure how well that translates to dealing with a kid 24×7…the mystery continues!

  • Girl Named Jack says:

    WHOA! What kind of “hint” is that, huh? Quick, everyone, start pestering the Maybe Lady! Did you make up you mind? Didja? Didja?

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Oops – I meant that the hint was from my husband to me, saying that I shouldn’t drink so many dirty martinis! Just for purposes of not becoming a drunk – nothing to do with pregnancy. Sorry to flare up the drama radar without cause! ;)

  • Kallie H. says:

    I find that, for me at least, this is true. I used to be terrified of kids and rarely babysat. Now that plenty of our friends have them and I’m gearing up to be an aunt this year, they are becoming pretty cute. I’m also a lot more understanding of when they’re acting out, as I can see the reasons behind it. It’s not something you should force yourself to like, but let it come naturally if it happens :)

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      You bring up a good point about understanding the reasons behind their behavior. I wonder if knowing more about child development in general would help in all this.

  • Marie says:

    Oh man, you have reminded me that I was also once a green olive girl except I hated the drinks. Eventually I realized that I could steal olives from the bar which freed me up to focus on my much more enjoyable Sapphire and tonic. I ventured into scotch at one point for the same reason that you learned to drink a dirty martini but it was horrid and expensive and I’ve decided there is no shame in not drinking like an old man when I am, in fact, not an old man.

    I think you are right that hanging out with kids, random or not, wouldn’t be a very productive experience. I did that, not with the intention of deciding I wanted kids or not, just because family and friends had kids, and it didn’t do anything for me. Rather than being “an acquired taste,” I prefer thinking about people “growing into their role” as parents. Even people who really want kids are not usually gifted parents right from the start (or at all in my case).

    I do think though that rather than seeing the first couple decades of your kids’ lives as some sort of purgatory of cheap vermouth until they reach adulthood, you should try to decide whether you truly could enjoy being a parent to a kid, even without knowing exactly what that experience would be like. Do you and your husband truly want to share your life with a child? If so, then the martini will go down easier, so to speak, because the foundation of why you actually want the child supersedes the more superficial goals for things like music, sports, etc. You don’t have to love every stage of a child’s life. I don’t. Maybe you will love babies, preschoolers, and tweens, and loathe toddlers, primaries, and teens.

    Kids can be little shits sometimes, but mostly they are a constant source of entertainment if you get into their world rather than forcing them to be in yours which is what I tried to do with my daughter at first. She was just telling me this morning that she was itchy because an ant was eating her brain and I eventually figured out that she was thinking a lot about a new change at school and that was her way of saying her mind was racing. She might become more fun as a peer as she ages, but never again will she make me LMAO like she does now. Except maybe unless she is drunk and walking on her head at a party, but hopefully I won’t be there for that.

    Sorry, that was a lot of rambling. Love the ornament. I never thought to get ornaments there, but I will check next year.

    A great reason to have kids is because you want to expand your life to share

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      That’s probably a much better way to think of it – “growing into your role as a parent”. And speaking of LMAO, you made me do so with your cheap vermouth purgatory remark. I love it!

  • Hannah says:

    Just found your blog and I’ve been looking back at past entries. Just wanted to say thanks for making time go a bit faster at my desk job! Hehe.

    I’m on the same boat as you, I’m 27 and I’m leaning more towards the no babies then yes babies side. Yes I overthink it and I hate all the “unknowns” of what I might sign up for if I become a mama.

    If only it was guaranteed I would only gain 5 lbs., have a healthy child, be a wonderful mom and raise a great human being I would do it in a heart beat.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Heck, I’d settle for 2 out of the 4! But unfortunately, none of them are guaranteed. Which is why it’s so scary! But you can’t always assume the worst, and thus, the dilemma. I’m glad SOMEBODY’S day at work went by faster!

  • kate says:

    I think Marie made a very good point about getting into the kids’ world, rather than trying to force them into your world. Maybe that’s my problem. My parents expected us to be little adults, and weren’t emotionally nurturing anyway, and I seem to have inherited that attitude. Kids, especially kids who are unlike how *i* was as a child, make me kind of uncomfortable. It’s like I’m forced to interact with an alien, or someone who doesn’t speak the same language.

    How does one start getting into the mindset of a child? Should one change their mindset, or should they just anticipate their kid ending up similar to them? I.e., because I was a shy bookworm, my kid would probably not be a social butterfly?

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Good question, Kate! But one I’m sure probably can’t be answered until the kid in question has actually arrived because you truly never know what you’re going to get!

  • Marie says:

    That is a really interesting observation Kate! I have kids and enjoy them so much, but I used to feel like you do. Despite enjoying working at a summer camp, I didn’t really like them on an individual level and didn’t see the appeal. My parents didn’t want us to be mini-adults, but they both came from immigrant/working class backgrounds and nurturing was not their strength. Perhaps I felt awkward around kids because I couldn’t relate to a carefree childhood?

    But to answer your question about how to get them in your world, from my experience it’s actually much easier than it seems, mainly because it requires much less effort than trying to get them to fit in your world. And to Maybe Lady’s point, it is pretty much a guarantee that your kids will be different than you, or at least not perfectly in sync with you.

    Kids really just want adults to listen to them and give them a space in which they can be themselves. I think this aspect of parenting can seem very unappealing because it requires you as the parent to move outside of your preferred zone. But imagine how you feel when you are forced to act a certain way in various settings and the effort that it takes, and then think about how much easier it is for you to just be yourself and be natural. So as a parent, you establish boundaries and expectations about behavior, manners, etc., but then the rest of your job is to just help them be themselves. If they like art/sports/books/bugs – you listen to them and think about ways to support their interests while also admitting that learning arcane baseball trivia isn’t your favorite thing but you can handle it for a bit. If your kid has a need to constantly be in motion, you help them learn to control that, but spend more time at the park than at the symphony.

    When I hear people say, “my friend has totally lost her identity now that she has become a mom” I always wonder if that mom is finding ways to connect with her kids that make it seem like she is no longer “her old self.”

    I had a really enlightening experience with my daughter this weekend. We were at a birthday party and she wanted to give me an imaginary cake and sing Happy Birthday. She told me to sit down, and said that my feet needed to be in a certain place. Then she put a napkin down for my cake. I smoothed it out and she said, “no mama! don’t touch the napkin!” Then she put my cake down and started singing, but would stop every few words to tell me that my head needed to be straighter. WTF kid? Lighten up! I told my husband this story later and he laughed and said that must be what she feels like when we are nitpicking on her all the time.

    Upon reflection, I have decided to stop quibbling with her about the placement of her napkin. :)

  • Scott says:

    A good metaphor for developing an acquired taste. The crucial big difference of course is that you can just walk away from martinis you’ve made and no one gets hurt. Have kids in order to see if you can stand them? Very different.

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      Well yes, that would be a rather dangerous little experiment. Which is why I’m interested in hearing how it turned out for others who weren’t crazy about kids when they had them.

  • justina carlson says:

    Congratulations on your website. I think it’s a great topic & in my 30s, couldn’t find anything like it, when I was making the “big decision.” So I think it’s fabulous you are writing about this topic. I agonized & decided not to have kids. I’ve never regretted it. I looked for & at the time, didn’f find much affirmation that I wouldn’t be felled with terrible regret the minute after my eggs all expired. So again, good for you.

    I lived several decades child-free, married, and career oriented. However, in my 50s, newly single, I met a man with young children, and they live with us. I find myself in a step mother role. The first year I hated it. I loved the kids, but felt trapped & hated much of it, dinner every night, etc. I’d been leading a free & rather “party girl” life & I was like, “chicken nugget duty again….arrgggh.”

    Now, almost five years later, I’m really used to it. The kids start growing up & having their own little lives & activities. I feel that, for one unit of love given, they give back five! It’s like living in a studio apartment—and then suddenly finding out there’s extra bedrooms. One’s heart & life can expand to have extra people (ie two little kids) in it…My life is richer, but the first year or two were a horrible adjustment, and “having kids” was as horrible as I suspected.

    But what I didn’t expect…was the moments, the sticky hug, the bravery a seven year old can show: the confessions of an eleven year old boy who wants to show you his favorite places, on his bicycle. I love my boyfriend & his ex’s kids because they are amazing human beings.

    My perceptions of kids & how annoying they are changed: a lot of times, when they are being nauseating and “cutsey,” they’re just dealing with adults—they ape or perform antics when they think that’s what’s expected, or will work to get their way. Get to know the person inside a kid, and it’s sometimes humbling & brings a different perspective.

    For me, 50 was an OK age to be with kids. I’d done so many different things I’d wanted to — so the “settling down” aspect of it wasn’t a sacrifice. I’d always thought raising someone else’s kids: adopted, step kids, etc. would be a total waste of time. It seemed pointless: why do the work, if they weren’t one’s own genes.

    I now feel being a step parent is great. It’s a little less of an awesome responsibility. I don’t have a crowded feeling that the kid’s a mini-me. And I really believe I couldn’t love my own kids as much as my boyfriend & ex’s kids — they’re just great kids.

    So that’s my story of how I handled “the decision” and how it worked out for me. I wish you the best of luck in your decision & in my case, the “decision” then got revised by life “happening!” :)

    • Maybe Lady
      Maybe Lady says:

      That’s great that this has turned out so well for you! And I love the idea of having “a little less of an awesome responsibility”. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll have that option – unless my husband has something he needs to tell me… :) Thanks for sharing your story!

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