Other People’s Children

This is, perhaps, the biggie.

The taboo subject.

That Which Will Not Be Named, as far as mothers' circles are concerned.

For, you see, there is much to be learned from other people's children.  And most of it is none too flattering.

_______

I, as usual, get way ahead of myself.  Call it my shameless attempt to get your attention with a couple of what I hope will be inflammatory sentences, just so you'll stay and read and pause and perhaps go, "OMG girlfriend is wack."

Because I know you speak in 80s-slang-cum-urban-platitudes, that's why.

But seriously, I have been mulling writing about this for a while.  Because, you see, people do not have children in a bubble.  When you have a child, or more than one child, you are also exposed to the world with children.  Some of these people happen to be pretty cool people –the kind with which you may get caught up in a picket-fenced fantasy in your mind or perhaps some glossy photo shoot of what life with children –yours and those of others– might be like in UtopiaLand. 

Children with wide smiles, blurs of action in gorgeous clothing that isn't marred by primeval goop, none of which would be coming out of their nose or mouth, or worse.

Parents who are well-coiffed and well-rested and in gorgeous clothing, none of which would be marred by the aforementioned goop, having adult conversations that are not subjected to Spelling-Bee-like parsing.

A pristine swath of land, free of mosquitoes or treacherous parasites or viruses, in glowingly Photoshopped colors.

You know that it could happen for a nanosecond, that you may know one set of parents and child(ren) with whom a tenth of a second of idyllic circumstances may be possible.

But then there are the others.  Those "other" parents, to whom you are an other yourself.

The ones that ruin the teachable moment when their little mongrel(s) do exactly what you've spent the last half an hour telling your kid NOT TO DO, FOR THE LAST TIME AND FOR THE LOVE OF  SOMETHING SACRED, PLEASE. 

And when said little mongrel gets to do it, and keep on doing it, without getting an earful, or glares of reproach, and your kid eyes you with a mix of hurt and resentment that makes you feel old.

The kind of action that at the time is so very unfair that you're left scrambling for the right words to tell your kid that, basically, some people are total assholes who are raising their kids to be absolute troglodytes and that while right now it's your mother who looks like the tight-sphinctered harridan who is not letting you bash people over the head with the funnoodle that is NOT YOURS (is it?  No, right?  THE TOY IS NOT YOURS), well, that you might just look back on this incident twenty years from now with a little less seething rage and be able to appreciate your mother and her tough love.

Or perhaps they are the parents who are buying their kid the loud and obnoxious toy that you swore you would never get your kid, who is staring at you with what could pass as a poster face for the UNICEF.

Or perhaps they are the parents who don't tell their children how to behave; what is expected of them in social situations; why it's not appropriate to push or punch or cut in line or shove an adult, even if it's a stranger; why it's important to say please and thank you; and why it's a good idea to avoid stepping on other people's toes, shoes, hands, feet, and babies.

Or perhaps it's none of those things.  Maybe they are just the parents who seem to have their own utopia moment unfolding with their cool parent friends right before your very eyes, while you sit there and struggle with your own children and your own issues and your own oh-so-high-school issues, still feeling awkward and gawky and like the only one who got "does not play well with others" written on her permanent file and was never able to live it down.

________

Now that I have this load off my chest, I frankly don't know what else to say.  I've spent so much time thinking about the little things I thought I wanted to say, such as,

  • most people suck as parents most of the time (but then again so do I),
  • hanging out with others' children is like a birth control opera, but with more snot,
  •  your children are all ugly, except for the cute one and the one with good manners who just smiled at me,
  • how can you do that/not do that to your child?
  • who the hell dressed your kid?
  • why don't you get off the phone when you're handling your kid?

that I am suddenly rendered mute.

And I am rendered mute mostly because it is a truth universally acknowledged that the more vitriol you spew –even if rightly deserved– at the world (especially in a semi-public forum), the higher the odds that any or all the things you itemized during that vitriol will come back to haunt you.  Also, because while other people's children reveal truths about their parenting or lack thereof, I fully realize my own children are revealing my own fears and mistakes and announcing them to the world, for it to take it all apart and analyze it.  And while I love to analyze others, I don't like to be picked apart that much by strangers, myself.

Also, Herr Meow is slowly turning into Dennis Mitchell.  I find myself living in a glass house these days.

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This entry was published on March 22, 2009 at 5:55 pm and is filed under Don Meow!, Herr Meow!, Parental Samsara. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

8 thoughts on “Other People’s Children

  1. I am frantically getting ready for a party at the moment so I had to give your post a speedy graze and not the careful read-though that it deserves.
    I’ll come back later with an actual opinion. Aside from the fact that I agree with you, that is. πŸ™‚
    /waves

  2. “A birth control opera”… well said!!

  3. Vixen on said:

    Hmmm, we seem to think along similar wavelengths. πŸ™‚
    I was pondering last night over the differences of being spoiled in today’s world as opposed to when I was 5. Because my grandfather spoiled me when I was 5. I was the one he always had sitting next to him at the meal table. I was the only one allowed in the front room when he had customers – he ran a barbarshop there – and somehow his customers always knew when I was there so they could bring me some small treat – a piece of licorice, a lollipop, or some other piece of candy. I was the only one who was allowed to sit on the horse as Grampy plowed the fields. Oh yes, I was spoiled and I loved him very much.
    Today I look at kids screaming for expensive toys or treats in the supermarkets which they will pay attention to for about 5 seconds before wanting something else. I hear grandparents complaining that when they go to visit their grandchildren the first words they hear are “What did you bring me?” rather than delighted cries of welcome. It is those moments that make em realize that while I was spoiled, I wasn’t spoiled rotten and I think I was several thousand times happier as well.
    At least I can be confident that my (sometime in the distant future) grandchildren will never ask for things first. My daughter would never let that happen. Although I have the feeling that she won’t be getting along well with the grandparents from the other side until they learn not to spoil the kids rotten. Because grandchildren are also other people’s children. πŸ™‚

  4. Great post! My favorite comment has to be “hanging out with others’ children is like a birth control opera, but with more snot”. That’s perfect.

  5. I love, “Who the hell dressed your kid?”
    I used to teach pre-school (aka – babysat en masse) and at one point I “taught” twin four-year-old girls. They were gorgeous. They’re probably models today. But they came to school every day dressed like complete idiots. Their nicely-dressed father dropped them off every morning and they’d tumble out of his Mercedes wearing sundresses with red cowboy boots and parkas – in Scottsdale, in July. I’d think, “Who the hell is your mother, if you have one, and exactly how early does she start drinking every morning?”
    Until one day. After a week of particularly ridiculous outfits they showed up with cutout poster board signs around their necks, attached with yarn…like placards. They read, “I insisted on dressing myself today.”
    We laughed and laughed and laughed – and THEN we understood why the mother never showed her face – she was too embarrassed!
    PS – I have no children therefore I have no right to cast stones, so it’s nice to see somebody with kids say these things about other people’s kids!

  6. Jenny on said:

    Enjoyed this post and also enjoying the comments! πŸ™‚
    For what it’s worth, as the parent of a two-year-old, I really appreciated the “most people suck as parents most of the time (but then again so do I)” bullet point. I often feel like I suck as a parent, and it is mortifying to me that some of that suckage occasionally happens in public, where somebody might see (and judge) me. However, when I have a sucking moment, I try to put faith in those around me that they understand that this is probably one of my lesser moments, and that I am doing my best with my kid at that time, just like they probably are. I also know that, while I try very hard to teach my daughter about social niceties, and not hitting other people, and to listen to/obey Mommy — I also have moments where I am just so damn TIRED of that constant dance and struggle, that I might just cave in a little. And yes, those moments sometimes happen in public, too. So if you happen to see me in a moment of weakness, I hope you will all have a little mercy. πŸ™‚

  7. True dat, to put it eloquently. I completely agree. My friends all think we’re Draconian, but we’re the only ones with a polite child. It’ll pay off one day.

  8. To put it so lightly, dude, I hate “other people’s children.” And I do know how unPC it is to say that, but ugh. You love your kids all the time because you know all the good and all the bad at the same time. But other people’s kids? You never get the good sweet insights, you just see them at that split second when they’re screaming, hitting, being obnoxious, or everything you so eloquently mentioned above, and at that moment you’re usually trying to chat with their parents or something equally hard to do around little kids… Ugh. It’s just oh so frustrating.
    Awesome post! Glad I popped over from the TodaysMamas post~!

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