NS July 31st, 2009
In reading this post at J. Lucy Muses about how she reacted when her toddler son ran away from her in the public library, I saw myself. Been there, done that, I thought. Hell, still doing it, on a regular basis. I’ve been that irate and embarrassed mother who couldn’t “control” her child, getting sneers of disapproval from onlookers.
I’ve also been that shithead onlooker, though. There was a period of a few years, before I had kids (obviously), where I was one of those people who thought “Ugh, how rude! I cannot BELIEVE that this person is letting their filthy brat run around screaming. What a monster! Kids should not be allowed in here, they should be at a playground or at home or in school and that’s it. Good day and good riddance!”
When I waited tables I dreaded getting families with small children because I knew that they’d make a huge mess, the parents would expect me to fawn over their offspring, they wouldn’t drink (racking up a big bar bill is important for good tips) and would probably leave me a bunch of coins and some french fries as a tip. I wasn’t rude to them or anything, I always provided service with a smile (Jesus, I hated that job) but if one of them stepped one toe out of line…that was it, I was finished. I had no patience for kids, especially ones I thought were being “bad.”
If I could go back in a time machine and kick the everliving shit out of myself for being such an ignorant, insensitive, uncaring, arrogant JERK, I would use the brass knuckles on myself until I looked like Shane MacGowan after a night on the tiles. I would apologise to all the mothers whom I shot dirty looks at, all the fathers I rolled my eyes at when they beamed with pride at some inane thing their brat-beast had just said or done, all of the under-the-breath muttered comments when a child so much as talked in a coffee shop. I would take a good, hard look at myself and realise that the reason I was so het up about kids is because I felt conflicted about them. I rejected the idea of modern, stifling, hovering, advertised, groomed and perfected parenting with every fibre of my being. I knew that if I became like THEM, those pod parents, I would shrivel up and die and be a mere shell of my former self.
Yet, I knew I wanted them. This made my angry. I didn’t want to become a pod person, with a pod beast!
I had no idea there was any other way to parent. I didn’t know I could still go out and have a good time, that I could still drink some wine while pregnant and breastfeeding, that I wouldn’t lose the ability to speak in sentences without using baby talk, that I didn’t have to start calling my partner ‘Daddy’ even when the kids weren’t around.
I didn’t know that I didn’t have to be a complete douchebag to be a parent. I also didn’t realise just how hard it is. “Controlling” a child is a completely laughable and utterly stupid expression. I should no more assume I can control my child than I can control my husband, or him me. Children are people, fully fledged human beings with feelings, thoughts and impulses and they are LEARNING. They are learning and exploring and testing and growing and we should be there just to make sure they don’t kill themselves or someone else in the process. When’s the last time mass chaos, murder and mayhem erupted from an incidence of running in a library for three minutes? Where is the erosion of society’s moral fabric in something so demonic as singing loudly in a grocery store? Isn’t it silly, all these expecations and pressure we place not only on parents to control but on children, to be controllable?
So, Former Self, get off your high-horse, you impetuous, stupid, arrogant girl. And next time you see a kid running in public, his mother charging around behind trying to “control” the situation while you stare and tut, give yourself a punch in the face and then get up off your imperious ass and go give her a hand. At the very least, stick a leg out so the kid trips and she can catch him.
Hey, it takes a village, right?