Children of Men, by P.D. James

Now a motion picture, I first read this book when it came out and reread it recently. I’ve always enjoyed mysteries by P.D. James, their texture and intelligence. This book was equally well-written and I certainly found the premise interesting. However, by the end, I was disappointed to find the symbolism a bit heavy-handed.

The details of what a world without children might be like seemed completely believable, particularly the women who pretended dolls were their babies. What is this need to reproduce? I had both my children before I was twenty-five and—if circumstances had been different—could easily have gone on to have or adopt a half dozen more. It wasn’t that I wanted someone to love. Just the opposite, in fact; I was horrified to find that I would have to pay attention to another being every single minute of the day and night. Nor was it the reason some of my pregnant eighth-graders cited: “I want someone who will always love me.” Hoo-wee, I thought, are you in for a surprise!

My reason for having children was that the picture I had of my life—what I wanted my life to be like—included them. Of course, it also included a farm in the mountains, which I don’t have, but there you go. I expected to like my kids. What I didn’t expect was that I would adore them, each of them a miracle.

There are also all kinds of side benefits. Children gave me a great excuse to haul out my favorite picture books, play duck-duck-goose, and ride merry-go-rounds. Of course, the kids also took me on the roller coaster at Hershey Park, which scared the socks off me, but you get the bad with the good. Reliving childhood, a childhood that I could create, delighted me. Luckily for me, my kids not only went along with my crazy games but also were smart enough to ask me questions I couldn’t answer. As grown-ups, they’re pretty great to have around too.

If I hadn’t had children, I probably would be a morose and self-centered drama queen. Kudos to James for being able to imagine a world without children. It chills my bones just to think about it.

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