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.