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Baby, let's keep it on a need-to-know basis

September 14, 2006|Nicole Roberge | Special to The Times

IT came as I sat across the table from him on our second date. "Just so you know," he said, "I don't want children."

Slightly uncomfortable and hoping we were simply sharing intimate little second-date details of ourselves, I replied, "I once peed on my aunt." He didn't laugh.

Had I signaled to him that I wanted to talk about the kids issue? Was I giving some subtle body language that just screamed, "Impregnate me!" (If I had been, I don't think that would be a subtle pose.) Or did he have a special feature on his watch that also gauged my biological clock?

Whatever the case, I didn't know what to make of this sudden revelation. Should I have run away from the table right then because it was too much too soon? I didn't even know if this guy wore boxers or briefs -- never mind if I saw a future that entailed children. Or should I instead have been glad that he came clean right away in case things did get serious?

It didn't matter because the dating dwindled down to an e-mail or two and then radio static. But he got me thinking, when do you talk about the kids issue? If he hadn't told me then, and things did get serious, how would I react if he whispered into my ear at the altar, "By the way honey, I don't want children"? At that point, yes, it's kind of a big deal.

But the second date? Revealing something that intense can be intimidating, so much so that it can stifle a budding relationship before it has a chance to bloom. On the other hand, ignoring or skirting such issues can amount to deception, or at least an unsettling procrastination of the full disclosure a solid relationship needs.

Of course, it all depends on how fast your relationship is moving. If you're in turbo mode, and you know right away that he or she could be "the one," then it's a good idea to lay the cards on the table early. Chances are if you have that much in common that things are moving so quickly, you'll agree on the baby issue too. But if you are taking things slowly and dating casually, not fully committing yourselves too soon, sharing such really intimate details should be exercised with caution. There's no need to talk diapers if you're not ready to change them.

It can be a daunting issue for men, who know that for many women motherhood is a deal breaker. Don't panic if he brings up the issue early -- often it's a harmless remark or sincere gesture to clue you in on his beliefs.

If you must know but you're afraid of how he may react if you ask him too soon, there are subtle ways to bring up the baby issue without sounding too overbearing. For example, if you have nieces or nephews, or friends with kids, work them into the conversation. Tell him about them and see how he responds. His reaction could be an indicator of just how he really feels, and you can easily find out without putting too much pressure on him.

People have been known to change their minds, though, so don't cut him off too soon if your opinions differ. Even sworn bachelors who once referred to kids only while wooing ladies with stories of their childhood have embraced the idea of parenthood after they found that special someone.

And once you start talking about the kids issue, along comes another slew of questions -- religion, schooling, where you want to raise them and whether you want to name them after Great Aunt Agnes or Grandma Beatrice. Just make sure you're finished with your appetizers before you really jump in.

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