Thursday, March 19, 2015

I can see that you don't have children

I heard this comment on a galla business dinner a week ago and it just hasn't left my mind ever since.  

I was invited to a nice dinner. There were 200 guests, I was alone and I didn't know anybody. There were 20 round tables for 10 guests, I choose to sit with an older man who looked like kind Santa Claus, the rest of the chairs were still empty. 

There were only adults invited, except two VIP guests who came to dinner with their families. One of the families (with two boys aged 8 and 10) choose to join our table. 

One thing that I learned already years ago is that Italian parents will just love you if you do an effort to talk to their children in English. So I pretended that I almost don't speak Italian, so our table became an English speaking table. Both kids were adorable. And during the dinner the father of the family thanked me few times saying: "I am so grateful. This is the first time in life that I hear my sons talk in English."  

The boys were really nice. So it was easy to chat with them. It felt good, being able to connect with two children, enjoying delicious Italian food and having cosy evening 700 kilometers away from home.  

In the middle of the evening came as striking the horrible question, from the older man: "Do you have children?" 

I replied: "No. Do you have any?"
He did not reply to my question, he said: "Yes, I  could notice that you don't have children."

I was so surprised and hurt and angry by this comment. Since I have always been so sure that I am great with kids. Everybody around me has always been telling me so. And I really believe it. I really didn't understand what he meant by this comment. So I asked: "What do you mean?"

He replied: "I can see in your eyes, how you watch the boys. You watch them with longing in your eyes." 

I remained speechless. So I just remained quiet. There was absolutely nothing I could say. 

He sensed that he caused pain, so he started to talk about himself. He said: "I don't really regret never finding the love of my life and always being alone. But what haunts me is the fact that I am childless." 

Later on he told me that he has a cancer, the treatment wasn't completely sucessful so there aren't that many years in front of him. 

After the first dinner we spent another two days together, in a way I become friends with this older man. I guess we really liked each other.

But somehow the remarks from the first dinner just stayed. I felt so sorry for him, that he is very ill and that he regrets not having children, even that late in life. I felt sorry for me. Will I feel also regret never having children, even in the last years of my life?

PS: in the photo: Portofino, a beautiful Ligurian little town


  1. (((HUGS))) I think the problem is that, there's nothing more we can do about having children. Goodness, Klara, you tried and you tried your best and that was enough. Your would-be children knew that they were much loved/wanted by you. I think regret, even if it appears, is something we should let go. There's nothing good in keeping regrets, especially the kind that we can't do anything about. It's a whole different thing if the regret propels us to do something better to the person whom we've wronged (for example).

  2. I can definitely see how that comment would stick with you. It's like a kick in the stomach just reading about it. I have to believe that he said it as a way to connect with you, because the alternative would be pretty rude.

    I don't think you will regret not having children. You know that you did every single thing that you possibly could to have children. And you have the memories of 10 children that might have been.

    Hugs! This is so hard.

  3. I think Amel summed it up best. Being childless was always out of our control, so how can we have regrets? You tried. To the point of breaking, you tried. You shouldn't have regrets; you should be proud of how hard you tried.

    But I do feel bad for that gentleman. Its one thing to regret, but I'm sure its even more lonely when facing an illness like that.

  4. Klara, I am so sorry you were hurt by his comment. I think he just projects his own assumptions and regrets on everyone and you never know if he doesn't ask every single women the same question, not just you. If a women said she had kids he would still carry on on talking about his regrets. Life is not the same for everyone, and please don't take a burden of that man's onto your shoulders, it's not yours.

    If you get a chance maybe you can watch ' A Five star life' movie, it touches the theme of regrets and no children and many other things. This movie helped me a lot. I thought about you when watching it, too, because you are so strong, and beautiful and well traveled, and speak Italian :).

  5. dear girls, thank you for your kind comments. xo,

  6. I don't think he said it to be unkind, I think he said it to connect with someone who he felt might understand him. Your own kindness shone through, and he knew he would be safe confessing to you.

    I do feel sad for him though, that the fact he is childless has haunted him, and continues to haunt him. And I hope that finding someone he could actually say that to helped him.

    However, I'm sorry it hurt you too. We can only guess how we will feel when we are older. But I think the fact that we talk about this, and are dealing with it in our own ways now, means that we are healing and letting any regrets go, when he may never have fully grieved and healed. So I hope that when you are old, you'll have done all your regretting, and you'll look back on your life and know it was the best you could make it.

    1. I agree, what he said was not to be unkind. He was in fact really kind old man.
      I also feel sad for him.
      Thank you for your kind comment.

  7. Hmm......sounds like an interesting, poignant, yet somewhat jarring connection you and he had.

    As far as regret, I find myself wondering if the back story as to why he didn't have children feeds that regret in any way. In other words, could he have had them and felt he missed opportunities, and does that provoke more regret than trying your hardest and then some and moving forward knowing you just really couldn't?

    I don't know, but I do think regret is highly personal. For me, I assume later in life some sadness and emptiness will mix with knowing we just couldn't and with the good things that will come out of my life. And I had better be right, damn it:-)

    Very nice someone who is close to the end of their life found comfort in talking with you - I bet he doesn't find a lot of that.

  8. I remember reading this post when you wrote it! But that was back when I was still too scared/nervous to comment. But I definitely remember reading this and having mixed emotions about his comment. I'm glad you asked him what he meant so the two of you could connect in a meaningful way.