Because Rik and I battled infertility and had so many failed attempts at adoption, our childlessness has led us to vicariously experience other people's parenting joys and issues. Over the years I have been guest of honor at a child's school, hosted and shared many holiday gatherings, celebrated birthday, bar/bat mitzvahs and graduations, but always at a remove.
Last night we attended the high school graduation of a young friend who I have known since she was a baby. (Rik came along a little later.) H was so grown up. It was a privilege to share in her family's celebration and her accomplishment.
And yet the knife continues to turn in the wound of childlessness. Every such celebration reminds me that we will never have these moments for ourselves, that we will always be on the outside looking in. We're like hungry kids with our noses pressed to the bakery window, able to smell the appetizing aromas but not able to taste the sweets.
And as our friends' children and our niece and nephews grow older, the knife continues to turn. There will be no marriages and grandchildren to rejoice in, no direct celebration of life's continuity for us. Instead we will continue to press our noses to the glass window of children, able to see and smell but not taste on our own.
To those who have let us share in their families' joys and sorrows, we hope you understand how much it means to us to have even this vicarious, secondhand experience of parenting.